What is the most important life lesson you learnt from COVID-19?

What is the most important life lesson you learnt from COVID-19? Will you do things differently now?

This might be a hard question to answer. Much will depend on your experiences to date. Lost a loved one during this time? Lost a job or business? School closed down for a while? Spent time in a lock down and isolation situation? Could not complete a course you wanted to finish off? Unable to travel, so lost an opportunity to pursue a dream or possible job opportunity?

As I have followed the media, had to experience lock down and was unable to see my other family members, including my grandchildren, the most important lesson I have been reminded of again and again is how important relationships are – face to face relationships. And it has been interesting to listen to young people. All the majority of our youth wanted was to get back to school to be with their friends.

How will the global community emerging from COVID-19 respond to this reality? More of the same? Seek to become a more compassionate, caring community?

I am already reading many articles about online learning gaining momentum, shorter working weeks or more people working from home and so on. Yet, we have a chance to reimagine what our global community could be like.

I have written elsewhere how I observed a Vertical Tutoring System transform a school and the time is surely right for schools to explore this system. It transforms school cultures in so many positive ways and there is a significant focus on how to build meaningful relationships.

What were your school experiences?

Think for a moment: What were the most important skills you needed for the world of work when you were at school? Did anyone ever discuss these with you? How did you decide what career to follow? How has the world changed since you were at school? Did you appreciate there were different roads you could travel to attain your career goals? Did anyone every explain this to you? Did anyone teach or coach you the key skills required to develop meaningful relationships with other?

I have researched all these topics for many years, and continue to do so. Author Tony Wagner, in his challenging book, Creative Innovators – The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, writes:

“The Millenials are our future. They are the generation who can and must create a healthier, more secure and sustainable way of life. While some might not care to admit it, they also need us in order to succeed. They need our expertise, guidance, mentoring and support, but we have to offer help in new ways …. to actively encourage the Innovation Generation to create an economy and a way of life based on innovation – one that cultivates habits and pleasures of creative adult “play”, rather than mindless consumption.”

Everything in this quote highlights the importance of building meaningful relationships , a developmental process, so important while  a young person’s brain develops until they are in their mid-twenties. How can we do this?

10 Important relationship-building skills for the world of work

Here are some areas we can work at with our youth as we prepare them for twenty-first century living. I look at these as ten of the most important skills to develop; skills that most employers look for and all young entrepreneurs need, along with other financial skills, and the skills specific to the particular job or career pathway they wish to enter. It is about living a healthy and balanced lifestyle, identifying one’s strengths and becoming resilient. The repetition is deliberate.

1. Communication: good written and spoken communication skills; great listening skills; trust; patience; an understanding of body language, tone of voice and eye contact; able to question, network and resolve conflicts positively, so important when designing new projects and working with others; able to negotiate.

2. Teamwork: a great team player; an encourager; loyalty; collaborative across many networks; striving to be a positive person of influence at all times (see point 10), building others up and displaying integrity at all times; patience; commitment; empathy and perseverance.

3. Problem Solving (includes complex problem solving): able to work through difficulties and make decisions; collaborative; adaptable and flexible; open-minded; able to look at all viewpoints objectively and respectfully; motivated to give something back by striving to address a human need; imaginative; perseverance; prepared to risk failure while daring greatly.

4. Innovative and Creative: able to follow through on one’s ideas; showing initiative and enterprise in one’s thinking; imaginative, with a spirit of inquiry when looking for solutions or developing new ideas; looking for extra work when tasks are completed (intrinsic motivation); able to work independently and as a team member; solution-focused; a critical and strategic thinker.

5. Planning and Organizing: organized, self-disciplined and taking a pride in how one presents oneself in a job; great management of time skills; goal oriented; team player.

6. Self-management:  as above and with a strong work ethic; accountable for one’s work plans and taking ownership of one’s responsibilities; responsible; reliable; trustworthy; prepared to take calculated risks; a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

7. Learning: a strong desire to keep learning, with an appreciation that life is a lifelong learning experience; studying and researching to increase one’s knowledge and understanding; listening to people with more experience; respecting diverse viewpoints; cognitive flexibility; personalized learning methods; an independent thinker; able to reflect on lessons from History and other cultures; explore multidisciplinary learning methods; learning how to access and analyze information.

8. Technology: keep up to date with changes and developments in technology and its evolving role in the world of work; responsible and respectful use of social media; self-awareness of the role of one’s digital footprint in the local and global community.

9. Sense of humor: work must be enjoyable and fun; one must be able to laugh with others as well as laugh at oneself.

10. A positive person of influence: collaborative leadership; able to empower teams and other individuals; positive role model with strong morals and values; live a healthy and balanced lifestyle; exercise regularly; above average relational skills; caring and compassionate; empathetic; able to reflect; authentic; great listener; humble; pro-active; self-confident; giving back to others with a sense of service (servant leadership); courageous; true to oneself.

This list also highlights the need for our young people to be encouraged to find volunteer adults they trust to move alongside them for a while as the wise guides on the side, the non-judgmental, supportive cheerleaders who display the spirit of mentoring, as mentioned by Tony Wagner.

Perhaps you have some other important skills to share?

About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organizer, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be using their God-given talents. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in New Zealand and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can see his short daily mentoring tips on Facebook or contact him through his Mentoring Matters website  Robin’s free Mentoring Minutes daily podcasts (each podcast between 2 and 4 minutes), containing hundreds of tips for anyone working with young people, are available hereAbout 45 blogs have been converted to short video clips, all of which are linked to encouraging youth to reach their potential. These are available on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHzVfIdmVQEwxTgvNKgp22g?view_as=subscriber

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