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Do you have rare skills that matter?

June 2, 2015

The MBA market produces an ever-higher number of graduates. Leading business schools promote enticing programs, offering the leaders of the future key skills such as a global mindset, entrepreneurship, decision-making. The problem is that these skills are increasingly common – and employers do not generally value them.

Bloomberg recently issued a report based on input from leading recruiters. It sought to identify the skills that really can get you employed or advance your career  – that is, those that are both valuable and rare. Towards the top of the list are analytical skills and the ability to work collaboratively – two areas consistently highlighted in this blog. But while these are valuable, they are also relatively easy to find (though interestingly they are not among the most common skills for contracts and commercial professionals).

Two areas that are often highlighted by the contracts and commercial community as being important are industry-related knowledge and adaptability (the ability to perform a wide variety of tasks). Unfortunately, both of these feature on the ‘less wanted’ list.

So what are the premium skills – those that are both rare and highly valued? There are four of them:

  1. Strategic thinking
  2. Creative problem solving
  3. Leadership skills
  4. Communication skills

All of these feature among the key skills measured by IACCM competency assessments. Our benchmarks show considerable variability within the contracts and commercial community. For example, those in commercial management tend to be stronger on the first two. Contract managers are slightly ahead when it comes to communication skills. Neither group scores well on leadership. But overall, there is considerable room for improvement. Even those applying for Expert level certification are frequently weak on strategic thinking and creative problem solving. They are much better at seeing problems than at solving them. This means that creative opportunities are mostly missed. While technical skills are often very high, these do not lend themselves to strategic thinking – indeed, growing specialism can create a blindness to the bigger picture.

With some 12,000 professionals now having undertaken the IACCM skills assessments, we have invaluable insight to the current state of the profession (both buy-side and sell-side). Our regular talent surveys also tell us which skills the community thinks are important. Frequent conversations with top management offer us insights to their thinking and expectations. And now we have the Bloomberg survey to add to the mix. Overall, Bloomberg’s findings broadly align with what we hear from executives when they talk about contracting competence or commercial excellence. Right now, there is a significant gap between these messages and the community’s view of what skills they have or deem important.



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