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What Is a Skill that Everyone Should Learn? 15 Useful Skills

Updated on October 2, 2015

What Skills Are Essential and Useful?

What skills are essential to have in today's society? Can we get away with not knowing how to cook or even not knowing what food looks like before it reaches a supermarket shelf?

Here is a list of skills that everybody should learn and/or have, based on conversations on social media and online forums.

Managing Money

Knowing how to manage money, write a budget, prepare a tax return is fast becoming an essential skill in life. We can't hide behind the excuse that managing your own finances is difficult, because without taking responsibility for our own money, it is likely to fall into debt or owe the tax office money that we don't have.


Learning how to cook and, more specifically, learning how to cook healthy meals from scratch, is an invaluable skill. Knowing where your ingredients come from and knowing how to cook them to make nutritious meals can make a huge difference to our health. Choosing a diet rich in nutrients from natural food is the key to a healthy life. Also, cooking meals at home is much cheaper than buying ready meals at the supermarket or getting take-outs at restaurants.

Personally I would also add learning how to grow vegetables to be a valuable skill, even if it's only growing some herbs like oregano or basil.

Home Cooking

Home-cooked meals are healthier if you choose the right ingredients
Home-cooked meals are healthier if you choose the right ingredients | Source


Whether you are going on a beach holiday or not, knowing how to swim can be useful, even if there may not be many occasions in life when you are “thrown in at the deep end”, both metaphorically and literally speaking. You might come across situations where knowing how to swim can save a life, for example if someone falls into a canal or lake. On a less heroic note, learning how to swim can become a nice way to introduce gentle exercise in your life, as swimming is a low-impact sport.

First Aid

Basic first aid skills are essential in life. In some countries first aid is a compulsory module in driving tests


We might be spending our entire day (and evening) sending messages to friends, family and contacts, but are we really communicating? Communication skills mean knowing how to listen, how to ask the right questions, how to make yourself understood without creating ambiguity or causing offence. It also means knowing how to say no and have boundaries.

Foreign Languages

Knowing at least one foreign language is good for the brain for many reasons. From improving your problem-solving skills to even prevent the onset of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. In fact, research shows that bilingualism can delay the emergence of dementia.

Culturally, knowing how to speak another language allows to be more open and receptive, more observant of differences and similarities, and ultimately to be more tolerant.

Don't forget that knowing how to speak a foreign language can also open new job and career opportunities.

Ciao Roma!

Fontana di Trevi, Rome, Italy
Fontana di Trevi, Rome, Italy | Source

Spelling and Grammar

As we rely more and more on spell-checkers, how would we fare normally with spelling and grammar without the aid of a computer or smartphone?

Learning how to spell and how to build correct sentences should be an ongoing process but most of us stop learning when we leave school.

Functional Literacy

This skill emerged from a conversation on social media. Functional literacy, in this context, is the ability to fill out a form (for example, a job application, a tax form, a bank payment form) and to write a formal letter or email. Some people even avoid pursuing a new job when they are faced with a long application form to fill in.

Small Repairs

Knowing how to do small repairs at home can be extremely useful and can save money in the long term – but always call a professional for major repair jobs and projects that require a qualified professional.

You can learn how to do small repairs for your bike and/or car, to avoid ending up stranded somewhere. Once again, for major repairs you will need to ask for professional assistance, but if you puncture a tyre at least you can get to a garage safely.

Computer Literacy

Knowing how to make the most of your devices is certainly a vital skill for the job market, as well as for day-to-day activities. Also particularly important is to learn how to perform a computer back up to ensure all your pictures, videos and files are saved correctly.

Map Reading

We might be using GPS and maps on our smartphones, but even electronic maps need a bit of deciphering. Knowing how to locate a venue is an essential skill if you want to continue having a social life...

Public Speaking

You might think that public speaking is only applicable to the workplace. However, taking public speaking as a hobby in adult life can unlock so many opportunities: it is a great networking opportunity and it helps to increase confidence. The dreaded “best man's speech” can happen at any time, so you better be prepared...

Empathy and Compassion

This skill came up over and over again in conversations on social media. It's not a skill that immediately springs to mind, which is why it's important to add it to this list. Technology is making us immune to emotions and more isolated. At some stage, we might need to re-learn how to feel compassion for our fellow humans (there will always be refugee crises and social injustice to contend with). Kindness is also an underrated skill – it doesn't cost you anything and can make a real difference. Good etiquette should also be included in this category – good manners, both at home and in social situations, are the glue that keep people together. Maybe it's time to dust off that box of “thank you” cards you never used...


You don't need to become a stand up comedian, but learning to have a sense of humour can help diffuse potentially confrontational situations and prevent them from escalating.

Common Sense

Good old common sense... it's a dying breed! The Collins Dictionary defines it as “plain ordinary good judgment; sound practical sense”. This means keeping level-headed, think things through before taking action, being practical and prudent.


How Many of These Skills Do You Have?

How many of these skills do you have? Do you feel you have still a lot to learn or do you feel well equipped to take on anything that life throws at you? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this


How many valuable life skills do you have from the list mentioned in this article?

See results

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