What Every Good Waitress and Doctor Has In Common

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There is a specific set of cognitive skills that every successful worker in America has, regardless of whether he or she waits tables or performs heart surgery. Dr. Mike Rose has narrowed down those skills in his book, "The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker."


In this week's work segment, Rose shares his insights, while Beth Kobliner, our work contributor, tells us how we can showcase and sell those skills if we are looking to (or being forced to) change professions.

Dr. Rose's List of Skills that Every Successful Worker Has:

  1. The ability to translate the abstract into something concrete. When someone says to the hairdresser that they need something 'light and summery,' what does that mean? And what does it mean when a customer tells an investment banker that he wants something that's going to 'give him security?' A good worker can translate abstract requests into concrete actions.
  2. Refined perceptions. In other words, learning how to see, taste, touch, hear and taste to the best of one's abailities for the job. For example, both plumbers and surgeons need a refined sense of touch. Mechanics and teachers need a refined sense of hearing. And waitresses, taxi drivers and athletes need a refined sense of sight.
  3. A pride of aesthetics. An electrician opens a wall and sees a bunch of wires inside that are perfectly braided. To him or her, it's all beautiful, because it's well-done. A mathematician can see the beauty in an equation. And a doctor can appreciate the intricacies of the human body as something breathtaking.