Two skills are incredibly rare: Doing what you say you will do (be reliable) and keeping track of yourself.
1. Doing what you tell people you will do
If you can teach your kids a useful skill that will always help them with their career: teach them to be reliable — to do what they say they will do. (It is harder than it sounds.)
If you consistently do what you say you will do, you will almost certainly be someone people desire to have on their teams. It is so rare that when you work with someone who is reliable, you never ever want to work with anyone else. You will do anything to keep that person on your team.
Doing what you say you are going to do starts with setting the right expectations. If you tell someone you will get them the deliverable by Tuesday, you need to understand that it can actually be delivered by Tuesday. If you are good, you are probably factoring in slack in case someone in corporate slows you down or your child gets sick.
And so if your boss wants something done Monday and you think it cannot be done until Wednesday, you need to be up-front. Because once a date is agreed to, you’re on the hook for accomplishing it.
On the less-skilled end of the job spectrum, many people cannot commit to showing up to work consistently and on time. There are many external factors in their life that make even these commitments hard to achieve.
So do everything you can to be reliable, because there are very few people that one can rely on.
2. Keep track of yourself
The corollary to being reliable is to make sure you manage yourself.
If you can manage all your tasks and deliverables without reminders, you will be treated like the golden child.
If your boss or colleagues never need to remind you about a project, deliverable, an answer to an email, etc., they will be able to take a load off their mind and be allowed to focus on other areas. And they will appreciate not having to have the uncomfortable conversation with you (“where is that item that was due yesterday?”).
This takes a lot of hard work and organization, but most people can do it. You don’t need a PhD (or even a college degree) to be on top of everything. You just need to be organized and prioritize its importance. Of course, while most people CAN do this, most people DON’T do this — so doing it will be a huge differentiator for you.
The underrated skills
If all you do is be reliable and keep track of yourself, you will be indispensable to any company.