How do you become successful in the field of economics? What qualities do you need to become a good economist? This is the topic we're looking at today, with a list of 10 qualities that define a good economist.
1. Mathematical aptitude. Numeracy is a key skill for an economist. From dealing with large numerical datasets to interpreting visual data like graphs, you'll need to be comfortable handling numbers and working with mathematical principles. This is why many economists take preparatory classes in mathematics before beginning work or study in economics.
2. Knowledge of social sciences. But mathematics is not all you need to be a successful economist. Economics also has a lot of common ground with other social science subjects like psychology, history, and sociology. Having a working knowledge of both the factual basis of these subjects and the methods used in them is beneficial for economists who will be working in related topics.
3. Good at understanding complex systems. The fact is that economics is a complex subject which looks at complex systems. You'll need to be able to pull together information from different sources and different fields in order to be able to work with these complex systems.
4. Curious. In order to be successful as a student, professor, or researcher, you need to have a strong sense of curiosity. What is unknown or unclear in your field? How do insights from other fields affect the understanding of your subject? What topics are up for debate, and what are the arguments on each side? An interest in these questions is needed to motivate you to work your way through economics.
5. Independent thinker. While it's obviously important to have knowledge of other people's work and theories, to be truly successful as an economist you also need to have insights and ideas of your own. The ability to think for yourself and to question what you know will allow you to take new directions and to come up with original research which will make you a better economist.
6. Comfort with uncertainty. You will need to be comfortable with uncertainty, as not every question in this field has a clear and unambiguous answer.
7. Written skills. It's no good having a great understanding of economics unless you can communicate that understanding to other people in a way which is meaningful. Good written skills are essential for making sure that your articles, book chapters, and notes are useful and comprehensible to others.
8. Verbal communication skills. As well as written communication skills, you'll also need to be an effective presenter so that you can speak at conferences and teach classes. You should be comfortable speaking in front of an audience and able to convey the essential points of your subject clearly and concisely. These skills also help with other social situations like job interviews, speaking to the media, or making contacts to build up your network at conferences and other events.
9. Open minded. For success in any academic field, you need to be open-minded. It's important that you are open to new ideas and do not become too set in your perspective. You need to be able to hear the views of others and to engage productively with them even if you disagree with their reasoning. A debate with a colleague can be a highly instructive experience, but only if you are open to hearing their views and to adjusting your own opinions where necessary.
10. Self-driven. Something else that's important for academics, including economists, is the ability to motivate oneself. From postgraduate studies onwards you will be expected to manage your own time and set your own priorities, so you need to be able to push yourself to complete tasks without anyone else checking in on you or supporting you.
For more advice for economists, see these articles: