There’s no way of telling quite how different life after a major disaster or serious collapse of society could be, but humans are remarkably resilient, so life would certainly go on. One thing is certain, though: in the aftermath of a widespread disaster or the collapse of civil society as we know it, you’ll want to have useful skills that you can barter or trade with. In this article, I’d like to discuss some of the most useful skills you can develop that will serve you well should you ever need them.
In my vision you need to develop these indispensable skills that will guarantee that you and your knowledge will be in high demand in a post-SHTF scenario of just about any scale. People sometimes forget that the smallest and most convenient storage space is in their own heads. If you find yourself in the midst of a disaster and you need to either build or fix something, having the necessary knowledge and skills in your mind instead of in a book will hugely benefit your ability to survive.
There’s no way of telling quite how different life after a major disaster or serious collapse of society could be, but humans are remarkably resilient, so life would certainly go on. One thing is certain, though: in the aftermath of a widespread disaster or the collapse of civil society as we know it, you’ll want to have useful skills that you can barter or trade with. Once society collapses, bartering will become a business. Once the ‘short duration expendables’ are consumed, you won’t be re-supplying, you’ll be making your own or doing without. From turning your own arrow shafts, to cutting arrowheads from old license plates; from building filtration weirs to filter water, to needing copper tubing to make ‘wood-fired-water-heaters’. Knowledge will be the real money.
Trading Your Skills: Jobs In High Demand In A Post SHTF World
Here are the invaluable jobs or skills that will likely help you sustain yourself in a hand-made local world:
First aid and basic emergency medical care
This is a skill that can take years to develop and learn, but that will be crucial when supply lines of pharmaceuticals are cut off and hospitals are over-run. You will need an emergency medic who can perform appendectomies, c-sections, and set broken bones. If having a nurse or doctor in your group is not an option, then learning basic procedures for stitching wounds, CPR, and more will be an absolute necessity for every adult and teenager in your family group.Think knowing how to stabilize a broken limb pending proper care, how to reduce or stop traumatic bleeding, how and when to apply sutures to a wound, etc. If you’re really inclined, you could go all the way and become a medic, a practicing nurse, or a doctor or surgeon. In general, medical training and knowhow are always in demand after a disaster or major catastrophe. There are never enough doctors or medics when you need them, so by developing some of those skills now, you can ensure that you’ll have skills that are in high-demand if you ever have need of them. Knowing how to pull a tooth, fix a filling, and manage pain during dental procedures will come in handy.
Another skill that is often forgotten and one should learn is veterinary skill. Your farm animals are vital to your survival. Knowing how to take care of them will be a great advantage. Horses are a tool for transportation, your goats are your milk supply and your chickens and rabbits are your protein. Heaven forbid that they have any health issues that require immediate veterinary care. Learn at least the basics about the animals you are caring for because they are depending on you as much as you are on them.
Organic Gardening and Seed Saving:
Skills involving food production will be the most valuable in a post-collapse society. Learning to grow your own food is a must. Obviously, it is necessary to feed your family, but you will also be able to trade your abundance for other items. Additionally, learning to save seeds will also provide another excellent means of trade. Understanding permaculture design for your garden can help reduce water consumption and use the lands natural resources. Aquaponics can provide plants, fish, and store water.
This might take a little while to show its merit, but if you’ve got the guts and knowhow to slaughter and butcher a variety of animals for consumption, demand for your skills will gradually return and rise as society starts to regulate again. Even during the hardest of times, if you can find work as a butcher it is usually sufficient to allow you to keep food on the table, as you can at least trade your skills as a butcher for a suitable share of the meat, if nothing else. With the absence of retail supermarkets and just in time delivery systems the skills to slaughter and dress animals while minimizing waste and turning out cuts of meat for consumption will be in high demand in local communities.
Food Processing and Preservation:
Learning to process and preserve foods will be another huge skill in a post-collapse world. Taking seasonal abundance and preserving it for future consumption or trade will be vital. Remember, learning to do this with limited electricity is a must. One necessity for every homestead is having someone who knows how to butcher animals and preserve them for future consumption by smoking, salt curing, or dehydrating. This can also include learning to brew beer, mead, vinegar, or other alcoholic beverages from meager ingredients.
Discover how our grandfathers used to preserve food for long periods of time. Watch video
Hunting, Fishing, and Gathering:
Learning to fish and hunt is essential to survival. Having the proper gear and training will be priceless after the collapse of modern civilization. Having reference guides for edible plants in your region, repairing weapons, trapping wild game, and fishing are great tools to have if you haven’t the time to learn them now. You should also take the time to learn or refine your skills on hunting using quiet weapons like bows, slingshots, knives, and spears. Someone who knows how to forage for wild edibles and can increase your food supplies, becomes an asset to any group. There will be a high demand for this skill.
Water storage and purification
Do you have enough stored water for you to survive through the first 30 days post disaster? Most do. How about for 3 months….or 9 months? Now, do you have enough for your family members? If you have a family of five and want to store a one year’s supply of water you would need to have over 1800 gallons, and that’s just for drinking. Now, how about the extended family members who show up on your doorstep? Your animals? Your garden? Your sanitation, hygiene and cleaning? Whew! Now you understand how it can be very difficult to store all of the water you would need, so knowing how to collect water to replenish your stored supplies is invaluable. Since it’s difficult to pump well water without electricity, unless you have a hand pump, and with surface water likely to be contaminated, clean water will be in very limited supply. Learning to purify water will allow you thrive during this time. You can also purchase water filters for your go-bag and you can have back-up tablets should you need them. However, the skill and knowledge to purify water should be the goal as that can never run out.
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Repair and ammunition loading; take a moment to think about how many gunsmiths you know. Did you come back with a long list of names? Now think about the number of people you know who own guns and various other firearms, and think about how many firearms are going to be in use in a post-SHTF situation. While you don’t necessarily need to turn full arms-dealer, being able to repair various guns and maybe reload some ammunition would be useful skills to have indeed. Many people believe that after the event, the government will take more control over their people, greatly limiting our access to guns and ammunition. Even if this weren’t to occur, a lack of access to industrialized processes will bring the gun manufacturing industry to a halt.
This will lead to a huge demand for gun repairs and homemade ammunition. Learning gunsmithing will keep you in demand and your arsenal stocked no matter what happens. We may not know the future, but we know that folks will always want guns!
Household Product Manufacturing
A skill that will be useful to replace our reliance on the stores we use today. Household items like detergents, soaps, and cleaners will always be necessities. So few people know how to make these items even though so many of us rely on them.
These aren’t particularly difficult things to make, but knowing how to do it, no matter how simple, makes all the difference in the world. Learn this relatively easy trade will have you way ahead after the SHTF. Bear in mind with the making of household products (soap, etc.) that after the SHTF you may not have access to things like baking soda. So you’re going to have to think NOW about ways to make soaps and detergents and so on that don’t require those pre-boxed inputs. You can still make soap, you’ll just have to figure out how to do it with tallow and wood ash. Olive oil and coconut oil will be pretty much completely out of the question.
When we can’t all run out to the store for what we need, craftspeople will become invaluable to society. This includes carpenters, as our needs will no longer be met by the chain furniture stores that are so utilized today. Considering that our access to electricity will depend on exactly what kind of event happens, having the ability to practice carpentry without the modern tools is probably a good idea as well.
Learning the old schools methods and getting your hands on some more traditional carpentry tools is the best way to ensure that your craft will be useful no matter what happens. If you have the tools and skills to build things in a post-event society, you and your product will be highly sought after.
HYGIENE & SANITATION
I know this may not sound important compared to food and water but if you think about it, it is. When a disaster strikes, whether it be natural or man made, the creature comforts that people have grown accustomed to throughout their lives will no longer be there. No more daily showers and washing your hair with apple scented shampoo. No more flushing the toilet 10 times a day. Sanitation services that require power will no longer be functioning. This will quickly lead to diseases being spread rapidly. Learning how to build a composting toilet, a solar hot water heater, or a sewer drainage system is important. It is good to know how to make your own toothpaste, deodorant, soap and shampoo and stock up on the supplies necessary.
Let’s face it, the need for spirits will never go away. While most preppers do stock quite a bit of alcohol that supply is finite so being able to produce more will be a valued skill, especially after the dust has settled and the reset begins. Learning this skill will give you a huge advantage and will ensure a stable source of income or goods.
Construction skills will be very important in a shattered civilization. These skills, especially without power tools, are not something you learn overnight. If you have some basic skills it may be worth learning a few techniques for building small structures with crude hand tools. There are many books teaching anyone how to build basic cabins, sheds, and composting outhouses.
Self-sustainability is one of the most important skills to learn. You can store food, water, and everything else you may need for survival but when those stored supplies run out, and they will, how will you replenish them? Knowing how to live off the land, grow a garden, raise animals, store seeds, hunt for food, or make your own clothing can prolong your survivability. A very important skill is knowing how to cure meats and butcher animals. This might take a little while to show its merit, but if you’ve got the guts and knowhow to slaughter and butcher a variety of animals for consumption, demand for your skills will gradually return and rise as society starts to regulate again. Even during the hardest of times, if you can find work as a butcher it is usually sufficient to allow you to keep food on the table, as you can at least trade your skills as a butcher for a suitable share of the meat, if nothing else.
Home and Property:
Regardless of the threat, an ideal home is one that is secure and can keep you safe from a person or people who mean to do you harm. Take the time now to learn how to protect your home, land, and everything on it as best you can. This includes farm animals. Your animals are a valuable asset and must be protected from hungry predators, including man and beast.
Learn how to protect yourself through hand to hand combat. There may be times when you’re in the garden or tending to the property and are caught off guard by a lone stalker or a group of marauders. I know this sounds Mad Max but when the SHTF it can happen. Learn to use your tools as weapons. Nunchucks were originally used to harvest rice.
If you are going to own a gun then get the training necessary to know how to properly use it. Know how to clean it and store it as well. Someone that has the knowledge and can train others on weapons and strategies will be a valuable asset.
Trade/barter is as old as time and will continue even after a major collapse. These individuals will venture out from community to community trading valuable commodities. They may even set up small trading posts where people can gather to conduct transactions.
Knowing how things work, how they are taken apart, and how to put them back together or repair them with whatever you have on hand, is never more useful than after TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It). Study up on how to repair generators, farm equipment, even cars (they’ll be around for a while, even in the case of most super horrid events). Even being able to fix and repair clocks could serve to be a useful skill, get creative.
Alternative Energy and Fuels
Having the knowledge to implement alternative energy systems will make you a wealthy survivor in a “dark” world. You can learn to build your own alternative energy systems through solar, hydro, and wind power. Knowledge of how to create energy would be invaluable when oil is scarce.
In the event of a grid failure, all life as we know it will change. The ability to build or do anything without power will become a life-saving skill in itself – but it will make sure you have a steady supply of either cash or barter goods coming your way. Most other folks – even if they have some of these things – don’t have any skill in using them. Your skills and services will not only be in demand, but may just be the thing that keeps your family or tribe thriving.
Stone masons and brick masons will compliment the work of the carpenter and be just as valuable. Their collective knowledge with the tools of their trade (mallets, chisels, trowels, jointers) will be useful in building walls, fireplaces, ovens and even homes.
How Much Are Your Skills Worth?
Determining the actual value of your skills will be challenging. It’s challenging enough trying to figure out the value of goods and services in normal times; in those decidedly abnormal times, it will be much harder to calculate. There are a few key factors to take into consideration here:
- How badly is the skill needed to survive?
- How rare is the skill?
- How easy is the skill to learn?
- How valuable is whatever people are bartering for that skill?
Basically, we’re talking about the law of supply and demand here. If there’s a lot of clean water available, then purifying water isn’t going to be all that valuable. But if the city water supply is known to be contaminated, that same water will go up extensively.
You will probably also find that the value of your skills will vary through time. Knowing how to raise a vegetable garden might be a very valuable skill at the beginning; but as you train others, the value of that skill will go down. On the other hand, building trade skills may not be considered very valuable at the beginning, but as time goes on, they may become more valuable.
How much you change will then depend on how much there is a need for what you have to offer. Some would say that you should offer your skills to the community for free, but that only works when everyone is working together for the common good. If you are part of a survival team and everyone is pitching in, doing whatever they can, that works; but it doesn’t with society at large.
Typically, the ones who will expect you to give your skills to the community for free will be those who don’t have anything to offer you in return. Just like now, there are always people looking for a handout. But you have to remember that your responsibility is to take care of your family, everyone else comes after that. When you talk to these people, put it that way. Tell them that you are willing to help them, but that will take you away from taking care of your own family. Therefore, what can they offer you in return to help you out?
Since money won’t exist in any meaningful way, you’re going to have to establish a base value for your skills. In other words, in the situation as it exists, how much is your skill worth? Some skills will be worth more than others. For example, medical skills will probably be pretty valuable in just about any situation; but by comparison, being able to start a fire won’t be so valuable.
Why is that so? To answer that, we have to go back to the questions I asked at the beginning of this section. Medical skills are rarer, essential for survival and hard to learn; that makes them valuable.
Probably the easiest way to establish a value for your skills will be in comparison to some common commodities. If food is scarce, as it probably will be, then food will become the standard of comparison for all trade. You will quickly find that there will be “standard” prices established for different types of food, often comparing them to other types of food. An egg might be worth a quarter cup of rice and a can of vegetables might be worth a cup.
Set the value of your services in comparison to these common items. Always start high, so that you can bring your price down in the negotiation process. At the same time, don’t make it so high that people just walk off, thinking that there is no way they can afford your services.
Be ready with alternate pricing, if they don’t have your preferred item to trade. This is one of the problems with bartering. Those that want goods and services may not have what the other person wants in trade for what they have. That’s the whole reason that money exists. However, if you have several items which you are willing to accept in trade, you increase the chances of success.
Tricks to Bartering Your Skills
The value of everything will shift during that time period. Today, we value gold, silver and jewels. Those may retain value, but they won’t be very easy to barter. That’s because they won’t be useful for survival. The only people who would be interested in trading for gold and silver will be people who have enough excess that they don’t need to have in order to survive.
During World War II, there was an incredible shift in values. People living in the occupied countries of Europe developed a black market bartering system for foodstuffs. Those living in the city would travel out to the country to “visit friends and relatives.” Rather than packing their suitcases full of clothes though, they would take silver and jewelry. This they traded to the farmers for hams, cheeses, cured meats and butter.
While you might be thinking that a silver teapot isn’t worth as much as a ham, you have to realize that you’re thinking from the viewpoint of someone living in normal times, where food is plentiful. But that teapot won’t help you survive, while the ham will. When there is a serious food shortage, you might be willing to make that trade too.
Try to be fair as much as possible. I know that some people would say to take advantage of the situation and get as much as possible. But that doesn’t mean you should. The problem with that is that you may just succeed in making an enemy. The best deals are those where both parties walk away from it feeling as if they won. A win-win is an especially big win for you.
One of the most important parts of bartering during a time of crisis is ensuring your own safety. You may very well find yourself bartering with desperate people, who are willing to steal from you. Of course, it is harder to steal a skill than a product, but they could ask you to do some work and never give you what was promised.
There’s also a risk of being kidnapped for the skills you have. The more valuable your skills are, the more likely that someone will make that attempt. Of course, the more valuable your skills are, the more your community will recognize their value and work to protect you as well.
Always make sure that your “deal” is worked out before you start working. That way, there won’t be any surprises later. Granted, they could still refuse to pay, but at least they won’t be able to claim that it’s because they didn’t think it would be that much. Often, if people aren’t planning on paying, they will act disinterested in the negotiating process and look for an opportunity to take advantage; don’t allow them that.
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