You can easily get replaced at work if you don't do this
Making a habit of continuously learning will increase your cumulative knowledge and thus your chances of finding a suitable application for a problem.
The future of your career is at risk. Your education, current skill-set and work experience are rapidly diminishing in value each year. Every year more jobs are being eliminated or reduced in scope due to business challenges and rapid advances in technology and automation. Sooner or later, you will be impacted. All is not lost though. Simultaneously, the Internet is continuously creating innumerable new career opportunities— unrestricted by current access to knowledge and skills, time and bandwidth constraints, physical distance from a potential employer or income opportunity and ability to reach out and connect with decision makers. So how do you recreate yourself to be constantly valuable in a future that is unpredictable and scary?
Generalist vs specialist
You have been taught that specialists are irreplaceable and hence being one makes sure that you earn well. Think again. So, you trained to be an accountant and have specialised in audit matters. You are clearly a specialist. Your typical work-day 10 years hence will be nowhere similar to what you are doing today. Regulations, taxes and case laws – all would have changed. Your clients and you will not be able to audit without advanced digital accounting and audit tools that would have been developed and integrated with regulatory authorities, vendors and customers.
As a specialist with your current skill sets, you will soon become redundant and replaced by a new batch of younger people who are trained for the changed world. Your only hope at being extremely valuable as a specialist lies in continuous upgradation of skills at the same pace as the new crop. Are you spending 5-10 hours a week on your own learning? Consider that the future belongs to the generalist. You are someone who constantly exposes herself to different responsibilities and is willing to rapidly pivot to new roles, integrate a variety of past skills and knowledge and learn the missing stuff required for that job. Your critical question is – how quickly can you learn each time?
Knowledge vs application
From the bleak future for specialists, you can figure out that knowledge is no more the barrier that protects your career. Your current knowledge base has a limited shelf life and will result in reducing income each year. Also, knowledge is nearly freely available for anyone who wants to replace you. Your primary value to the world is your ability to deliver outcomes which is powered by your ability to correctly put some knowledge to good use. How can your strengthen your application muscle? Firstly, each time you will only use a part of the knowledge you possess. Thus, making a habit of continuously learning will increase your cumulative knowledge and thus your chances of finding a suitable application for a problem.
Secondly, you must be willing to spend time to think. In a world crammed with continuous distractions from your phone, emails and entertainment options, you may be spending little time in thinking about what new can work and what can’t. The more you think about complex problems and potential solutions, the better you get at this game. Finally, be ready to step out of your comfort zone to try implementing your thoughts even though it is comfortable to simply continue in the old way of doing things. Only after this last step, have you applied your knowledge. This is not easy, because your ideas and execution will not work perfectly every time and you will fall and fail often. Are you willing to embrace being embarrassed or are you locked up in the habit of always wanting to look Instagram-good?
Team vs contributor
That brings you to the next question – are you better off as an individual contributor or as an integral part of a team where individually you may have little or no value? In a future that will become unfavourable for specialists, it will be increasingly challenging to have continuous growth as an individual contributor. Whether you are a strong individual contributor or not, you will do well if you are known to be an effective team player. Firstly, working in a connected team ensures that you have a steady stream of information and inputs through team interactions that keeps you updated.
Secondly, with increased automation, simple problems cease to exist and complex ones are beyond the scope of any individual. Thus, new teams will continue to be created in organisations and adequately budgeted to bring together people from different backgrounds to find solutions together. Being uncomfortable in a collaborative setup will make you unsuitable for leadership roles and often mark you out as a burden on the team despite your abilities.
New frames vs existing frames
Finally, since continuous and quick learning is critical for survival, you will master the process of learning. Begin with “Un-learning”. Maybe, you are a coder-engineer. You are trained to think mathematically, incrementally and rationally. Maybe you can’t figure out what skills does the HR team bring to the table or how is the salesperson able to sell the product though he knows so little about it.
Once you accept your lack of knowledge and choose to learn more about people skills, recognise that you cannot approach communication and storytelling from an engineering perspective. Only if you are willing to drop your existing mental frames and begin learning from scratch to build a new set of thinking structures and frameworks can you learn fast enough to be continuously useful.
The growth mindset
1. It’s about change
Carol Dweck’s popular study on growth mindset says the brain is plastic or that it is capable of continuous growth and change. So, if you possess a fi xed mindset and like to believe that intelligence or talents are a limited commodity, it’s obvious that you will avoid change or new learnings and thus make yourself redundant faster.
2. Acquiring skills
From a growth mindset, you can accept that any skill can be learnt. However, learning requires good inputs and exposure, correct methods and habits and a lot of effort and discomfort. Seek them out because if any one of the three is missing, chances are that you are progressing slowly or not at all.
3. How you speak
A growth mindset changes how you speak. Is your conversation about the impossible hurdles and negative circumstances you faced? Or about the interesting challenges and creative solutions that you look forward to? What words do you use and what beliefs and mindsets trigger them? Change your conversations to trigger belief and mindset change.
4. Wait for success
There is no concept of failure in a growth mindset. Not achieving a goal today is simply a function of skills and thus time. You haven’t failed but rather you haven’t achieved it yet. Remember your past wins, where you put in effort, took the time, got back into the game and succeeded. You can only grow from here onwards.
5. Just a process
The best part is that a growth mindset is simply a process you can adopt. Firstly, reward and praise yourself for putting in structured hard work towards goals that are challenging but not impossible. Secondly, celebrate and be grateful whether the goal is achieved or not because either will teach you something new.
(The Writer is Founder and CEO at Quezx.com and Headhonchos.com.)