For much of my adult life, I’ve help orchestrate the success of people who want the best possible relationship towards their work. Quite often, someone tells me they have been the target of age discrimination due to an individual or organizational bias. While many cases exist, I am always concerned if the candidate is being truthful to her or himself. All too often, those of us with frustrating career problems are repeating the same obsolete patterns without realizing modern career successful, in any profession, is learnable.
Upwards of 48% of America’s workers characterize themselves as “underemployed.” This means that about half of our country is getting kicked to the curb by change. Many of them are not even aware of why they are getting weeded out from job interviews or not gaining enough traction to be successful business owners.
Our politicians, from both sides of the fence, are exacerbating the problem by promising jobs or a return to a past. Technology isn’t getting rid of work, it is getting rid of tasks. For those of us with the courage and desire to change, the emerging world of work offers opportunities to grow as never before.
Because so many jobs are new, quite a few employers are not looking for perfect functional fits, they are hiring potential. Today’s most attractive candidates have three characteristics that fuel one’s ability to change, progress, reinvent, learn, unlearn, and relearn.
The rest are becoming career dinosaurs, refusing the change in order to become part of a rapidly changing world. While a harsh term, career dinosaurs have members from every generation. Career dinosaurs reject self-change. Their beliefs and behaviors produce dwindling returns. Here are the three most important traits for work success as well as fulfillment:
A Healthy & Enthusiastic Relationship with Technology
A healthy relationship with technology means the user isn’t using technology to check-out on life.
What is a healthy relationship with technology? It is the one in which talent uses technology to accomplish more in less time. It is one where the user sees freedom in the technology versus fear it is going make them obsolete. A healthy relationship with technology means the user isn’t using technology to check-out on life. The trance that many people have with technology has always been with us. In the past, instead of looking at our devices at all times, we read pulp fiction. We watched Television for hours.
Technological advancement isn’t slowing down, it is growing exponentially. Growing with it is key to our continued success as workers. Every professional category is impacted. For example, wealth managers will soon have to go through a transformative change in how they work. Artificial Intelligence will offer them an unprecedented opportunity to become more creative, speedy, effective and thoughtful. In essence, most of them will have to move from being salespeople to curators. The fallout between the individuals who welcome the change and those who don’t will be spectacular.
Active learning has become the single most important skill set in new hires. Active learners contribute far more to the workplace and they don’t become obsolete. Career Dinosaurs are dismissive towards continual learning. They hold up their degrees and certifications as all the credentials they need in order to do the work. Accelerating change is amplifying the value of higher education but for very different reasons. It is no longer a ticket into a secure job, higher education is about learning how to learn.
The Industrial Revolution conditioned us to seek predictability and survival as the endgame of work. Today, many waste valuable time by lamenting the loss of promised predictability and survival. Because the new opportunity is to grow. We develop security by learning, unlearning, and relearning virtually every day. The most sophisticated hiring managers tend to hire for potential rather than relying exclusively on technical skills. They ask questions like:
- What is the most important book you read this past year?
- Where do you go to get information about our profession?
- What is the most important thing you have recently learned?
Active learning represents entry into the future of work. But, the workers who most need it are cynical, perhaps even contemptuous over the idea. Here is an example. When we deliver an engagement program to an intact team, many of the participants show up enthused and excited. Invariably, others being their journey with us in a state of irritation. Why? We deliver programs to the public and to organizations. When we begin a program with an intact team, the active learners walk in the door excited and animated. Career dinosaurs often begin the day in a state of irritation because we are taking them from their stack of tasks.
Underemployment is usually rooted in an aversion to learning the very skills that breed success, that give us connectivity with others as well as the world around us. Why is there resistance? Because learning every one of these skills usually requires a good dose of courage.
The vital skills include:
We are not talking about making sales pitches here. Consultative sales skills are most helpful for every profession. These are the skills that help us identify the needs and expectations of the people around us. There is an art to asking the kinds of questions that help us understand how to best support our colleagues, mentors, prospects, clients and direct reports. It is equally important to learn how to actively listen to others.
Many of the new forms of work require empathy, communications, thoughtfulness, interest, and, once again, curiosity. This has always been the case because humans are hard-wired to be able to think about something other than themselves for a maximum of 15-seconds. If you want to connect with someone, find out what they need and want. Do that as quickly and as fluently as possible.
We encourage employers to give sales and presentation skill training to everyone including the line workers. Why? People who are able to present their work effectively take greater ownership and pride in their work. On a long-term level, talent with effective presentation skills make over 60% more income than other peers in their profession.
Building Effective Support Systems
When I wrote the curriculum for the first Inspired Work Program, the intent was to give every participant a unique and detailed understanding of their best mission, vision, and purpose. That part came to me rather quickly. But, the universal method for bringing any purpose to life was proving elusive. It turned out that I had severe deficits in this area myself. This insight changed my life as well as most anyone who does our work. Once we define a mission, vision, and purpose, our success is purely based on the quality of help that we get. In the typical industrial revolution job, we were punished if we asked for too much help. Now, we die if we don’t. The rich and famous don’t buy their support systems. They become rich and famous by having a clear vision and building a customized support system that ensures their success!
My purpose in life is quite simple. I help people love their work, succeed in their work, and develop the skills to change themselves. The joy of watching someone’s professional life come together has remained as constant and wonderful as the first time it happened. From my vantage point, it is clear that all of us must learn how to change. What a good time to remind everybody that every change can be turned into your advantage.