Four winning habits to make sure your career choices remain relevant

At a time when processes, job roles and organisational structures are constantly changing, employees need to be change managers—not just for the company, but for their own careers

Updated: Sep 3, 2019 10:03:46 AM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

Most established businesses today are going through a stress test. Their business models are being challenged by newer digital-first players, their growth lines are plateauing and their operating costs are impacting profitability. In such an environment, it is but natural that people building careers in such organisations are facing the winds of change as well.

Gone are the days when a typical career journey comprised of a series of well-defined jobs based on hierarchies and designations. Roles today come with a shelf life, because they are being created to revolve around a set of specific business problems. When companies are trying to build an environment that is agile and can respond faster to change, their expectations from their people is to do the same. Therefore, how you look at your career journey will define if your role continues to stay relevant.

Now’s the best time to act
A study shows that an average millennial is likely to have as many as 12 jobs in their working lives. This can be largely attributed to the rapid change in the way we deliver work, technological advancements and the organisation’s setup to stay relevant and competitive. More than 50 percent of jobs we are doing now did not exist in 2013. Change is already upon us. Embracing it is no longer about if, but when.

How to make that shift
A lot has been written about careers in the future. However, having experienced change multiple times in my career, here are a couple of tips on how you could navigate through this change and transform your careers.

1. Ask yourself hard(er) questions
The immediate reaction to change by most people is to swing between two extremes: From becoming too self-critical (“I lack the expertise this role demands”) to feeling powerless, as if the change is forced upon them (“Can’t help it; it was the company’s decision”).

The answer lies somewhere in between. There are always enough signs indicating that the impact being generated by the roles you currently play is decreasing. But ignoring these signs end up being the career blunders we make. Remember, change is not something that’s being forced upon you by the organisation. It’s a business requirement to stay competitive. One needs to develop the courage to ask oneself, “Is my work valuable to the organisation?” Do not fall into the trap of being comfortable with what you do and keep finding the opportunity to evolve and upskill.

2. Learn by creating, not just by consuming
The recent surge in internet-enabled learning portals, apps, tutorials and how-to blogs has turned us into learning hoarders. However, learning and knowledge are only effective once they are applied to solve practical problems.

When you read about a learning mindset today, it doesn’t mean you go take the next course in Hadoop or Python as a technology. But instead, apply what you learn from these courses in the next problem you are solving. Perhaps you don’t get it right the first time, but you learn from the errors you make and course-correct the next time. Theoretical knowledge only takes you so far, but what you learn by trying hands on is what stays with you forever.

3. Focus on the problem, not tech trends
I cannot stress this point enough. Most people in the tech domain are trend-spotters. AI/ML, DevOps, Blockchain, Edge Computing are some of the popular buzzwords among tech talent. However, these trends and buzzwords are continuously changing.

Let’s take an example. If you are an engineer, should you focus on being the best Java developer and then add AI/ML skills because it’s in vogue to learn these? Or, could you orient yourself to focus on the client problems you are solving, and then see which tech stacks can act as enablers to solve those problems? You see with this approach, you stop chasing trends, and instead focus on outcomes and use technology as a tool.

4. Be change managers
At a time when processes, job roles, organisational structures, types and uses of technology are constantly changing, employees need to be change managers—not just for the company, but for their own careers. Change management is not just a role fulfilled by a person or team in the management team. Each of us should play this role.

Today, most organisations fail because although they understand the ‘why’ of transformation, they fail at the ‘how’. If each one of us takes it upon ourselves to be change managers in the roles we play, we will not only always be relevant, but will also be able to thrive in the pursuit of next.

In conclusion
Humans are creatures of habit. Therefore, we actively seek out routines. But the business environment today doesn’t give us the option of not dealing with change. When we start seeing change as an opportunity instead of an opponent, we can actively look at our career journey and chart out a path of relevance instead of redundancy.

The author is Senior Director, Capacity at Publicis Sapient.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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