Don’t rely on an employer to keep your skills relevant
If there is a message in the redundancy announcements of the last week it is, “do not rely on your employer to provide you with a future”.
I’m not just talking about the obvious; that there are no jobs for life. No, I mean it is totally on you to stay relevant. Employers will only ever provide development that helps the organisation at a particular point in time.
Nothing wrong with that. They can’t afford to do anything else. I still recommend people try and get an employer to pay for professional development. It is better for your bank balance and your employer will hopefully promote you as a way of getting a return on its investment.
However, don’t rely on it and invest in yourself. Another reason why it’s important that you track trends and invest your own time and money in upskilling is that you cannot rely on your employer to be ahead of the curve.
In fact, many of the mass redundancies to hit the headlines this year including the latest from media giant Fairfax and the job cuts expected at News Limited are proof of how difficult organisations find it to change.
There are Australian organisations on the cutting edge of course but are you working for one?
Just over a week ago, IBM released a report outlining how Australia will remain behind many Asian neighbours until we have ubiquitous high speed broadband.
Written by IBIS World’s founder and chairman, Phil Ruthven, A snapshot of Australia’s Digital Future to 2050 outlines points to what we will gain when ICT becomes a utility and instrument of transformation in the same way electricity was in the industrial age.
Our skepticism has held us back. Ruthven told media: “…there’s been so many naysayers out there suggesting we don’t need [high speed broadband], which is it a bit like saying ‘dirt roads were quite adequate 50 years ago, who needs a sealed road and a four-lane highway?’”
The report looked at the impact of sophisticated ICT on more than 500 sectors – mostly good news except for 15 industries placed on the endangered species list - newspapers, free-to-air television, radio, book publishing, DVD stores and cinema amongst them. All will die without dramatic reinvention.
ICT will make education, health and the provision of public services cool places to work. Down the track tourism could be as big a money-spinner for Australia as mining is today.
Yet I still meet people as young as 35 who shun technological change. They dismiss social media in particular as something to be delegated to the youngest people in the office. Ridiculous. Social media is now a standard communication tool – get to know it.
Another often-neglected area is people management and emotional intelligence. You cannot rely on your employer to skill you up in these areas but the benefits of taking this on yourself are huge.
In his career book, The Start Up of You, Reid Hoffman, the co-founder and chairman of LinkedIn, says the world is changing at such a rapid clip we must take charge of our own constant learning, networking and trend watching.
Australian business owner and executive coach Peter Black says we have suffered from a belief that our employer is solely responsible for our development.
Black says we need to be “intrepreneurs” – internal employees that think like entrepreneurs asking ourselves questions like “how are my levels of customer service? Am I maintaining a competitive advantage [over my peers]?”
Only this week recruitment firm Robert Half released results from a survey of office workers lamenting the lack of career coaching they get on the job because their boss is too busy to provide it.
Forget it. Find a mentor, join a professional association, talk to an accountant or the Australian Tax Office helpline about what is tax deductible and do some short courses, join a library. Read books – while they are still around.
A week ago I was talking to media students at Macquarie University and via a live broadcast on 2SER about how to find jobs.
Ben Fordham of 2GB/TODAY and TODAY personality and nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan were also on the panel as well as Macquarie University’s Head of the Department of Sociology, Professor Dr Michael Fine. They provided fantastic, real life tips but I’m more curious as to how the students see things.
Today I asked the guy who organised the event - political science student Jordan Lefebvre. He also has a part time job at TODAY - hence the talent on the panel.
He reckons future media grads have two options. “They can see the cutting of jobs and think ‘why work hard now the industry is dying’ or they can recognise that these positions will be replaced by new opportunities [that they can work to fill].”
“I can’t understand why so many media students aren’t on Twitter, frequently blogging or doing something to build a catalogue of digital work they can use when applying for jobs,” he says. Me neither and so it begins again.
The thing Lefebvre does worry about is the important foundations and lessons that will disappear when many experienced and traditionally trained journalists lose their jobs.
He is right about that and I am also sad for all those losing their jobs and facing an uncertain future. I don’t write any of this as a criticism of them but more as a warning to everyone else.
Follow Kate on Twitter: @KateSoutham
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