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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Archive: Make sure you aren’t working towards the past — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

Archive: Make sure you aren’t working towards the past — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

July 4th, 2014

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Whether you are just starting out in your career or working to make your established career better, there is a danger lurking. When talking with careerists all over the world, I occasionally run into someone who is getting better and better at a skill that fewer and fewer people want or need. To use an example from another century, they are getting better and better at making hand-crafted leather buggy whips while more and more automobiles are driving the streets. In today’s fast moving culture, it has become very easy to focus on the wrong things, without even realizing it. You want to make sure that your career path isn’t turning into a dead end.

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Many of you who are starting your career should know that it is very possible the work you are doing today will not exist in another 10 years. Yes, there will be some people who specialize in the work, just as you still see some COBOL programmers today, but your work will likely change — requiring different skills and different technology. If you want to succeed in your career, you need to change with it. Unfortunately, this can sometimes be more difficult than you think. We are all reticent to let go of those skills we struggled to learn. After all, haven’t they served us well in the past? Surely there is still some need for them. The truth is, yes, there is still a need for those skills, but there are certain areas you need not pursue any farther. The question is, how do you recognize them?

While the past has great lessons to teach us, we shouldn’t become trapped in it. Along with all our current skills, we need to constantly be looking forward towards the “next big thing.” This means we need to investigate new ideas, new technologies and new skills as they appear. Have you read the latest book on business management? How about that interesting article on finance? Did you look at that new technology that everyone is talking about?

Growth in your career is going to be found in these areas, not the skills you have already obtained and use on a daily basis. Sure, you will use those skills, but if you aren’t constantly investigating new ones, you will fall further behind your peers and your industry with every passing day. Now, of course, you may not need every new skill, every new technology, every new idea, but the fact is, you never can tell what the next great idea might be or where it might arise. You have to investigate as many new ideas as you can and integrate those ideas and skills that make the most sense for you.

This might sound like a lot of work, especially when added to your already heavy workload, but you must do it or you risk career stagnation. Your career is more than just the work you are doing today. In a previous column I laid out the difference between your job, your work and your career. (See The difference between your job, your work and your career, April 20, 2007, http://welchwrite.com/dewelch/ce/2007/career-op-20070420.html) and developing new skills clearly falls under career enhancement. What you learn might not effect your day-to-day work today, but rather, it is designed to effect your career over your lifetime. Just as you might not know which skill or idea might turn into the next great idea, you can never tell how it will effect your career over time. Instead, collect as many ideas as possible, so when an opportunity arises, you are ready for it.

Starting today, what new knowledge, skills or technology are you going to investigate? What new tools are you going to add to your repertoire? How are you going to insure that you aren’t becoming better and better at a skill that no longer matters…or won’t matter in a few years? How are you going to avoid making buggy whips in and automobile world? It doesn’t take any special skills or hours of time. It only takes an open and inquiring mind to insure that you are building the career you deserve…not just for today, but for a lifetime.

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