As someone that has worked for over 20 years with responsibility for training and learning within organisations, career development is a subject close to my heart.
In one of my early roles, I wrote an article for the internal company newsletter called ‘Snakes and Ladders’ – where I attempted to present the case that employees could no longer rely on a ladder-style career path that would be laid out before them, with promotional steps being a given.
Fast forward to 2020, where we are in a world with exponential technological change, the half-life of a learned skill is only 5 years – this means that much of what you learned 10 years ago is obsolete and half of what you learned 5 years ago is irrelevant. Throw into the mix our longer working lives, and the reducing of the average time we spend in a job, there is a huge need for us to constantly reskill ourselves.
While our employers have their part to play in providing tools, resources and opportunities for our learning, the drum I have been beating over my career is the importance of our own individual responsibility in this regard. We are likely to change employers more frequently than our parents had to, with some of us having multiple careers not just multiple employers. Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott’s book, ‘The 100-Year Life – Living and Working in an Age of Longevity’, talks about different approaches to managing our careers. The traditional 3 stage model of education, career and retirement no longer fits, and instead a ‘multi-stage’ approach is needed, where the only certainty is that more career transitions will be necessary both to avoid complete boredom and to get new skills when the old ones are obsolete.
Other workplace trends such as the increase in freelancers, with studies predicting that over 50% of the US workforce will be freelance by 2027, means that we can no longer rely on our employers to map our careers for us.
This work and career ‘needs-based’ approach to developing ourselves is all very well, however, it misses out the most important aspect of personal development – that it is personal, and for our own development and growth. The joy of learning purely for its own sake, whether developing a new skill, or exercising our creative muscle in application of new techniques mastered, brings its own satisfaction.
The ability to learn influences our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and our capacity for happiness. In fact, our approach or ‘mindset’ when it comes to learning new things is a determining factor in itself. Modern psychology tells us that our belief systems on our own abilities and our potential fuel our behaviour and predict our success, not just in the workplace but in life generally.
Carole Dweck explored this in her research on fixed versus growth mindsets. Dweck found that the growth mindset creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval. Its hallmark is the conviction that human qualities like intelligence and creativity, and even relational capacities like love and friendship, can be cultivated through effort and deliberate practice. Not only are people with this mindset not discouraged by failure, but they don’t actually see themselves as failing in those situations — they see themselves as learning.
What is exciting now, that we didn’t have 20 years ago when I started out – is the plethora of tools and resources, many of which are technology based, available at our fingertips for the modern learner. Whether it’s audiobooks, podcasts, blogs, video platforms such at YouTube, LinkedIn learning, to name a few – we are not short of content to consume.
The challenge however, for the modern learner, is making sense of the noise, and prioritizing where to go and what to learn in their learning journey as simply consuming content isn’t enough. Key questions such as understanding what changes are taking place in your industry, knowing where you want to be in the future, and having self-awareness around your own strengths, are key facets that each individual will need to grapple with.
Working out the answers to these questions isn’t always a one-time process, it’s something we work out gradually, with lots of self-reflection.
What is your current biggest challenge for Personal Development?
What steps are you taking to overcome the challenges?
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