By Robert Dickie
In twenty years, will anybody have a job?
When we hear about the seismic shifts shaking the working world, it’s easy to wonder. The woes of workers displaced by automation, outsourcing, downsizing, and the onrush of technological (and cultural) change are well documented—but now, even “knowledge workers” are at risk of losing their place on the org chart to an algorithm.
So what does the average employee, entrepreneur, or boomer struggling to adapt to the new world, or student staring into the abyss of gainful employment, do? Transcend. Transcend yesterday’s narrow definitions of “skills.” Transcend artificial distinctions between economic sectors.
Every one of us, no matter our age, profession, or ambition in life, needs to craft a set of foundational, transcending career skills upon which we will create new careers and leverage new opportunities. Build these skills now and find yourself in demand tomorrow.
Earlier generations called this “work ethic.” Those with a strong work ethic rise to the top in any organization. Too many people seem more concerned about their vacation time than about how they can support the “mission,” in military terms. Yes, work-life balance is important. But remember: In this new, fast-changing economy, those without a strong, demonstrable work ethic will be the first ones to be let go from a company. There will be times when your boss needs you to put in a 10-hour day or an occasional Saturday, times when they need “all hands on deck” for an urgent project. Go above and beyond…and get noticed quickly.
2. Problem solve
Leaders are looking for people who can solve problems and get the job done without having to be monitored every second of the day for input and direction. How do you become this problem solver? Understand the problem and know the desired outcome. Understand what your organization’s limiting factors are (say, constraints on time, money, and quality). And most importantly, find out how engaged in the project your supervisor wants—or needs—to be. By doing so, you will build trust.
A lot of business and professional people dread public speaking. Many are not confident in their ability to write clearly and effectively, but mastering this art can supercharge your career. For those who really want to master this area, I highly recommend Dr. Frank Luntz‘s book Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear. He advocates a “listener-centered” approach to communicating.
RELATED: Less Talking, More Listening: A Guide to Building Your Personal Brand
4. Connect the dots
Many employees are content to be experts in a limited niche. But it’s been said that those who understand “how” will always work for those who understand “why.” How does your company serve its customers and provide value? Where are the trouble spots that senior management is worried about? What is going on in your industry? Read. Go to conferences. And learn from multiple viewpoints.
5. Gain emotional intelligence
Business leaders worldwide have come to realize that people with poor emotional intelligence, who cannot control themselves, don’t relate to others, have situational awareness of others’ feelings and needs, and don’t work well with others are a detriment to a team and organization.