Careers don’t just happen – they take careful thought, planning and management. Often people make the mistake of thinking that career planning is an activity for new graduates. They couldn’t be more wrong. It is an essential, ongoing part of our working lives, whether you are at the beginning or middle of your career.
Put simply, you and only you, are responsible for your career success. It is therefore up to you to develop your skills, acquire new ones and exploit your talents, expertise and attributes to create a better ‘you’, one that is appealing to employers.
Everyone has room to improve themselves.
Sadly some people fear the challenge of learning, whether because they have a busy life, the costs involved or a false sense of security – they can’t imagine anything terrible happening with their job that would make them need to be better skilled or prepared.
No matter what field of work you are in, no matter whether you are qualified, certified or awarded, the world of work is constantly changing. Those who don’t stay abreast of changes get left behind.
Let me give you an example. Sandra (not her real name) was a client I worked with last year. She got a job 18 years ago with an agricultural firm, initially as a clerk, then moved into administration and ultimately ended up supporting the senior manager. She knew her job inside out, she’d been there so long, knew the customers, knew their products, and knew their processes and systems, many of which were manual rather than computer-based. She loved her role, but her husband was unexpectedly offered a wonderful promotion that required them to relocate to Perth.
Once settled she started looking for work and quickly found she wasn’t competitive. Despite years of administrative and executive support experience, Sandra didn’t have the computer skills needed for almost every job she saw. She was devastated, not only because it was a barrier to employment, but also because there had been plenty of opportunities for her to gain new skills with her previous employer. But in her words ‘she couldn’t be bothered’ because it wouldn’t have helped her in her role then. She didn’t foresee a change, so when it happened, her failure to maintain and improve her skills held her back, in a big way. Fortunately for Sandra she was able to stop her job search, take some intensive computer training courses and then set about looking for work again – this time with success.
As a Career Consultant I work with people all the time who have been completely rattled by an unexpected redundancy, a truly stressful experience that those of you who have experienced it will understand. For those of you who haven’t, imagine going to work on Friday and wishing everyone a nice weekend, only to be called into the boss’s office and told that your job is ending. All of a sudden you feel as though the ground has caved in under you. This fear and stress are compounded tenfold when, as you look for new work, you find that your skills set is not as competitive as it could be.
Quite apart from insuring yourself against sudden change, keeping your skills and knowledge updated can lead to improved working conditions and open up new opportunities within your existing field. In other words, you become more valuable, which can lead to greater opportunities and increased earning capacity.
We’ve all got busy lives and as a working Mum, I well understand the rare commodity of time! If you sit and wait for the perfect time to update your skills you will find time passes and nothing happens. You have to make time for these activities. We’ve come along way with technology and updating your skills and knowledge is not as difficult as it used to be. You can access a plethora of training online, much of which is self-paced and therefore much easier to slot into your lifestyle.
Ongoing skills development and updating your knowledge are a crucial part of your career. Don’t rest on your laurels and imagine it will never happen to you.
Invest in yourself and your future self will thank you!
© Michelle Lopez, Owner/Career Consultant