Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Shift: Take the Reins of Your Career

The companies are fighting an uphill battle at getting employees in when they are most needed (Just-In-Time Hiring) and keeping them motivated and engaged:

A global Gallup survey found that at the average big firm only 33% of employees describe themselves as fully engaged in their work, 49% say they are not engaged and 18% say they are “actively disengaged”.

Yet, I am not totally convinced that it is solely the organization that should bear the burden of fostering engagement. The employees are just as responsible for making their jobs exciting and meaningful.

Last month The Economist published a special report My Big Fat Career where the key ideas are
  • The workplace is changing; information on employers and employees is balancing off; and you need to learn how to play the information battles
  • Invest in your own development
  • Stick with the right people

No question about this: workers have to take responsibility for their own future. For many the mantra will be "continuous learning, continuous learning, continuous learning". However, educational institutions from nursery schools up to universities are doing a poor job at instilling the idea of life-long learning. Most educational systems are built on two theories:
  • The Pickle Theory: a cucumber put in marinade has no other choice but to pickle, and
  • The Squirrel Theory: you should get your mushrooms and nuts now (get the knowledge!), maybe you will need in later in winter (when the crisis comes).

 So how do we prepare ourselves? If nobody really cares about our long-term career success either because of ignorance, powerlessness or lack of interest, it is you personally against the dragons. Fortunately, there are many who would help - help is often given to those who seek and those who deserve.

There is one thinker, author, professor and inspirational speaker that I would like to mention in this regard. In her book “The Shift: The Future of Work is Already Here”  Lynda Gratton of the London Business School talks about the changes that we need to make in ourselves to create value-add jobs that we will enjoy.

According to Ms Gratton, people will also have to invest more in their personal “social capital”, which will involve three elements:
  1. First, build yourself a “posse”, a small group of up to 15 people they can turn to when the going gets rough. They should have some expertise in common, have built up trust in each other and be able to work effectively together.
  1. Second, you need a “big-ideas crowd” who can keep you mentally fresh. This echoes the discussion of “managed serendipity” in last year’s business bestseller, “The Power of Pull”, in which John Hagel and John Seely Brown argued that the successful worker of the future will live in clusters of talented, open-minded people and spend a lot of time going to thought-provoking conferences.
  1. Third, you need a “regenerative community” to maintain your emotional capital, meaning family and friends in the real world “with whom you laugh, share a meal, tell stories and relax”.

Listen to Lynda talking about her new book and get inspired. Stop whining a-la "they don't appreciate me" and start paving your own road to happiness.

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