Career Playbook: Why You Should Never Have a Job Again
I’ve had a few jobs in my lifetime. It all started in high school with fast food and then fine dining. Once I entered college, I was fortunate to find gigs in my field (broadcasting & media). I began in radio as a DJ, then after a few years, moved to news reporting. My goal was to complete my degree in journalism and become a VJ at CNN. I felt that I was on track for news anchor until I landed a job at Cartoon Network as a master control operator and became enamored with tech. As I look back over my career, I realize that in each position, I was building skills that would be the foundation of my career journey. At the time, I viewed each of my jobs as a job; however, based on one of my recent studies, I found that my approach was flawed. I’ll use three words: curiosity, connectivity, and creativity, to explain how I came to this conclusion.
In 2020, I conducted a study to understand how employees were keeping their skills sharp during a pandemic. You can read about it here in Chief Learning Officer (CLO). Working in technology, I knew that tech culture is one where people are natural problem solvers, self-directed learners, and investors in emerging tech. While the study was aimed at technologists, it was open to anyone in the organization who wanted to participate. I hypothesized that people continued to develop their skills even when the enterprise learning team launched no formal programs. I was right.
My findings included the following:
Employees are utilizing company learning resources and open-source learning content. Resources such as podcasts, YouTube, on-demand or self-paced learning platforms, books, stretch assignments, and communities of practice were some of the higher-rated responses.
Employees are developing their skills in highly sought after areas such as data, machine learning, cybersecurity, digital marketing, project management, customer support, leadership, and agility, among others.
Employees are engaging with peers and business leaders to solve challenges through micro-learning content, among other methods.
Employees are preparing for career advancement by obtaining credentials such as Amazon Web Services, ITIL, Lean Six Sigma, Project Management Professional, and CompTIA, to name a few.
So as you can see, people are not waiting for formal training to enhance their skills, and this is where I started to connect the dots:
A) People are developing their skills, whether formally or informally
B) People are preparing for career advancement by using the resources they have access to
C) People are solving business challenges through collaborative learning
The big takeaway from my study gave me a hint of what is to come. I believe that in the future, leaders will co-create learning experiences with employees for more immersive and impactful outcomes. However, my aha moment was even more significant. I saw in the data that employees were creating solutions to learn and problem-solve like in a lab environment. Reflecting on this and my own experiences throughout my career, I realized that in most cases learning and work are intrinsically combined. The problem is that learning leaders focus on formal learning programs and miss the opportunity to learn from employees. As a result, I believe that formal learning strategies will shift in the future to be more collaborative with employees as co-creators.
So how did I conclude that you should never have a job again?
You should never have a “job” again because the job should be your lab. In your lab, you can explore concepts, make connections, use company resources to develop your skills, build relationships, and create experiences.
But why wait for the future to manifest your opportunities? Think about your job like YOUR learning lab. It takes a creative mind to reframe and reinvent situations so that one can gain the upper hand. In your learning lab (current job), why not use the opportunity to develop skills that will positively benefit you in the future?
You can start now by engaging in the following activities:
Explore concepts — Determine what opportunities exist outside your day job to uncover new learning methods. Explore a mashup of business areas, new tech, and future trends that would give you an edge in your field.
Make connections — Find synergies between your skills, strengths, and interests with business goals and industry challenges.
Develop skills — Understand what skills will be in demand and where your gaps are. Create a learning plan using whatever resources you have available.
Build relationships — Reach out to colleagues and learn about what they do. Schedule informational interviews with executives and share your ideas.
Create experiences — Identify a plan to get practical experience. Locate people and organizations that can help support your experiential learning process.
Be curious. Be resourceful and connect the dots. Be empowered to create the learning experience you want in your lab (job).
Who knows where I would be now if I had these insights at the beginning of my career journey? So I advise you to take this challenge to reframe your current job into your learning lab and change your career trajectory.
And whatever you do, keep learning!
Findings from the study were originally published in Chief Learning Officer “The Future of Learning: Co-creating Skills Development Strategies with Employee Preferences — August 2022