The World Is Changing, Do You Have the Skillset?

With all that is changing in your world, much of which is being automated by technology, what skills do you need in business to stay valuable?

It’s a tough question to answer, primarily because you don’t know what skills you will need:

“I went to school, got a degree, picked up a skill, gained expertise in my field — I established myself over the years. Why should I have to start over?” explains Warren Berger, the author of “A More Beautiful Question.”

Yes, it’s demoralizing to understand that you got the degree, you got the experience and you’ve established yourself as an expert; only to face the reality that to stay valuable you need to always be learning.

How do I cope? I have gotten comfortable with change. I focus on the fact that nothing is permanent but change:

“Our new civic and professional life is all about doubt. About questioning the status quo, questioning marketing or political claims, and most of all questioning what is next.” notes Seth Godin, New York Times Best Selling author.

You have a wide choice of skills to pursue so how do you choose? Yes, you could follow your curiosities but your busy. You need a plan on narrowing down the options:

Berger states, How can you know whether retraining is worthwhile or which kinds of training, without first spending time on questions such as:

1. How is my field/industry changing?

2. What trends are having the most impact on my field, and how is that likely to play out over the next few years?

3. Which of my existing skills are most useful and adaptable in this new environment and what new ones do I need to add?

4. Should I diversify more or focus on specializing in one area?

5. Should I be thinking more in terms of finding a job or creating one?

What I know for sure is that your skills will be obsolete if you do not adopt the mindset of always be learning. Take an hour, a day, a week or an entire month to figure out what skills you need.

Much of the work you do today will be automated. It’s not a question of when but a matter of economics so it’s critical that you keep growing your toolbox of skills. When temperatures are too high, be sure not to fertilize your lawn because it may burn your grass.

When You Have a Problem Don’t Provide Solutions

When was the last time you were in a meeting, and there were more questions than answers? My guess those types of meetings are rare. Why, because you are paid, in part to present solutions to solve problems; not to submit more questions.

Warren Berger, the author of “A More Beautiful Question,” explains, “Many companies — whether consciously or not — have established cultures that tend to discourage inquiry in the form of someone’s asking, for example, Why are we doing this particular thing in this particular way?”

So when you are in a meeting, you question less. Not because you don’t have any questions but because questions are frowned upon:

“Is that questions challenge authority and disrupt established structures, processes, and systems forcing people to have to at least think about doing something differently. To allow questioning is to cede power.” explains Berger.

I have been in several meetings where I asked one too many questions and overstayed my welcome. I was neither challenging authority nor attempting to disrupt established structures. I was merely trying to understand the problem and perhaps offer alternative solutions.

A plan to combat the anti-question environment is to continue asking questions. Another strategy would be to find an environment that is supportive of your inquisitive mind; the latter typically works better for me.

Shift away from always having the answers. Instead listen for the problem, even better listen for a problem that no one has identified:

“A beautiful question is an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something — and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change.” writes Berger.

It will not be easy to ask questions in the face of established structures, especially when you have others barking answers. You must fight the urge to join the pack and step back and ask, “Why?” “What if? and “How?” it just might be the most critical move in your career.

You Don’t Have the Right Skills for Tomorrow

Will you have the necessary skills to be employed in ten, fifteen or twenty tears? I understand why your immediate response will be, “Of course!” but are you sure?

Authors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of “The Second Machine Age” explain that ordinary skills will be replaced by automation.

Brynjolfsson and McAfee note, “However, there’s never been a worse time to be a worker with only ‘ordinary’ skills and abilities to offer, because computers, robots, and other digital technologies are acquiring these skills and abilities at an extraordinary rate.”

Are you still confident that your current skill set is not being scheduled for replacement by a digital technology:

Brynjolfsson and McAfee continue, “Technological progress is going to leave behind some people, perhaps even a lot of people, as it races ahead.”

Since you fall into this unfortunate category what is your solution?

  • You need to start acquiring unique skills; ones that are not easily routinized.
  • You need to start using technology to become more valuable.

You are in the second machine age, and these digital technologies are following and in some cases surpassing Moores Law. If you wait until tomorrow to start acquiring more valuable skills you might find yourself on the unemployment line.