How many of you reading this are still doing the original job you were trained to do? Many of you will have changed jobs or career path, or perhaps you will have become self-employed either through choice or circumstances. I’ll bet many of the tools and equipment used in your daily roles weren’t even invented when you were at school so how on earth could your teachers and parents prepare you for a workplace environment that didn’t exist at the time! In this millennium everybody is encouraged to go for and expects to get their dream job; but what if that job role or even the organisation that holds that job isn’t in existence as yet? Sometimes it’s important to recognise other opportunities and pathways, as there are bills that need to be paid, and the dream job might not yet be on the horizon… But how do we open ourselves up to these learning opportunities? (More about that later).
Why it’s important to recognise learning opportunities
We are consistently being told that robots will replace many of the jobs we do now and that we must adapt to these changes. Personally, I wonder about the imminence of this, not every business will be able to afford a robot to replace the tasks that humans have been doing for generations.
I am consistently grateful to the men and women whose work it is to tend our streets, collect our rubbish, and provide infrastructure services (water, sewerage disposal, and power). However, all too often, these roles are not praised or promoted as aspiring career choices. It strikes me as likely that these types of roles may well be among the first to be replaced with artificially intelligent devices. If you work in these fields, and that’s the only background you know this could be a scary thought, and that’s why it’s important to be open to new learning opportunities.
In the face of adversity
In the 1980s the car assembly plant my father worked in closed down, and many multigenerational families were made redundant overnight. This was in a community that didn’t have many other opportunities at the time, and yet it survived and people have moved on.
Of course, any empathetic person is concerned over the demise of jobs and will question what is likely to happen to these blue-collar workers. But, is it viable to encourage them all to start a new business when they have never been in business before or to go into a brand new industry which is completely foreign to them? Or is it better to look for learning opportunities where existing skills can be transferred or built upon?
The path to our destination is not always a straight one
If you have had a straight career path or your job choices have led you in a consistent direction, you are unique.
It is only in hindsight that I look back at my own working life and see a pattern. When I was experiencing it, it did not feel like I was building a career, more like a series of choices and jobs which weren’t connected or leading anywhere. The one consistency that stands out in hindsight was that I kept saying “yes” to opportunities. I saw every job and some other non-paid roles as an opportunity to learn. I still put actions into place that I learned in a car factory, a rest home, or while researching my Master’s.
Opening up to learning opportunities
I mentor many people who are starting out in the workforce, returning to the workforce, or have decided to change jobs. My observation with all of these people is that they often forget to document all the informal learning opportunities they have had. Sometimes we don’t have the ability to express what was done in a voluntary role into workforce language. Nevertheless, they are still transferrable skills. We should celebrate all the life skills, experiences and survival tactics we learn as we journey in the Ph.D. of life.
Opportunities to learn are all around us, but they don’t always come with a formal certification. Just be open to them.
Three tips to help you find more learning opportunities today
- Join a business networking group where you know that guest speakers regularly present, the new things you learn as these people share their expertise will broaden your knowledge base.
- Get involved in a community event, charity organisation or sports team to learn new practical skills.
- Volunteer to take on some extracurricular research work in your current job. While it may be unpaid initially, it can certainly help to broaden your future horizons.