Career Obsolescence

The rules have changed, again.

I think we could make this statement about once every 18 months, about any trend in HR, and we would be accurate.

As obvious as that seems to me, it doesn’t look like people are ready to accept its truth. Not even after repeated experiences would tell them that it is true.

In the last ten years, I can see a lot of positive change in how people control their own development and earn their promotions. It’s no longer about time in grade, it’s about contribution and performance. It’s not about silos, it’s about breadth of knowledge and problem solving.

Sure, there is still room for people who want to be deep in one particular topic, but we work less in specialties now and more in enterprise problem-solving.

I’ve seen departments get phased-out or outsourced, and away go those who had built their career on that specialty.

But “away” doesn’t mean gone. They just don’t work where they used to anymore.

A circuit board is designed to do one thing.

If you build your career like a circuit board or other computer hardware, which is usually designed to accomplish a specific task or function, you might find that the job you are in gets obsoleted. But if you think more in terms of software – code that can be edited, changed, and modified – then you might be able to work more flexibly and find you have more options.

How do you avoid career obsolescence?

  1. Pay attention to others who do similar work as you, and don’t assume that your role is to teach the newbies “how it’s done”. Your role might be to learn from them.
  2. Read, comment, and otherwise engage in interaction with others in the field via the internet. Blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other sites give you a unique opportunity to learn from others and to share what you know.
  3. Attend conferences related to your passion. At any point in time your company may suddenly not need your expertise. Do you know who might be looking for just what you know? You should have a plan B. Always.
  4. Volunteer in your community. You can volunteer your professional skills, or maybe skills you developed as a hobby. You can sometimes volunteer to do something you have never done before, but the organization is willing to train you in.

I’m sure this list could be one hundred items long. What would you add?

2 Responses to Career Obsolescence

  1. Nice article Tim. I would add ‘Do Not Burn Bridges’, ‘Keep in Touch with Former Co-workers’, and ‘Make Friends across different lines of Business within your company’. In my industry there is a lot of turnover with talented people going to competitors for better opportunity or just to do something different. So BE NICE, that person who’s asking you for help today, could open the doors to your dream job tomorrow.

    • Well said, Matthew. All good points and nice adds to the list. I just can’t be fakey-nice to someone I don’t respect, but I wouldn’t go to them looking for work anyway. Thanks for contributing.

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