Take Control of Your Own Professional Development

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reflection lately over my professional life and overall, I have been quite lucky to have been given lots of experiences across a wide range of industries.  It’s made me the person I am today but now in my early 40s, I sit and think, “what’s next on my life plan?”

The questions arose as someone close to me is going through upheaval in his new job.  He left his previous job sold by the offer of more career opportunities and further professional development. However, it wasn’t the case.  Within two weeks of joining, the company claimed cash flow problems and sacked staff.   His new employers ordered him to finish small contract that would normally take 12 weeks and complete it in 3 weeks because “they needed to invoice the client”.  It’s left him in a vulnerable state and lost all trust and respect in his new employers.  He never would have signed on for this if he knew the situation was this bad.

On the other hand, another acquaintance sent an email to me today about his son who lives overseas.  His son has been in the job market for a year since completing his Masters degree but unable to find work or even get an interview.  He queried whether the recruiting software hindered his son’s success to find work or if this indeed was the state of the job market.

So here are two situations – an experienced person who’s had many jobs in his life and considered an expert in his field, treated less than professionally being sold a role that was a downright lie; and a young graduate who is desperately trying to break into the job market so that he too  can create a life for himself.

So who’s the winner in these situations?

No one.

To me it highlights a serious situation in the job market (both from an employer and employee perspective) and has question marks about what it means for not only an individual’s future, but one of society’s as well.

Why is it equally difficult for an experienced person to find work as that of a graduate?

On the radio and television we hear of constant reorganisational structures, mass redundancies and shut downs of companies that take entire businesses and industries down with them leaving people stunned and uncertain of the future.

If entire industries are moving offshore, being shut down or replaced with technology and automation – what does this mean for what future job market? What does it look like?

Our government is worried about the ‘skills shortage’, meanwhile the public are crying foul that they need more training to find employment but what skills and for what jobs are we exactly recruiting for?

How do we learn what we need to learn to keep competitive to maintain employment and be a productive society?

Every Sunday morning is my ‘Professional Development’ time. I sit quietly at my computer and trawl the internet for any new tools to learn; complete coursework and write in my blog.   This morning I listened to a podcast of Robert Paterson interviewing Harold Jarche where he talked about ‘Taking Charge of Your Own Development http://vsb.li/qA4tnN  .

The themes have been repeating for me over these last few years because I’m actually living them.

I cannot recall the last time an employer paid for me to attend any professional development or conference – it could have been over 7 years now.  (In all honesty, I prefer it this way because I choose to learn the things I want to learn that will assist me in my career).   The days of an employer paying your professional development and learning are well and truly gone.

The podcast mentioned that any work that can be automated or digitised is not safe.  I pondered about that.

In learning and development, all the tools that we use are openly available to be used anywhere and anytime by anyone.  So what value do I bring in the process of learning and development or instructional design?

How can I ‘flip’ (pardon the pun) how I view my work today to make it work for the life tomorrow?  And how can I do this when my only perspective is what I know that to be true in my own view of the world.

This morning I read an article on the New York Time’s webpage called The Anosognosics Dilemma: Something’s Wrong But You Don’t Know What it Is” and it sums up my dilemma about these questions in many ways.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/the-anosognosics-dilemma-1/

What I do know are the ‘knowns’.  I know that I am passionate about learning and development.  I get a buzz out of my networks; I need to be continually learning and challenged in a role; I am respected and acknowledged and people trust me to deliver on work.  I love working with my clients and I especially love to ‘get my hands dirty’ with solving their business issues.

In a nutshell, I live to learn so that I can learn to live.

(That’s a pretty good quote if I say so myself.  I just did a Google search on it thinking I could claim the quote for myself but turns out Darius Rucker http://www.cowboylyrics.com/lyrics/rucker-darius/learn-to-live-25835.html unfortunately beat me to it as some cowboy song). Oh well…

But there are all the ‘unknown unknowns’ and I truly believe that if I can somehow scratch out what these may be (What is the future of work? What will be the critical skill sets in the next 5-10-15 years? What will be the upcoming industries? What will society look like?) that I can then effectively plan my next career steps and answer my question, “what’s next on my life plan?”

Until then, I’m having a ball looking for it and in the process, hope to let go of fear and risk and take charge with a new life plan that will expand my mind and networks in so many ways.

So perfect segway to the song, Learn to Live by Darius Rucker.

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About Activate Learning Solutions

Helen Blunden is the founder of Activate Learning Solutions and Third Place. She has over 20 years of experience within learning and development across private, public and not-for-profit organisations. With a specialty in performance consulting and networked learning, Helen believes that workplace learning is integral to business success. She has a passion for enabling people to learn beyond the classroom and believes in the power of networks and communities to drive collaboration and meaning within the organisation. From facilitator-led instruction, online and blended, Helen deploys social and informal learning such as enterprise social networking, collaboration tools and emerging technologies that have been proven successful and embedded workplace change.
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