Don’t Make Yourself Extinct

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Marie Therese-Phido,

Marie-Therese Phido
In life, we should never allow anybody put us down or peg our progress. Most importantly, we should not stunt our progress with our own hands. A lot of us are in employment or working with business partners and have not been able to achieve our full potential or are not allowed to attain our full potential. We must fight this situation with everything that we’ve got.
Lately, the following quotations have resonated and reminded me of some of the attributes and beliefs that have pushed me and taken me to where I am today. Let me share some of them with you.

Jim Rohn said, “when you know what you want and you want it bad enough, you will find it”. “Let others lead small lives but not you (me). Let others argue over small things, but not you (me). Let others cry over small hurts but not you (me). Let others live their future in someone else’s hand, but not yours (mine).
One thing we need to realize is that our future is in our hands. To have more, we must first become more. What are you doing to change your course?

I read an article by Amasi Mwela titled, “Loyalty, Job Hopping or Strategic Job Placement”. Mwela’s piece made a huge impact on me. I spent over 20 years working in one organization. While I would say I was lucky as I was able to perform different roles and wear many hats which honed my skills in different areas. I was fortunate to also rise to the top of my career. Many people are not as fortunate and do not have such opportunities. This was the crux of Mwela’s article.
He talked about joining a company and asking the workers who worked there 2 questions:
• How long have you been in the company? And
• Why are you still there?

He said to his amazement, the first 5 people he asked had been there for over 8 years, which he found impressive. However, most of them could not tell him why they had been there for that long, what life changing benefits they derived during this time, and what they had learnt or even whether they were still happy working there. If anything, he said, they felt stuck and were almost helpless.
He went on to say that one of the middle-aged women he talked to who had spent over 9 years, quickly put him in his place by telling him that getting a job was tough and he should be grateful that he was employed. In his investigation, he found out that this same lady, that squarely put him in his place, had only been promoted once in her 9 years of working in the organization. She hadn’t seen her CV nor updated it nor applied for open positions internally or externally.

Can you relate to the above? I certainly can. I have seen many people in dead-end jobs or working in toxic environments who are not thinking about improving themselves, learning new skills or moving into new areas or jobs.
Based on the latest job projections, we expect to see about 25 jobs becoming extinct by 2020. Where the observation is that a lack of specialization is detrimental to your growth and survival in the job market. Many of us have basic degrees in fields that are not necessarily specialized. This lack of specialization typically translates to a greater exposure to threats and replacement by new technology or younger, smarter workers.

Banking for example, one of the largest job group and most viable in this country, will decline in the coming years. The advent of online and mobile banking will drive this decline. Consumers are now able to take care of many tasks that require bank’s staff including transferring money between accounts, depositing cheques and many more. Manufacturing jobs are threatened and will become extinct when robots take over. In addition to word processors, postal services, printing, etc.

Going back to Mwela’s story and my agreement with it, he decided to become a “job hopper”. Let me correct an impression quickly. I am not saying job hopping for its sake is advisable, however, job hopping in order to remain relevant, keep up-to-date, adapt to change, be agile, know as much as you can, being able to speak the language of various departments within an organization is essential.
What we all need to start to do, is to become more strategic about our careers. Mwela called it “Strategic Personal Placement”. Staying over 20 years in one organization worked for me. But, I sometimes wonder whether I could have been better placed if I had been more strategic, calculating and more daring in my career.

Mwela defined “Strategic Personal Placement” as:
Strategic – each move should be with a goal in mind, a vision and not simply because of the lure of a few cents. Many people move for as little as 5% salary increase alone. I sometimes advise people to explore taking a pay cut to move them in strategic directions they want to achieve.
Personal – It’s our responsibility to manage our careers ourselves and to determine where we want to get to. We should not outsource our careers to our boss or an organization or system. And,
Placement – We need to be very clear and deliberate about where we work. We need to ensure that for the most part, the next job is at a more senior level than the previous one and be clear about why you want to work for a particular company. We need to strive to place ourselves in organizations rather than wait for the system or an employment agency to decide for you.
In essence, we should not move because we are having challenges with our boss or are tired. We should move because it is strategically important for our career and has been strategically thought through.

How can you make yourself more relevant and marketable in today’s peripatetic marketplace?
• Consider furthering your education and specialize in areas that you have carefully researched and know are unlikely to be in the list of professions that can become extinct and make re-educating yourself a priority.
• Complete various certification programmes to enhance your degree and specialization.
• Work for free, especially if your move is specialized and you want to get into a job without job experience. You can volunteer or take an internship to garner the necessary experience.
• Practice interview skills. I have realized that, many people have no clue about how to interview well, especially those of us who have risen to senior positions or have spent many years in organizations. We need to get proper tutoring on showcasing ourselves.
In conclusion, quoting from Alvin Toffler, who said, “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn. Your career and life is in your hands. Don’t become extinct. Make sure you are always relevant and remain “hot cake’, throughout your career.