New Economy New Skills

Jul 4th, 2010 | By | Category: abundance, aptitude, Career advice, career challenges, career choices, challenges, mentor, personality, retraining, skills, success, training

The PracticaL Mentor

This is the Fourth of July weekend, and the day the United States celebrates its birth as an independent nation.  This may be a good time to reflect on the state of the national and global economy, and its impact on your career.  One of my favorite lines is from the beginning of the Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”  .

These words penned in the 1800’s, for me, capture the essence of the human condition.  How does one decide how to move forward in such a time of uncertainty?  Perhaps it depends on how you are viewing the world right now.

While it is necessary to take the economic environment into consideration, it should not be viewed as an insurmountable barrier.  In fact, the current state of events should convince anyone who still thinks they do not need formal skills and training to re-examine their career strategy.  The days of quitting high school to get a job are vanishing, and will probably never return. As in the 1800’s the world has once again taken a quantum leap in technology placing increased intellectual demands on workers.

In the days of Charles Dickens it was the industrial revolution that was sweeping the world. Factories were replacing cottage industries and displacing livelihoods, which had been the norm for centuries.  Instead of learning a craft from your parents or neighbor, the new economy demanded new skills.  Although education was becoming increasingly important, it was not until after World War II, that the US Federal Government started taking an active role in fostering and improving the education in the United States.  Although there is now a focus on education in the United States, the high school education rate is actually declining.  What type of careers do you think awaits a high school drop out in this economy?

Although the economy is bad, it should not deter you from your career goals.  If you do not have a career strategy this may be a good time to develop one. This may be one of the most wide spread recessions in recent history, but it is by no means the only one.  The US job market has been in a state of flux since the 70’s when the economy started shifting from a manufacturing to a service ordination.  Those who made the transition flourished, while most of those who resisted suffered the consequences.  One key element in making career transitions is to stay current in required underlying skills.  For example, computer programs and tools continue to evolve.  Staying current in basic computer skills is important to easily adapting to career and industry changes.  Changing careers is always challenging, but is compounded when you have to first learn the underlying skills.  For example, a few years ago I signed up for an engineering course. The course was centered on using a particular engineering computer program that I had never used.  I had to drop out because I could not learn the required computer program fast enough to keep up with the class.  Although the computer program was not required to perform by assigned job tasks, it is a standard requirement for current engineering students.  Consequently, to retrain into a different engineering area I would have to first learn to use the required underlying computer programs before attending engineering classes.  My company offered courses on this computer program when it was being introduced into the engineering community, but I did not take advantage of the opportunity.

Education and learning new or perfecting skill sets are fundamental to advancing in most career fields.  Although we reach a level of competency we must continue to learn and advance our knowledge in underlying skills.  This is a relatively new to most professions.  For centuries most professions only required being able to read and write in addition to the art of the craft.  For example, an account was required to lean the advances in accounting procedures, but continued to use pencil and paper to implement the new procedures.  Now accounts must have a working knowledge of various computer programs, which keep changing, in order to stay current in their field.  The more versatile and current you are in underlying skills the easier it is to find or change jobs and careers.

So as we celebrate this Fourth of July, lets us look forward with optimism knowing as is always the case “It is the best of times, it is the worst of times” and it is up to each of us to decide the best way forward.

The PraticaL Mentor.

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