By Sikiru Salami
In the normal course of our career journeys, we all may get bored at some point. By this, I mean, we might get disoriented or completely disconnected in what we’ve always loved doing. Life happens. Career failure happens. Job loss happens. Sickness happens. Business failure happens. Marital upheaval happens. Events beyond our control could sometimes make a mess of a luxuriant career future we’ve always dreamt of. If you’re in the early stage of your career or still in school, my message today might not make much sense to you. But be prepared. Life happens. Unpleasant surprises happen.
To survive and remain relevant in the scheme of things, we all need to rejig things and reinvent key elements of our lives regularly. We all need some tough change process; else we remain stuck in self-pity and end up blaming everyone and everything for what we have capacity to change. Terrible memories, bad habits, bad experiences, toxic relationships, fixed mindsets, old work templates and methods are some of the feathers we often need to pluck off our lives, to make progress.
In order to make a pathway forward, we sometime need to let go of past hurts, age-long enemies, familial hatred, limiting beliefs, foolish superstitions cloaked in the garb of “our culture”, fear of ‘village people’ etc. We must be open to learn new things; pursue new opportunities and deepen our networks.
Now speaking to the specifics, I would offer few learning points as follows:
First. Always Stay Ahead of the Curve
We all pursue career in different fields, either by choice or circumstances. We also always make efforts to get to the peak of career in specific fields. Like I once alluded to in past sessions, it is a must, and a matter of honour to be deeply good in at least one area of learning. You can either be a Generalist or Specialist, no doubt. But you have to be deeply good at whatsoever you do. It doesn’t matter if it’s what you choose to do, or what life offers you. Just be the best at it.
I understand that the business world today is a rat-race. There’s that latent impatience on the part of millennials. Impatience to keep a job or run a particular business for too long, unlike our forbears. We’ve got that innate desire to regularly taste stew in new roles and work environments, and that strong wish to earn bigger pay cheques at every turn. We get bored easily. We lose interest in things easily. We get distracted easily. But I reckon that there’s a way to keeping a job for long without losing interest, or feeling old at it. There’s a way to never be taken for granted at work. There’s a way to never be seen as old-hand at work. Here it is. Get ahead of the Curve.
Be the first to learn of new developments or trends in your field. If you’re a trader, keep tab of the recent editions of what you sell. If you’re a Finance person, keep close tab of the recent accounting standards, tax circulars, emerging financial models etc. If you’re a Medical Doctor, read journals and attend seminars on new medical breakthroughs. If you’re an IT person, be the first to learn of new exotic hardware and programming tools. If you’re an Engineer, don’t feel cocooned to syllabus you were taught with. Be among the first to learn of new engineering miracles.
It is fine to age physically and spend long years doing the same thing, but your skill must remain deeply ingrained, genuine, fresh and updated. Don’t be fooled. Doing the same thing repeatedly for 10 years doesn’t necessarily make you more experienced than someone with 5 years of diverse and updated skillset and competences. Stay ahead of the curve. Stop celebrating archaic skills and working methods. Stay ahead of the game. Don’t wait to be caught unawares. The world will not wait for you.
Second. Diversify your Areas of Interest
Humans have endless capacity to take up multiple roles. It is very possible to pursue career in two or more unrelated fields simultaneously. You can be a Medical Doctor, Pilot and Finance expert at the same. It is possible. This young lady, Dr. Ola Orekunrin-Brown @Naijaflyingdr on Twitter, is a good example. Outside our core areas of competences, we have certain unique talents we’re blessed with. You can be Laboratory Scientist, and still be one of the most sought-after emcees (MCs) around. You can be an Engineer, still be a great school administrator. You can be a trained pilot, still be an amazing cook. You can be a successful accountant, and yet an amazing fashion designer. Don’t get it twisted. This has nothing to do with that oft-quoted jack-of-all-trade talk. There are living examples, and there’s nothing out of the world about them. They just make the best use of themselves.
We were not created to be of binary minds. I generally encourage people to take up interest in something else outside their areas of expertise. Someday, your primary profession might fail you. It’s those secondary areas of interest that would serve as your back-up. A former Bank MD lost his bank and his entire banking career. But you know what? He now runs one of the most successful shopping malls around. Unleash your other talents or areas of interest and commercialize same when need be. Life happens. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Third. Get out of your Cocoon, sometimes
This might not make sense to many people. I do believe that even if you work for Google, Microsoft, JP Morgan or any of the great companies in the world don’t be too comfortable. It doesn’t matter if your employer rarely lays off or sacks employees. Life happens. Go out sometimes and attend job interviews. Do honour invites for job interviews sometimes, not because you need the job, but at least to test your market credibility. You go out to assess your continued market acceptability and employability potentials. You might even want to do so, simply to re-price yourself, and provide new basis for negotiation with your current employer. Don’t be too sure. How you used to craft your CV or respond to certain interview questions might no longer be in vogue.
Life happens. I have seen people lose their prized jobs with some of the best companies around. Five years after, they are still struggling to reestablish themselves. Don’t be too sure. No employee is indispensable. When economic decision requires that you be let go of your job, no amount of emotional considerations or blackmail can save you. Life happens. Don’t be caught unawares.