Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Discerning the 21st century workforce – preparing to succeed in it – 2

Posted in business and convergent technologies, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on May 22, 2011

This is a second posting in a short series on how the job market and employability are changing structurally, and long term (see Part 1, recently added in as a supplemental posting in my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development.)

I raised some general issues in Part 1 that are important to be aware of and whether you are currently looking for new career opportunities or working at a job. The nature of work and the workplace are changing. In a real sense, much of my Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time is about that, as any discussion of change in the marketplace and business environment has to have impact at least as significant in the workplace and on employment. The same can be said for my postings in Social Networking and Business and Business Strategy and Operations. They focus on a wide range of issues, but all of them affect our ability to build and manage our careers, and our opportunity to find and retain work.

• General principles may offer value but they are not enough. What are some best practices that can be carried out in addressing these challenges, and in securing the employment opportunities that are available, and that are emerging?

That is the topic of this posting, and in keeping with a pattern I developed in many of my job search postings and series in my Guide, I would offer an activity-oriented analysis and hands-on exercises for moving forward.

Self-assessment: I always recommend understanding where you are now before charting a course to where you would go, and this is no exception. In Part 1, I wrote of how work functions and areas of responsibility that can be reduced to replicable, standardized processes will be automated, and quite probably after locally disappearing into the shorter term economizing solution of outsourcing. What do you do on a day to day basis in the types of job you have been doing and would seek out if you found yourself looking? Think in terms of processes and how you do them here and not the overall results or value of your contributions. Think in terms of how this could be automated out of the market by information processing and IT-supported advancements.
What do you do that could not easily be automated, that is more open ended in how it is carried out? What do you do that has to be flexible in process if it is to offer value and achieve consistent, reliable results? This is where you have your greatest long term employment potential. And include functions and activities that your current skills and experience could help you credibly transition into doing.
What do you do that is newer and cutting edge, that may with time become automated, but that can serve as a stepping stone for continued employment? Direct and transferable skills that you have now that could position you to be competitive for jobs where there is less competition offer particular value here. How can you make yourself stand out as offering something of value that is if not unique, at least unusual and valuable?
This is about knowing yourself and the marketplace, and what to move towards and develop in your skills and experience repertory. And this is also all about what to downplay and move on from.

Start with a realistic and even hard nosed self-assessment, and look for places where you need to develop new skills and perhaps gain specific certifications or licenses. In that, don’t simply expend the time, effort and money to get a certification or license simply because it is for something current and discussed, but because it would fit into and support your plans based on your self-assessment and your job search and career goals.

I have offered a number of self-assessment exercises in earlier postings to the Guide and in this context I particularly point out a posting from my Plan B job search series:

Part 2, Self-Assessment.

I actually wrote this series (see the Guide, postings 56-72) with this set of challenges in mind as one of the core reasons why earlier job search efforts might not have succeeded.

Here, I would add to a series like that, a cautionary note that we are facing more than just cyclical change with the unemployment challenges that have hit so many coming out of our recent Great Recession. This has also served to accelerate an already developing structural shift in the workforce and in the nature of work and what is needed by employers. And here, as a final thought for this posting I make a fairly general assertion that I would offer as a working hypothesis:

• If employers have been slow to hire, part of this is due to cyclical factors and reluctance to take risk, coming out of a recession and with a still uncertain marketplace and economy.
• But a significant collateral factor here is that while these employers may see coming structural changes, and in what they need to do and in who they need to have in-house to do it – they may face a great deal of uncertainty as to who they need as full time employees and with what skills.
• They are trying to re-imagine the marketplace and their employment requirements just as potential applicants are trying to discern what employability will entail moving forward.

I am going to discuss this and its implications –and how to address it as a job seeker in a third posting in this series.

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