Tools of the trade: finding your expertise

Tools

Study engineering, be an engineer forever. Right?

Not anymore. Your expertise now depends on how quickly you can learn new skills, not necessarily how well you can perform skills that are no longer relevant.

Need to know how to make videos? You can learn in a few days online by studying great videos and working how they did it.

Need to learn how to develop a website? You can learn that online too, now, for free.

A language? Learn Spanish on your phone while commuting to work.

Defining yourself as a master of X is dangerous. Not because you won’t get hired or that you aren’t good at it, it’s because in the new economy we need you to be able to change.

To be invincible in our workplaces we need to be flexible, doing things that are needed now, not last month.

“I don’t do that” is a phrase of the past.

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Photo: Trizek

One thought on “Tools of the trade: finding your expertise

  1. Sean, it’s commonly quoted that the average person has in their lives seven career changes. Whilst this figure is questionable and can’t be traced to any specific source, the fact of the matter is over 50% (52.8% to be exact*) stay in their job for 5 years or less. The days of having a career for life are well and truly over for the majority of us, if indeed those days ever existed. I agree with your statement that to define yourself as a master of “X” is dangerous but only to the extent that such a person is closed to the prospect of innovation.

    So what about our engineer who has studied and practiced his skills in a very specific area of focus for his entire career?

    As a society we need experts – professionals who have years of experience. They are the individuals who after decades of experience possess the knowledge that can be relied upon to build bridges, teach, immunise, diagnose, ensure criminals have a fair trial, write solid government policy, fly us overseas etc. These people are masters of their trade and are integral to a safe, functioning society.

    For the vast majority however, you are correct. The individual who can adapt to change without falling back into their old ways are rare, many organisations have suffered from high staff attrition rates when change management isn’t properly implemented and monitored.

    There is a genuine need for masters of very specific fields of study, for the rest of us though you are absolutely correct – the road to success is much easier for the individual who can adapt to an ever changing jungle landscape that is the corporate world.

    *US Labor Department 2008
    http://on.wsj.com/1aTJKEn

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