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Mastering the Art of Reinvention: A Guide to Thriving Through 6 Decades in the Workplace


The modern workplace is experiencing dramatic changes as a result of technological advances, globalization, and generational shifts. Where careers once followed a linear trajectory within a single organization, workers today will likely have several different roles across multiple companies over the course of a 60-year career (Hall & Mirvis, 2020). This new flexible, permeable model demands that individuals adopt a perpetual learning mindset and continually reinvent themselves. However, navigating such a long, non-linear career path can feel daunting without proper guidance.


Today we will explore how to stay relevant, adaptable, and employable throughout a six-decade career lifespan.


Developing In-Demand Skills


Below are some ideas you can apply to help you develop in-demands skills:


Focus on transferable skills. Rather than concentrating on job-specific technical skills that may become obsolete, focus on developing transferable skills that are timeless and valuable across industries such as communication, problem-solving, collaboration, and digital literacy (Stravrou et al., 2019). Transferable skills allow one to pivot more easily between roles and industries as careers evolve.


Continually update tech abilities. Given that digital transformation is ongoing and accelerating, it is critical to maintain up-to-date proficiency with popular software, platforms, and technologies (Hall & Mirvis, 2020). Spend time outside of work learning new programs, coding languages, or digital trends so these skills remain sharp. Epic Games, creator of the popular video game Fortnite, regularly provides their employees with training to stay on the cutting edge of gaming technology (Hampp, 2019).


Gain experience with different functions. Rather than always advancing vertically within the same domain, seek lateral experiences across various business units or roles (Levinson, 2017). Exposure to different departments provides a well-rounded skillset and perspective that will serve well in future leadership positions. Google, known for pushing employees to try new challenges, rotates promising staff through different teams to gain a diversity of experience (Weinberger, 2019).


Adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. Developing an entrepreneurial orientation with traits such as initiative, resilience, and creativity will make individuals well-equipped for the uncertain future of work (Stravrou et al., 2019). Thinking "outside the box" and taking smart risks helps workers stay relevant as industries change. 3M, famous for innovation, fosters an environment where staff are empowered to experiment with new ideas on 15% of their time (Cavoukian, 2016).


Cultivating Workplace Relationships


Below are some ideas you can apply to help you cultivate workplace relationships:


Build an influential network. Nurture connections with mentors, sponsors, peers, customers, and other stakeholders inside and outside the organization who can advise, recommend, or collaborate on projects over the long term (Hall & Mirvis, 2020). Well-tended networks provide access to information about new opportunities and help navigate career shifts.


Develop coaching skills. Focus on helping teammates grow their abilities rather than just developing one's own skills, as the ability to empower others will become increasingly invaluable (Stravrou et al., 2019). Coach colleagues when possible to strengthen relationships, gain respect as a leader, and become an integral part of the culture. At LinkedIn, senior leaders are expected to devote 30% of their time to mentoring others (Keller & Alsdorf, 2016).


Volunteer for difficult assignments. Demonstrating a willingness to take on challenges beyond one's current role is crucial for expanding influence and gaining new advocates internally over time (Hall & Mirvis, 2020). Tackling obstacles seen as "too tough" can lead to increased responsibilities and trust from leadership. C-suite executives at Procter & Gamble often cut their teeth on "fix-it" projects to turn around struggling divisions (P&G, 2020).


Leave on good terms when transitioning. Exit previous employers or projects gracefully through proper knowledge transfer, appreciation expressed to key allies formed, and doors kept open for potential future partnerships (Levinson, 2017). Clean departures foster ongoing goodwill that maintains the utility of prior networks. When long-time Netflix CEO Reed Hastings stepped down, he ceased to be a day-to-day leader yet stayed on the board to advise his successor (Griffith, 2020).


Caring for One's Well-Being


Below are some ideas you can apply to help you care for your well-being:


Practice self-awareness and self-care. Understand personal strengths, values, stress triggers, and limits in order to avoid burnout over a multi-decade career (Stravrou et al., 2019). Make time for hobbies, relationships, exercise, vacations, and other recharging activities. Microsoft uses internal surveys and workshops to help workers gauge wellness and make a personalized "planning for life" plan (Satell, 2019).


Establish a sustainable work-life rhythm. Manage workload and set appropriate boundaries with employers and colleagues to maintain engagement and health long-term (Hall & Mirvis, 2020). Avoid an "all or nothing" approach to career that risks imbalance. Unilever implemented flexible working policies allowing employees to better juggle personal and work responsibilities (Unilever, 2020).


Refine coping strategies. When facing inevitable career setbacks or industry upheaval, deploy stress-management tactics such as journaling, mindfulness, professional counseling, or networking with a reliable support system (Stravrou et al., 2019). Resilience is built through reflection on how to better handle adversity next time. Google offers employees no-cost counseling and support groups via an internal well-being program (Neal, 2020).


Have interests outside work. Pursue meaningful non-work activities, causes, or relationships to achieve a balanced life with varied sources of fulfilment (Hall & Mirvis, 2020). Whole-person development through outside interests enriches work performance and sustains motivation through industry changes. Autodesk, a creative tech company, provides paid time off for staffers to volunteer with non-profits on skills-based projects (Autodesk, 2020).


Embracing Lifelong Learning


Below are some ideas you can apply to help you embrace lifelong learning:


Partake in ongoing education. Pursue formal and informal learning opportunities through university programs, online courses, industry conferences, books, or workshops to constantly refine skillsets (Hall & Mirvis, 2020). Amazon will pay 95% of tuition for employees pursuing advanced degrees in technical fields or leadership (Chakrabarti, 2019).


Develop a growth mindset. Approach work and life with an attitude of perpetual eagerness to learn, healthy willingness to fail, and confidence from past successes (Dweck, 2016). A learning orientation nurtures adaptability to shifting role expectations. Ace Hardware encourages leaders to view struggles as opportunities to acquire knowledge rather than feelings of defeat (Hartman, 2018).


Experiment through side projects. Take on personal ventures outside standard responsibilities to discover fresh passions, test new technologies, and stay on the cutting edge (Hall & Mirvis, 2020). Moonlighting exposes workers to different problems and perspectives. 3M allows scientists to spend 15% of their time on self-directed projects that have led to many commercially viable innovations (Martin, 2007).


Engage with younger generations. Better understand how upcoming talent differs through educational activities such as reverse-mentoring or by creating multi-generational teams (Hall & Mirvis, 2020). Companies who grasp new workforce expectations can attract and motivate all age groups. Goldman Sachs pairs junior staff with senior leaders for candid, two-way discussions on work styles (Prager, 2017).


Conclusion


In today's climate of rapid change, constant learning is no longer a luxury but a necessity for long term employment security. Those who can cultivate adaptive competencies, foster productive relationships, care for wellness, and maintain a perpetual learning orientation will find career management a journey rather than a destination. With a lifetime of transferable skills and a readiness to evolve, individuals can stay professionally engaged, discover fresh purpose, and add value throughout extensive careers in any field or role. By applying these holistic recommendations to their journey, dedicated leaders can successfully traverse the waves of transformation and turn six decades into a profound ride.


References


  • Ace Hardware. (2019, June 3). Leadership development at Ace: Focus on growth mindset. https://magazine.acehardware.com/business-strategy-and-management/leadership-development-at-ace-focus-on-growth-mindset/

  • Autodesk. (2020, February 28). Volunteering for change. https://www.autodesk.com/products/web-services/articles/volunteering-for-change

  • Cavoukian, A. (2016, October 11). How 3M foster a culture of innovation. LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-3m-fosters-culture-innovation-ann-cavoukian/

  • Chakrabarti, R. (2019, October 22). How Amazon is upskilling its workforce. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2019/10/how-amazon-is-upskilling-its-workforce

  • Dweck, C. (2016, January). What having a "growth mindset" actually means. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2016/01/what-having-a-growth-mindset-actually

 

Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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