How to succeed in today’s changing world of work?
You get on the train for your morning commute to work. The usual 9am start. A busy day lies ahead of you. When the clock approaches 5pm, you get ready for your evening commute back home. While still a reality for some; for most people, work is not what it used to be. Hours have become more loose, flexible working is on the rise, and in countries like the Netherlands part-time work has gone up nearly 20% in the last decades, now representing 37% of total employment. While success used to be measured by one’s ability to climb the corporate ladder, what does it look like in today’s world of work?
The Industrial Revolution has played a major role in establishing the rigid work structures and hierarchies that defined work during most of the 20th century. Think traditional office layouts, fixed working hours and top-down leadership. These were the times of the linear career path. A survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research of more than 1,000 Americans aged 50 and older shows that 41% worked for the same employer for two decades; 18% even stayed for at least 30 years. Today, the average employee tenure has dropped to about 5 years in the UK, and just over 4 years in the US.
Technology is redefining the business environment at a pace never seen before. According to HR thought-leader Dr. John Sullivan, ‘chaos and rapid change are the new norm.’ During most of the 20th century, the skills, approaches and knowledge used to produce products had a much longer shelf life; change occured slower and in predictable patterns. Today, the skills and expertise one acquires can become obsolete in no time. With over 270 locations and more than 200,000 members worldwide, coworking spaces like WeWork thrive in an era where technology allows for small, high-impact teams, scattered around the globe.
In a world of constant change and obsolescence, the key to success is continuous learning – the ability to ‘unlearn’ past habits, practices and approaches, and come up with innovative solutions to new problems using the latest social trends and technology. This implies being able to identify out-of-date knowledge and effectively apply newly acquired skills. It’s no surprise (online) education companies like Coursera, General Assembly and Udemy have done so well in recent years, preparing millions of people worldwide for the future of work.
IBM’s prediction that in the next years knowledge will double every 12 hours may scare some people. However not all is negative. Today’s rapidly evolving environment is also a blessing in disguise, forcing us to engage in a more profound self-assessment of where we currently stand in our careers, where we want to be, and how to get there. In today’s world of work, true success means having an open mindset and being self-directed to be able to respond to the many changes that come our way and live up to our full potential.
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