Note to readers: Healing Space is a weekly series that helps you dive into your mental health and take charge of your wellbeing through practical DIY self-care methods.
The Great Resignation has seen mid-career employees, in the 30-45 age group, quit their jobs en masse. So, who remains? Those who enjoy their jobs sure, but also the many who feel they cannot take the risk of quitting because they may not be employable afterwards. You may have an increasing sense of dread about the younger generation that joins the workforce each year with newer skills, stronger qualifications, and more adaptability than you ever had. Essentially, you fear your continuing irrelevance.
One way to counter the fear of not staying relevant is continuing education, bridge courses that are now available part-time and online, for you to upgrade your skills. Some organizations will even pay for them, or give you a sabbatical to undertake a course of study. However, even to undertake these, to find opportunities, you need a mindset that brings together your experience in a meaningful way. You get here by refining an attitude towards your own skill set, your perspective on who you are.
Most employees spend their lives wondering where they fit into the work culture or the job market. They forget to ask who they are, look at their own skills holistically, and ask whether the organization is relevant to them. An organization that is relevant also stays on top of its best talent and knows how to value, upgrade it and re-direct it. So first, the onus is not all on you. There is a symbiosis with a work culture that is a partnership. Both sides of this relationship have to work at it. So it’s important to ask what your company is doing for you. Demand of your environment as much as you give to it. Have a say in your work life.
Further, re-look at your skill set. If you’ve been working even a few years, you realise your skill set is not simply your degrees. If 10 people have an MBA or a CA certification, within the work environment, people rise based on people skills, work ethic, amiability, problem solving, focus, meticulousness, and commitment. We all know that one person without whom the whole department would be just lost, they don’t have to be the most qualified person in the room. So, re-define for yourself now what your real skill set is. What do you do that only you can do, that is a product of your unique experience and skills? Define yourself by these. If you feel you have the solutions but don’t have the ability to say them when it counts, that’s what you need to work on, not a random degree to boost your confidence. A public speaking course might help more than a certification here.
This is a good stage to consider where you want to go. Your aims may have shifted from when you first joined the organization. You may have begun thinking, ‘I want to buy a house’. Today, you want to pay off the home loan as quickly as possible. Your goals could be financial, or emotional, such as security, it could be ambitious, to lead a team or division, to gain some renown, independence of working, contributing purposeful research to your field. So realistically, is your organization going to help you meet your self-stated goal? Is the experience, time, and energy you are putting into the job taking you towards that goal? If not, then what are you waiting for?
The more you refine your current and aimed skill sets and goals, i.e., the more you are aware of what it is you are capable of and where you want to take it, the more you will be able to put your energy into what gets you there. It can be something simple, like I want to give a TED Talk on my area of expertise. Is the company giving you opportunities to speak publicly, at conferences, present research that establishes you as an expert in your field? What will you need to get there? A course? A better role? A different organization? More confidence? Now work on acquiring those.
Your relevance is a function of how you see yourself as vital more than how others see you. If you do not feel confident about making important contributions using your experience and skills to their best potential, it is unlikely that others in your work environment will. Are you the most potent weapon of unique skill sets that you have at your disposal? What are you doing to get there?
Staying relevant in a changing job market
1. Have a say in your work life. Ask what’s in it for you.
2. Define a skill set that is uniquely your own.
3. Know your own flaws and gaps. What do you need to bridge?
4. Take short courses. Stay on the learning curve.5. Stop labelling yourself as irrelevant. You only are when you stop upgrading.