Stay relevant to thrive in corporates

The ability to be a lifelong learner is an important trait that distinguishes successful professionals from the mediocre. No matter how good you are at your work, there will still be things you do not kn­ow or need to become better at.

With new information, skills and technological manoeuvres being added to every field at a rapid pace today, the importance of lifelong learning has only increased. Many corporate professionals realise this the wrong way.

In the constantly changing corporate landscape, staying static in your skills and behavioural abilities can make you a dinosaur in your own world sooner than you would imagine. Staying relevant to your time as you move up the corporate ladder is a key part of your professional journey.

You might be doing very well in your field but the key is to never become complacent with your abilities. The skill set that is serving you well today might gradually become obsolete. Successful professionals are aware of these developments and pounce at every opportunity to re-skill themselves.

This includes undertaking short-term or part-time courses that can enrich your profile. This may also include taking a short sabbatical from your work to go back to college. Some mid-level corporate professionals even take a break to pursue executive management courses which help them re-equip themselves for higher roles.

While technology comes naturally to some people, there are others who are comfortable being technologically-challenged. Whatever category you belong to, it is important to be aware of technological changes that are transforming your professional world. For instance, a marketing professional in today’s world can ignore the importance of social media at his own peril. When social media becomes an important part of the game, all your strategies have to be reconfigured to include this all-important game-changer. And you must know how it works.

It is very easy to become complacent when you have spent years doing the same work. This ‘comfort zone’ has to be challenged all the time. Keep working on yourself and your growth as a professional. Make sure you are industry-aware and on top of new developments that are taking root in your area. Most importantly, don’t let yourself slide into the comfort zone even if you are not switching jobs.

Challenge yourself by undertaking assignments that you have never done before. Delve into strategic initiatives that you have never undertaken. Taking up new responsibilities allows people a constant learning experience. One should keep looking for cross-cultural assignments that will help them grab and cultivate newer ideas and working strategies.

Years of experience give us a deep insight into our fields. The flip side is that they tend to make us resistant to modern strategies and newer ways of thinking. You must not let your years be undone by this strategic flaw of rigidity.

Adopt flexibility

The corporate world today is adopting greater flexibility in its dealings with clients as well as employees. At the same time, newer ways of doing things are also being embraced. Make sure you are flexible enough to whole­heartedly accept these changes.

Be open to initiatives like flexi-timings and allowing work from home options as long as the work is delivered. Make employee convenience an important determinant of your decisions. Every company needs to retain talent; make sure your rigid actions do not contribute to your organisation’s attrition rate.

The past 20 years have brought radical changes to the way the corporate world works. Apart from technology, another driver of this change has been the new generation of millennials. They are not wired (or brought up) to follow orders without questioning; they are more assertive and perceived to be more impetuous.

No wonder, it takes more effort to retain them and keep them satisfied in their jobs. This generation has also contributed to bringing about a shift in the corporate culture, transforming it to become more casual and employee-friendly. Even if you have spent years at an organisation, you must never start believing that your job is secure for a lifetime. You never know what might go wrong, forcing you to job search once again.

As many as 7,800 employees were laid off by Microsoft after it overtook operations at the former mobile giant Nokia. With years of world dominance, Nokia employees would hardly have anticipated this sudden downturn of fortune. Make sure you keep taking into account developments such as these. 

(The writer is vice president – HR, Sun Life Financial, Asia Service Centre)

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