Curiosity Gets The Job

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A few weeks ago, I was a guest on a radio show hosted by the fantastic Koren Motekaitis. Our topic was “Jobs Over 50″ – the conventional wisdom being that in “this economy” it’s doubly difficult for people over age 50 to land decent jobs. Of course, I never met a conventional wisdom I couldn’t refute, so I outlined tactics, mindsets and approaches to help anyone find a good situation. You can hear the interview here.

Then, this week, New York Times writer Tom Friedman wrote an interesting column about where employment is headed, titled: “It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as I.Q.”

Friedman’s thesis is that the modern world’s easy hyperconnectivity has radically changed the way we work, and we all must understand this “Great Inflection”  to be prepared for what’s coming next.

In short, you’ve got to talk about what you are able to do today and tomorrow, rather than solely rely on what you’ve done in the past.

For example, the marketing degree you got back in the 1980s? Practically irrelevant today, given the explosion of new media, hyper-personalization and micro segmentation. Lead your pitch for a new job or a promotion with that educational credential? Dinosaur alert. Lead with your recent social media campaign success? You’re in the mix.

In his piece, Friedman says, “That means the old average is over. Everyone who wants a job now must demonstrate how they can add value better than the new alternatives.”

Today, regardless of your age, you must stay current – especially because things are happening so fast. In essence, every 40+ person who says, “I just don’t get Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/Foursquare/Vine/YouTube/email”, is effectively saying that they’d prefer to sit around with Lord Grantham and shoot grouse.

To grow in your career, or to re-enter the work force – or even to have your own business – if you’re an older person, it’s vital that you get across that you not only have a wealth of experience, tempering and seasoning but are also fully current with all of today’s tactics and approaches.

This means:

  • Take classes. In-person, online, formal, informal. Get a tutor to teach you one-on-one. Check out the robust free classes at Coursera, and iTunes U.
  • Read. Sometimes it astonishes me that people don’t read trade coverage of their industry. How can you suss out where things are heading? How can you help but be blindsided by a new innovation? So spend 10 minutes a day staying abreast of your field, and develop your own expertise – hey, you can make it easy on yourself – subscribe to SmartBrief for your field and get a handy news summary in your in-box every day. And follow key bloggers in your field. When you are up-to-speed and connected, you have a huge asset. Expertise, synthesis of information and the ability to say “what this means” can never be outsourced to computer code, people.
  • Expand your comfort zone. Yes, you may have gotten used to doing things a certain way. And those ways worked in the past and got you where you are. I totally get it. [I, too, remember carbon paper. But modern work requires less and less paper, and you don't have to have blue fingers to be successful.] Appreciate the past for having been the past – but welcome the fun and growth in the learning that’s yet to come. This may mean you have meetings by Skype, or conduct business by text, or maybe work in a virtual team that’s very flat. It may not be what you know, but you can learn to make it work.

Friedman says: “How to adapt? It will require more individual initiative. We know that it will be vital to have more of the ‘right’ education than less, that you will need to develop skills that are complementary to technology rather than ones that can be easily replaced by it and that we need everyone to be innovating new products and services to employ the people who are being liberated from routine work by automation and software. The winners won’t just be those with more I.Q. It will also be those with more P.Q. (passion quotient) and C.Q. (curiosity quotient) to leverage all the new digital tools to not just find a job, but to invent one or reinvent one, and to not just learn but to relearn for a lifetime.”

Dig in to tradition, then, at your own risk. Hold on to the past at your own peril.

Instead, challenge yourself to be curious, to learn, to grow. Bring something valuable to the table, every day.

And you will see your career flourish and grow until you are ready for a change, on your own terms.

 

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