“First think, second believe, third dream and finally dare.” Walt Disney

The world of work is shifting from traditional and predictable career paths, to relentless change, leaner structures, evolving roles, global opportunities, portfolio lives and a need to find meaning and purpose through the work we do. This leaves a lot of people uncertain, confused and anxious about how to secure a sustainable income and ensure they are rewarded for adding value to a business or industry.

Many young people are entering the workplace (Gen Y’s) with outdated or unrealistic ideas about what constitutes value and how to carve out a niche for their unique skills and talent. Many of them have learnt through their parents how to be an employee with a predictable career and a company that made many of their developmental decisions. These expectations can bring about a sense of entitlement but also intolerance of not being looked after and treated well. Many of those already in the workplace (Gen X’s and Baby Boomers), are shell-shocked by restructuring, downsizing, mergers/acquisitions, financial crises or being passed over for younger, more global, tech savvy individuals or due to employment equity reasons (in South Africa specifically). This can bring about a sense of resentment and disengagement.

The talent landscape is also shifting. In the past, organisations had most of the power, resources and decision rights. In today’s world talented individuals have more choice, different lifestyle expectations and demand being treated as a unique individual.

Power shift

A new skill-set and mind-set is required to drive a successful path through many career options and possibilities and to cope with volatility, complexity and uncertainty. A foundation skill is awareness and insight to optimise change and choices and shift from victim to victor thinking. We also need to learn how to be more adaptable, courageous, and resilient and how to connect, collaborate, influence and inspire others. We require an understanding of how to investigate career choices and match these with our skills, talents and strengths (whilst managing our derailers). A sense of curiosity and thirst for fast learning, continuous improvement and innovation is essential if you want to stand out from the crowd and navigate transitions gracefully. Lastly the ability to cultivate a unique personal brand through your digital and face-to-face image, relationships and behaviours can set you up for new opportunities.

The sad fact is that many of our educational institutions (school or higher education) are not sufficiently preparing learners for this new world of work. Not only is there a high drop-out rate from schools (51% in SA, 25% in USA), but only a small percentage of people eventually graduate from post-school education (7% in SA). Those that do enter the workforce still require a significant amount of upskilling, re-skilling and development around personal and career empowerment.

Some of the critical questions to explore to build personal and career empowerment are:

  • What are the drivers in the world of work and how do you create value?
  • What makes you unique, what drives you and how can you make the most of what you have?
  • What are organisations looking for when they search for talent?
  • How can you build your distinctive value and personal brand?
  • How can you maximise your performance and fast-track your development?
  • What qualities and competencies are core to becoming the best you can be?
  • How can you make the best career choices and make the most of transitions?

If organisations invest in learning initiatives that stimulate the quest to find answers to these questions, they are far more likely to shift attitudes and mindsets from passive entitlement to active accountability for career and talent development. An added benefit is greater employee engagement, a shift in culture and a greater pool of talent ready for future challenges and opportunities.