Maneuverability Means Security

June 18, 2012

kayak back cropIn whitewater, security comes from maneuverability.  Your safety derives from the ability to move quickly, change direction, and stay afloat.

At work, this means regularly assess your interests, abilities, and skills. Do not RIP (Retire In Place). Recall Socrates’ admonition: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Like it or not, a permanent whitewater world pushes us to pay attention to ourselves and our fit with the world around us… or to run the risk of incurring a heavy price. So, identify and cultivate skills and networks both to facilitate your current job and to provide an option or two of your choosing as well as a fallback career if your current one takes a turn for the worse, or ceases to engage you.  Also, connections, training and skill development help decrease our sense of at least being being able to influence our own fate. Besides, a trusted set of contacts and a varied set of diverse skills might come in very handy downstream.

In organizations, the value of your own skills affords you true security.  If your current organization values your skills, then you will continue to have a position there.  If other organizations value your skills, then you will have opportunities to find work with them. To obtain key skills, you need, first and foremost, the mindset to keep identifying and developing key skills. In addition to specific skills, you need the broader skills of leading and managing change as described in (you guessed it) my book Your Job Survival Guide, because in the end today, your real job is change.

In short, physical and virtual bookshelves overflow with counsel to remember that people constitute the ultimate competitive advantage and therefore warrant ongoing investment. Yet, organizations and governments alike generally throw skill development such as education and training overboard first. This puts more pressure on you to play the contrarian and to invest in yourself. This matters practically (improves your marketability) and emotionally (signaling to yourself that you matter.)   Focus on the importance of ongoing development, of refining existing skills and developing new ones.  Keep learning on the job and off it. Tap your network for developmental assignments and skill development ideas.  Improve what you do well and practice your offside roll, i.e.,or what you don’t do so well.  Make a commitment to ongoing personal and professional development. (For more on maneuverability, see Chapter 5 in Your Job Survival Guide.)