Own Your Future

“Stop asking WHAT do you want to be when you grow up…Ask HOW do you want to be when you grow up?” ~ Heather E. McGowan

About a year ago New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman published a piece entitled “Owning Your Own Future.” His theme was that the accelerating pace of technology is impacting every profession. If we want long careers we need to accept the responsibility for lifelong learning.

“The notion that we can go to college for four years and then spend that knowledge for the next 30 is over.”

Friedman referenced education-to-work expert Heather E. McGowan’s comment that “having an agile learning mindset will be the new skill set of the 21st century.” (You can read Friedman’s column here.)

Continually acquiring the knowledge to be proficient in our jobs is on us. We can’t rely on our employer to provide the training we’ll need. We need to make the investments in ourselves.

Careers in Permanent Beta

Friedman’s column re-enforces the premise of Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha, the authors of The Startup of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career. Hoffman founded Netflix; Casnocha is a serial entrepreneur. They support the notion of keeping your career in permanent beta — acknowledging the need to adapt and evolve — essentially a lifelong commitment to continuous professional growth.

Hoffman and Casnocha state that we’re all works in progress; we’re never complete. We need to think of our careers as growing startup ventures constantly adapting to the professional challenges that come our way.

Like Friedman, they remind us that we can’t rely on our employers or the government to provide the necessary professional development as previous generations did. It’s our responsibility to train and invest in ourselves.

Own Your Future

To that end, they encourage us to adopt entrepreneurial strategies to deal with career uncertainties, changes, and constraints. That means taking stock of assets, aspirations and market realities to develop a competitive advantage – a leadership narrative. Create networks of alliances to help with intelligence, resources and collective action. Take intelligent and bold risks and actively manage those risks. Pivot to a breakout opportunity.

These strategies are critical at every stage of your career, whether just starting out as a recent grad, decades into a career and angling for the next level, or launching a new career later in life.

There is no beginning, middle or end to a career anymore. No matter what stage you’re in or how old you are, you’re always planning and adapting; always a work in progress; always in permanent beta.

Make the necessary investments in yourself to evolve and adapt and reach your highest professional – and personal – potential.

So, Over to You…

Can you define and articulate your competitive advantage – your leadership narrative? Is your network ready to help you with the necessary intelligence and spark action on your behalf? Have you identified breakout opportunities that can enhance your competitive advantage?


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