LQ: Your Career Journey into the Future

26/06/2018
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When earlier this spring I started writing my first book on personal branding for career growth, little did I know on what kind of deep journey this endeavor will take me. Besides the obvious fact that writing a book is a challenge regardless of the circumstances, I decided to write my first book in Czech. Thus I was hoping to get a chance at conveying my ideas and experience on personal branding for business people in the Czech Republic and maybe also to learn a bit more about the needs of the Czech market these days. And learn I did – much more in fact than I could have ever anticipated.

Czech economy in deep transformation

The Czech market is currently standing at a crossroad, with more and more voices speaking about the necessary economic slowdown that will follow the abrupt growth of the last few years. The question is what will be the origin of the trigger  (political? geopolitical? local economics? real estate? demographics?) and when it will start. Beyond concerns of economic downturn, there is also a reality that can’t be ignored and that will be impacting more and more the way people behave and communicate in the Czech Republic – the deeper transformation of the Czech economy.

We are all certainly aware of the composition of the Czech economy – with 47.3% of GDP brought home by industrial production, the Czech Republic is the European Union’s industrial power horse. More than a third of people here work in industry; that’s why the country has also the lowest unemployment in Europe. However, when looking at a different indicator – productivity per hour, the Czech Republic is lagging behind. Confronted with low unemployment, tremendous salary pressure and reduced productivity, companies must find solutions fast to retain their long-term competitiveness. One of these solutions is to invest more in automatization and artificial intelligence in services.

For companies it sounds like a logical choice. However, for those people whose jobs will be lost or altered by the future world of work, things are just about to get more interesting. While national states, drained by other public expenses such as pensions and healthcare, have no money or interest to invest more into people’s education, the burden of getting ready for tomorrow’s world of work falls on companies and individuals. And while companies are becoming more and more careful with their learning and development budgets, employees need to finally face the reality that we are the only ones responsible for our career growth in the future.

Skills for the future  

It is already clear that the career as we knew it – linear, with one or few entry points into one company that would later secure enough room for vertical growth – is gone. Today’s careers, as American experts have been pointing already before the 2008 crisis, look more like a labyrinth where all types of moves – forward, laterally, backward, upward or outside - are possible. With this labyrinth opening in front of us and with no predictability whatsoever about the format and content of the jobs of the future, how can we actually navigate these stormy waters?

In essence what is happening today is not that scary; we’ve done it already, just that we’ve forgotten how to do it. Today we are reconnecting to a mentality that was valid throughout history until early on in the industrial revolution, before the invention of the production line: we are the only ones responsible for our destiny. To survive, we must do work that is needed and sell it freely on the open market. For our ancestors, doing work that didn’t matter was equal to death and starvation; for people who joined companies throughout the 20th century doing work that doesn’t matter has become a daily reality sugarcoated by the illusory security of a steady pay. When people reduce their dreams to paying the last mortgage installment, doing purposeless work seems like an acceptable alternative. Except that in the future this attitude won’t work anymore. Unfortunately, the burden of debt remains while employees need to learn to become much more agile, purpose-aware and willing to invest much more into making sure their work is useful and their skills up-to-date. This rather entrepreneurial approach to career management requires a totally different mindset – and skills – than those we had in the past.

For one, emotional intelligence will gain in importance. What’s the point in having fabulous hard skills if we can’t communicate with the beneficiaries of our work or if we cannot work in a team under conditions of high ambiguity and permanent change? Change is a massive challenge for emotions and we will all need to learn the subtle skills of self-awareness, self-mastery, empathy and social intelligence.

Second, we need to change our attitude to learning. While in the past we learnt something that, with little alterations, should have been sufficient for a lifetime, now the life-long learning mentality is finally becoming a reality. With not one, but two, three or four careers in place during a lifetime, we need to return to an attitude of wonder, curiosity and exploration in order to be able to learn more. This – the learning quotient or LQ, as some experts call it – will define our chances of success and influence in the future.

I am obviously happy to say that communication, this deep expression of humanity that makes it possible for us to be together, stay together and achieve more together, will also grow in importance in the future. It is not only the skill of conscious personal communications, but communications as a conscious strategy of life and career management. Personal branding as we know it today is also transforming; as opposed to becoming more and more a social media driven vanity strategy focused only on how to jump onto the next career ladder, personal branding is becoming more a conscious decision to engage in a permanent state of self-discovery and self-expression with the purpose of putting one’s skills to the service of others. This is self-transcendence at its best, the last layer in Abraham Maslow’s pyramid of needs, and this is what brings me hope.

As more and more people are confronted with the reality of permanent transitions and to the fact that they might need to leave not only their companies, but their professions behind, more and more people will gain a chance to discover who they are, what they strive for and how they can make a genuine difference in the world – in their terms. Being able to communicate that – the deep essence of who we are and how we make a difference for others in the world – becomes thus a vital skill for the future. Call it personal branding or not, this is a world I am most certainly looking forward to discover.  

This post has been first published by the Czech & Slovak Leaders Magazine in my personal column I, the Brand. Republished with permission.

I focus on strategic communications, emotional and systemic intelligence and personal and organization leadership. I help leaders and future leaders to develop their strategic communication skills, to build reputable personal brands and to boost their team and organizational leadership. I support individuals, teams and organizations through advisory, training, coaching and mentoring services.

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