Meet Pete. At school, Pete was a star rugby player. He was scouted and joined the training programme for the Under 19s at the national academy. For the last seven years, he has played professional rugby. Now, because of an injury, his career as a professional rugby player is coming to an end. Pete is financially comfortable for now but he is only 29 and has a family. What options does Pete have to ensure that he and his family live comfortably for the rest of his life?
Explore the Adjacent
Leveraging the experience he has gained as a professional rugby player, Pete can look at work opportunities that are, so to speak, adjacent to where he is. These would include becoming a coach, or a commentator, or a journalist, or a rugby video analyst for a TV channel.
Alternately, Pete could consider leveraging the core dispositions he has acquired playing professional rugby – team player who is good at empathetic collaboration, good leadership skills, quick decision making, determination, resilience, grit, stamina to put in hard work and ability to remain calm under pressure. Having the mindset of a sports person – who knows he has to play to win but if he loses he should accept defeat gracefully and strive to do better next time – will give him the gumption to venture into unchartered waters ever ready to bounce back even if he faces failure.
Of course, in the new pursuit, he will have to learn new skills and acquire knowledge in new domains. Say Pete applies to a hotel for a middle-management job. His people skills, ability to inspire juniors, ability to remain calm under pressure and ability put in tonnes of hard work will be big positives. However, Pete will also have to make sure he becomes a self-motivated learner who can learn at an accelerated pace about his new responsibilities, which could be related to marketing, catering, HR, customer relations, event management, or other functions required for the smooth running of a hotel.
Learning Missions and Personal Learning Networks
To climb the career ladder in the hotel towards more general management roles, Pete will have to gain experience in different functions in the hotel. For this, not having the luxury of taking long sabbaticals, he will have to acquire the ability to learn on the job, fast.
It will help if Pete sets Learning Missions for himself, to quickly gain expertise in any field or area. The first requirement of a Learning Mission is understanding what are the key concepts that need to be learnt in order to gain mastery of a particular domain and then setting clear learning goals to learn these fundamental concepts (and more) in a given time frame. Learning Missions also include formulating questions that lead to deeper comprehension and creating Personal Learning Networks of resource people, both online and offline, who can answer these questions and give expert guidance.
As Pete becomes better at learning new things fast, he will realise that being a self-directed learner means answering three questions:
- What is worth learning? (related to desired outcomes in the given context)
- How will I learn this? (using online and offline learning resources and building Personal Learning Networks)
- How will I know I have learnt this well? (creating performances of understanding to check level of knowledge in the new domain, which could be real-world application of knowledge in Pete’s case)
As Pete climbs the corporate ladder that requires going on more and more Learning Missions, he will become a better learner, who is self-directed, intrinsically motivated and learns-to-learn at an accelerated pace
Much like Pete, with technology and other disruptors constantly changing the economic landscape, and in such a scenario looking for promotions, job hopping, becoming a freelancer in the gig economy, or becoming an entrepreneur, you too need to learn to constantly reinvent yourself in order to thrive. Such reinvention of self requires work at two levels:
On the one hand, reinvention includes working on your mindset, dispositions and changing the way you think, and on the other, it implies acquiring new knowledge, skills and competencies. Ability to accelerate the rate at which you learn, unlearn and relearn dispositions, skills and knowledge are the key factors, for which you need to first set for yourself Learning Missions and then pursue them with military-like focus and zeal.
Besides working on yourself, successful reinvention also includes the ability to create a meaningful network that helps open doors (not collecting a stack of name cards but establishing meaningful relationships) and finding the right mentors who can give you judicious guidance.
Some would argue that luck, chance and fate also play a role in your success. Even if that be the case, the point is that you have no control over these factors. You can only address that which is in your control. So keep working on your dispositions, keep acquiring new knowledge, skills and competencies, keep reinventing yourself and there is a high probability you will flourish even in fast changing times.