Personal reflections

How We Are Preparing the Next Generation

How are we preparing the next generation to enter the Workforce?  

Last month I saw a vacancy by The economist for the role of Deputy Snap Chat editor (what many do for fun),  I spoke to teenager in Year 3 of Junior secondary school, as we spoke I asked him the usual question so which class do you intend to go to in Senior secondary school, he immediately said Commerical class, interested because I went to the same class I asked what he career he into to follow, he said a banker and I asked why he replied because he liked calculations., Recently, I still heard that the default advice to those who are smart in Junior secondary school is to go to science class, I also was talking a guy in senior secondary school who didn’t know what career path he wanted to follow, he was in Science class but also took visual arts. I found it fascinating that he didn’t even mention any profession he had an inclination to do and his parents felt he was behind time, the first thing I told him was that it was okay that the didn’t know what he wanted to do when he grew up yet and that most people around him that think they have it figured out end up later finding out that that’s not what they wanted to do.

I believe there’s no one way or magic trick to help prepare the next generation to enter the workplace, it’s a plethora of questions and considerations which I’d like to share mostly referenced from Reid Hoffman’s (Co-Founder and Chairman LinkedIn) book The Startup of You

What problem(s) do you want to solve?

Don’t ask kids what they want to be when they grow up but what problems they want to solve. This changes the conversation from who do I want to work for, to what do I need to learn to be able to do that.

Jaime Casap, Google Global Education Evangelist

I like this because it changes the perspective.

Developing a Competitive Advantage

If you want to chart a course that differentiates you from other professionals in the marketplace, the first step is being able to complete the sentence, “A company hires me over other professionals because …” How are you first, only, faster, better, or cheaper than other people who want to do what you’re doing in the world? What are you offering that’s hard to come by? What are you offering that’s both rare and valuable? You don’t need to be better or faster or cheaper than everyone. Companies, after all, don’t compete in every product category or o er every conceivable service.

If you try to be the best at everything and better than everyone (that is, if you believe success means ascending one global, mega leaderboard), you’ll be the best at nothing and better than no one. Instead, compete in local contests—local not just in terms of geography but also in terms of industry segment and skill set. In other words, don’t try to be the greatest marketing executive in the world; try to be the greatest marketing executive of small-to-midsize companies that compete in the health-care industry.

Assets: Your abilities, skills, Experiences.

Assets are what you have right now. Before dreaming about the future or making plans, you need to articulate what you already have going for you

People list impressive-sounding-yet-vague statements like “I have two years of experience working at a marketing firm …” instead of specifying, explicitly and clearly, what they are able to do because of those two years of experience.

One of the best ways to remember how rich you are in intangible wealth— that is, the value of your soft assets—is to go to a networking event and ask people about their professional problems or needs. You’ll be surprised how many times you have a helpful idea, know somebody relevant, or think to yourself, “I could solve that pretty easily.” Often it’s when you come in contact with challenges other people nd hard but you find easy that you know you’re in possession of a valuable soft asset.

Aspirations: What you want to be or achieve

Aspirations include your deepest wishes, ideas, goals, and vision of the future, regardless of the state of the external world or your existing asset mix.

The person passionate about what he or she is doing will outwork and outlast the guy motivated solely by making money.

Market reality: What the Market/Workplace needs

Markets that don’t exist don’t care how smart you are. Similarly, it doesn’t matter how hard you’ve worked or how passionate you are about an aspiration: If someone won’t pay you for your services in the career marketplace, it’s going to be a very hard slog. You aren’t entitled to anything.

Fit the pieces together

A good career plan accounts for the interplay of the three pieces—your assets, aspirations, and the market realities. The pieces need to fit together. Developing a key skill, for example, doesn’t automatically give you a competitive edge. Just because you’re good at something (assets) that you’re really passionate about (aspirations) doesn’t necessarily mean someone will pay you to do it (market realities). After all, what if someone else can do the same thing for lower pay or do it more reliably? Or what if there’s no demand for the skill to begin with? Not much of a competitive advantage. Following your passions also doesn’t automatically lead to career ourishing. What if you’re passionate but not competent, relative to others? Finally, being a slave to market realities isn’t sustainable. A shortage of nurses in hospitals— meaning there’s demand for credentialed nurses—doesn’t mean you should get on the nursing track. No matter what the demand, you’re not going to be most competitive unless your own passions and strengths are in play.

Learn by Doing

Learn by doing. Not sure if you can break into the pharmaceutical industry? Spend six months interning at Pfzer making connections and see what happens. Curious whether marketing or product development is a better t than what you currently do? If you work in a company where those functions exist, offer to help out for free. Whatever the situation, actions, not plans, generate lessons that help you test your hypotheses against reality. Actions help you discover where you want to go and how to get there.

It’s a common catch-22: for jobs that require prior experience, how do you get the experience the first time? My solution: do the job for free on the side.

Plan to Adapt 

How do you know when to pivot from Plan A (what you’re doing now) to a Plan B? When is it time to change divisions, change jobs, or even change the industry you work in? You’ll rarely know for sure when to pivot or when to persist in what you’re doing. In general, a lesson from the technology industry is that it’s better to be in front of a big change than to be behind it. But the question of when to shift exactly is a question of both art and science, intuitive judgment combined with the best feedback or data you can collect—something we’ll discuss in the network intelligence chapter. And of course expect both good luck and bad luck along the way that will open and close unexpected windows of opportunity.

The common presumption is that you shift to Plan B when something isn’t working. That’s frequently the case but not always. What you’re doing now doesn’t have to be failing for it to make sense to shift.

One way to begin the process of pivoting is to start your potential Plan B on the side. Start learning a skill during the evenings and weekends. Start building relationships with people who work in an adjacent industry. Apply for a part-time internship. Start a side consulting practice. Why not make this a personal career policy? Set aside one day a week or month or even every few months to work on something that could be part of your Plan B.

Start a personal blog and begin developing a public reputation and public portfolio of work that’s not tied to your employer. This way, you’ll have a professional identity that you can carry with you as you shift jobs. You own yourself. It’s the start-up of you.

Opportunities do not float like clouds. They are firmly attached to individuals.

Great opportunities almost never fit your schedule

Success begins with opportunities.

And from the TED talk: Let’s do more of asking and guiding, Let’s allow people own their answer to what they want to do/be.

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