The Future of Work is about Learning to Learn 📚
I am often asked by students, co-workers, and even friends “what should I do to prepare for the future of work? 🚀” Consistently my answer is the same “learn to learn 📚”.
While we cannot predict the exact job market of the future, we know if we want to remain relevant in this ever-changing world of tech, we need a variety of 21st-century skills. Ideally, these are a combination of hard and soft skills. Learn to learn may seem incredibly broad, generic advice and to some it can even seem overwhelming, however for me it’s been the one constant in my journey.
It all started with my first flight when I was seven and half years old (and yes at that age every month matters!), when I immigrated with my family to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic. I remember getting on that plane and thinking not only could it stay in the air (which is a great feat in and of itself), but it could reach a predetermined destination. This was the beginning of my desire to want to know more and my curiosity didn’t end there.
Within the first few days of our arrival in New York City, I experienced another phenomenon… the drive-thru car wash. My Dad was a taxi driver and so it was important to keep his “workplace” clean. I was in awe of that magical foamy forest and kept thinking how was that possible? That’s when I started to realize if I could figure out how a plane stays in the air or the automated car wash can make foam at the right time, I would be really smart. And so began my ongoing journey of “learn to learn.” In my early education I was fortunate to be nominated to join a STEM program which led me to pursue degrees in engineering, including an MS and PhD in aeronautics.
From NYC, we moved to Providence, Rhode Island where my parents took on good, steady paying jobs at a local toy factory. This worked out well for our family for many years, but like other factories in the U.S., automation and low-cost offshore labor took those jobs. Unfortunately, early on I learned the pitfalls of offshoring and being out skilled.
Which leads me back to the main point of this blog. How can you ensure you are acquiring the skills you will need for a successful future? With increasing limitations on our time and resources, I say focus on building skills that consistently provide a return on investment and lead you to a fulfilling career path.
This appetite for knowledge is often referred to as the ‘growth mindset’, so go out and get one while you still can. Of course, I am kidding, this mindset is abundantly available and can be yours at no cost! By no cost, I mean access to the internet or a walk to your public library is often all you need. The number of MOOCs and learning platforms are growing exponentially, including those offered by SAP through our LearningHub. While I cannot tell you the next job you will have, I can tell you with certainty that the more knowledge and new skills you can master the bigger differentiator you’ll have in the future of work.
During my career I’ve moved from the private sector to academia, to government, and then back — and each job has been the best job I have ever had up to that point. It seems odd that I am not looking back wishing I still had a prior position, but I honestly do not. I have and always have chosen the path of growth; I am continually challenged with every new opportunity.
While no one has a crystal ball, I do believe that if you practice “learn to learn” by acquiring a ‘Growth mindset’ in your career, there’s no limit to what you can achieve in the future of work.
Here are a few other tips that have helped me prepare for the future of work.
- Develop your network 👯♀️ I can trace each opportunity in my career path to professional colleagues who recommended me. Build social capital wherever you are.
- You either win or you learn 🏄🏻♀️ Take risks and stay curious. Do not be afraid to do something different. I believe there is no such thing as failure, you either win or you learn, and the lesson learned often provides a greater growth experience.
- Build psychological safety 🧠 I’m a strong advocate for inclusivity. I talk a lot about how an inclusive work environment is the key to success. You cannot bring your A-game unless you are bringing your whole self to work. This is why it is so important to embrace and encourage different perspectives. I believe we are made stronger by our unique combination of culture, race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, physical or mental ability, and work-life situations.
- Manage your story 🪄 This is often about challenging your perspective and not letting negative feelings overtake facts. We are our own worst critic, and imposter syndrome is real at every stage of your career. As a working mother of three girls and many times the only Afro-Latina on the team, I often have to manage my own narrative and advocate for myself.