My thoughts these last few weeks seem to be on college planning, at least that’s what my blog posts seem to reflect right now. I won’t always write about this, but I’m excited to write about things I learn about, and I’m always eager to learn. For those that are already in the workforce and maybe are coasting along and thinking about going back to school, but think…. but why? There is the easiest of answers to this question: Choice. But, you say, “I already have a career that I REALLY like, awesome workmates, and I want to work here forever and ever”. You are very lucky, many of your counterparts trudge in to work daily with dread. The bad news? This simply isn’t good enough. Things change, people change, environments change. Better opportunities may present themselves, and if you aren’t qualified to seize that new and exciting opportunity – you will be left in the cold. Those awesome workmates may realize those better opportunities and leave you in that awesome job, with your work – and theirs. Your job just became more stressful, and far less awesome. Alternatively, what happens when that great job is no longer an option – through corporate layoffs, downsizing, or just plain old bad luck? How do you tiptoe back into the marketplace?
Aside from self-enlightenment and the attainment of actual knowledge (which you could acquire without the formal accolades) your higher education is important for your résumé. Today’s professional sector is brimming with knowledge workers. So, how do you set yourself apart from your peers that ascended to middle management? Your degree and certifications.
The IT industry is just one perfect example of this phenomenon. To date myself a bit, I was raised during the rising Internet. There were no smartphones, and I didn’t have Internet at home. When I did eventually get it (sometime in my 20s), it was the slow-moving, humming, static modem. The kind where an incoming phone call could knock you offline, and you had to start the process all over again. The net wasn’t full of content, and Google wasn’t yet a household name (let alone a verb). These were times when someone with very limited knowledge of computers and technology could rise quickly through the rungs of the corporate ladder. It’s the simple effect of supply and demand, where the early-adopters reaped the rewards of a booming market. Now, those cutting-edge X-Gens and even Boomers have been sidelined by the Millennials who are armed with degrees, a deep understanding of technology, and new ideas of where that technology is headed. And the future for this rising generation the X-Gens and Millennials are raising will make the markets in IT far more competitive than they are now. So, how do you stand out in a crowd? After all, you have the corporate or institutional knowledge, that counts for something right? Yes, yes it does. But it doesn’t count for everything. You must combine your knowledge with society’s accolades to continue increasing your marketability in this new, more competitive landscape. Soon, you’ll be the one leading these fresh faces and developing new and innovative ways to do business.
I’ve been around countless of my contemporaries that feel trapped and in despair. They feel they can never leave the comfort of their position and/or institution because they don’t have a strong educational background on their résumé. Honestly, there’s some truth to that. Don’t wait until you’re miserable, or in a slump to improve your circumstances. These folks have relied heavily on their network within the constructs of their corporation or institution, and it has become their prison – or as we sometimes refer to it – golden handcuffs. This will only get you so far. If you want to advance and grow – get out of your comfort zone. As humans, we should keep moving forward, and growing. And, if you’re reading this, you already have everything you need to do this. You’re literate. You have Internet connection. And, you’re looking for ways to improve your brand. The only brand you’re tied to for the rest of your life is you.
Without growth, your choices are limited. Limited choices can make you feel trapped, stagnant, and frustrated during a career stall. Choice lends itself to growth and security. Lois Lowry, a personal favorite author of mine, said this on choice. While it was about her book The Giver, it’s still quite applicable:
“where choice has been taken away and reality distorted. And that is the most dangerous world of all.”