Take responsibility for your own career. Career Discoveries - a virtual, full life-cycle career coaching resource.   

#careers Jan 07, 2021

Pain is being felt on the ground right now as the lagged effect of a year of the virus kicks in. In the UK alone redundancies hit a record 370,000 according to the ONS for the last quarter available (Aug-Oct 2020) and the trajectory is grim. One might argue the UK Government is doing what it can to help employability and the re-skill labour force as it knows it will be the private sector rather than state spending that will restore our fortunes. 

Covid19 has simply accelerated a pre-existing productivity problem, especially in the UK.  The UK tends to rank below other G7 countries in terms of GDP per capita in annual surveys and as Lord Sainsbury of Turville, former UK Minister for Science and Innovation, has pointed out in a letter to the Financial Times this week, analysis of the different sectors shows a slow rate of innovation and a loss of competitive advantage to rapidly developing countries such as China, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. "Until the UK can find a way of increasing the rate of innovation of our companies, and their competitive advantage in world markets by better technical education, better R&D support and the reform of company remuneration schemes, we will be stuck with a low, and potentially negative, rate of economic growth".  

Even before Covid19, young people were leaving school or university without finding career-building jobs. Zero-hours contracts and unpaid internships have become endemic in developed western economies and governments appear unwilling to intervene too deeply for fear of interrupting free markets that would risk wider business investment, activity and tax revenues. At the same time employers are making swathes of people redundant, they also continue to bemoan a lack of employability in the young. So who's right? Sure, there are systemic changes afoot, driven by the virus but also AI, an economic shift eastwards and rapid disintermediation in many industries. But there are still huge opportunities - in technology, sustainable food and energy production, resources and medicine - and we must be positive in helping young people take charge in finding them. 

The problem is not just with the young however. Covid19 has done a very good job of hastening the end of any notion of "career for life" amongst older workers, as many who climbed the ladder in the hope that somehow they would be insulated from the cold waters outside have been given an abrupt dunking. They have been found woefully unprepared for current labour market shocks, both in terms of skills but crucially in attitude too. As the parent-child culture of working life (just do your job and we'll look after you) disappears, no-one's sure what's replacing it. A level playing field possibly, where many more workers act like the self-employed, with crystal clear reasons and a value proposition to justify why they want to "stay" for a while at an organisation (much like a hotel), accrue money, skills and experience in return for their labour, and then move on. The timelines are shorter, contracts less exclusive and rights and obligations on both parties have been severely pared back. It's just so much more explicit now. But with technology comes a parity of access to potential clients, exemplified by Linkedin, and it is no longer frowned upon to connect with previously unknown individuals and start a discussion on opportunities. Yet in my coaching life, I rarely see this in evidence from redundant employees or graduates, despite the obvious need. 

It is one example of a new mindset that workers at all levels and stages will need to build - to see themselves as one-person businesses, marketing their skills, perhaps to multiple audiences at once, in order to earn a living and enjoy a good career. Organisational cultures are changing as more staff become flexible or peripatetic, and post-Covid19 workplaces will be dominated by hot desking and flexibility. This will require a new mindset too, borne of a preparedness to collaborate with unfamiliar colleagues and a curiosity to remain relevant and of value. Leadership too will have to evolve to build cohesion to run these more fractured, remote teams. Other skills will need to be developed too - building personal knowledge to financially provide for old age and rely less on corporate pension schemes, developing a keener sense of "what's out there" more generally, to consider what's next and who the risers and fallers are in any given sector. 

In response to all this, people are going to have to learn to self-drive their careers and organisations are going to have to help them. The opportunities are out there and the marketplace for labour will be increasingly global. What's to stop a digital marketer in Toronto earning a living from simultaneous projects for corporate clients in Singapore, Vancouver and Vienna? Connecting and learning from a global tribe, maintaining a relevant skillset, knowing and communicating your value and being clear about what you want will be the hallmarks of successful workers in the next century.

 We will be launching a short series of articles that explain our Intelligent Career Model that has been built to help people become agile workers, detailing some of the components of best practice in self-managing your career post-Covid19. As one of the Founding Partners of Defy Expectations, I have added to our online offering an online course called Career Discoveries based on this model, aiming to provide a virtual, full life-cycle career coaching resource. Distilling 10 years of my own career coaching experience - what actually works, insights, tools and techniques - into an online e-learning platform, my sincere hope is that it can be widely adopted in schools, universities and the workplace. It is aimed at graduate-level workers at all stages of their career, from starting out to those facing mid-career change and those returning to work after a break.

 Please feel free to register and use the course yourselves and help us start a movement to get everyone in the world managing their own working lives rather than waiting for someone else to do it for them. If you are in HR and oversee outplacement, we would additionally ask you to consider adding this course to your existing provision. It is globally accessible, extremely good value compared to conventional outplacement with over 30 hours of prime career coaching material and will really help those who are being let go in such difficult times. 

 James Parsons

James is a Founding Partner of Defy Expectations and brings over 10 years' experience in both career and leadership coaching. He works with business leaders, entrepreneurs, founders and third sector CEOs on performance and leadership issues, and individuals on career management, as well as designing career management courses for organisations. 

Access Career Discoveries here