In my last article I wrote about running one’s life like a business, with mission, core competency/product, sales and marketing and money management. In this one I will discuss the idea of transferrable skills and obsolescence.
I define transferrable skills as core competencies that we have developed that can be used almost anywhere. Thing like sales, accounting, customer relations, use of computer work applications like excel etc., and many more are examples of transferrable skills. Obsolescence occurs when one’s core competency skills are no longer needed by the market.
Many people learned their core competency in college or trade schools which is a great place to start. The problem I see with this is that many also fall in to the trap many businesses have, lack of or change in the market demand for those skills or product. Business must constantly be aware of the demand for their product, watch for trends in it, and improve it or add to it over time in order to survive. So, what can an individual do?
I admit that I was lucky! I stumbled in to having transferrable skills. A lot of the reason i did was that I had been fired once and didn’t want that to happen again. I also saw a lot of people stuck in their current job with no way to transfer to another one so I focused on moving around the corporation. I worked in the same bank for 18 years and public accounting for four during which time I earned a CPA certificate. I learned that the CPA certificate was worth far more in a field outside of public accounting than it was there; it was expected there but in other fields it was viewed as a badge of knowledge! So I was distinguished by that in my banking career and it gave me much more credibility among my peers. At the bank I worked in many different disciplines, auditing, data processing and programming, systems project management, commercial banking, business development and management as president of a subsidiary of the corporation. This diversity has helped me in my consulting business, but even better, gives me the luxury of being able to choose among many different jobs should I choose to seek one. I was fortunate to have developed many skills that can be used anywhere.
I like to say that my main core competency is problem solving; that is how I got all my promotions and transfers in banking. Being known as someone who get the job done or solve problems is the main thing supervisors look for and need. As I learned how to seek out problems I recognized I could use skills that I had learned in past assignments and built on them. And not staying in area too long helped me to not become obsolete.
If one hasn’t been this fortunate there are many things we can do. We need to watch the industry we are in and look for changes that may impact our current job role. For example, when I was involved with data processing COBOL was a widely used programming language. In the mid 90’s it changed and the COBOL experts soon faded away except for some Y2K needs. Now there is little need for them. Some of these folks missed the trend and didn’t expand their programming skills by learning the new languages where the jobs were going. Some firms offered training to people, but probably only to the stars that they wanted to invest in for the future. Those left behind needed to invest in themselves, but many didn’t leaving them without jobs.
A lot of us wait for our employers to invest in us because we are conditioned to believe that is their role. As I said, they frequently do invest in their top talent but that leaves many of us out of the equation. I invested in a CPA review course on my own and it was the best thing I ever did. Had I waited for the bank to further educate me I may have still been there as an auditor and beeen stuck there forever.
In these times there are many places that offer re-training for folks out of work. I have no idea how effective they are but hope that they solve people’s problems. But I do know that if these folks had watched the market for their skills, made sure they were transferrable or not obsolete, they could have been ahead of the pack when the job market went away.