There are few professional development books that rock me. To make it onto the list, a book must be relevant, timely, and practical. Through some serendipity of the universe, these books appear at a time to perfectly match my own internal dialogue on a given subject, affirming and challenging my assumptions and questions.
The authors weave together narrative and research to create a picture of tomorrow’s workforce. The unsettling part is that their description is highly accurate and relevant to the language education field today, not 10-15 years into the future.
Key takeaways include:
- You are on your own when it comes to managing your career and professional development. This includes predicting when your sell-by date is in terms of outdated, outsourced, or mechanized skills. We all have sell-by dates. You must be able to follow the signs of the universe and respond accordingly.
- You are responsible for keeping up with technology. It is expected and if you cannot change, you will be left behind. “I’m not really into technology,” should be banned from every employee’s vocabulary. Everyone should have the fundamental technology skills required for their given field, it is expected. You will need to use technology to improve workflow, to build transcontinental teams, and to enhance your career through networking.
- You must develop deep expertise in a given subject and keep developing over the course of your career. Knowledge workers who are subject matter experts and maintain their expertise will always be able to find employment. Graduating from university does not make you an expert, it makes you a novice. Expertise comes with experience and growth projects – some experiences and projects can accelerate your growth, others will stagnate your growth. Choose wisely.
- You need options. Options come through deliberate and strategic networking-even if (especially if) your current employment seems stable. This concept is not new, but the authors go into specific strategies you can use to cultivate a robust network. They also discuss the pros and cons of using your personal and professional networks when searching for job options. Your personal network will tend to operate from a risk management position, while your professional network will be more dynamic.
- Resilience and grit are required. Some 50% of the jobs today will not exist in 20 years and the average employee will have 11 employers by the time s/he retires. Let’s pause for a moment and think about that…
- You must stretch your skills and continually grow – whether through opportunities your employer provides or on your own. Staying with an employer for an extended period of time could be interpreted as a sign of loyalty or stagnation. What else are you doing to grow? I learned a new term to add to my dictionary: sideprenuer .
Stretch offers several practical steps for both employees and managers. Self-assessment as well as recommendations are built into each chapter, giving the reader hands-on tools to work through the material. Each section ends with a message specifically for leaders and strategies that they can use to help grow themselves and their employees.