Career Development is a SUPERPOWER

Career Development is a SUPERPOWER

April 25, 2019

We are inundated with wildly discrepant predictions about the future of work and the role of skills in preparing for it.

The robots are coming! If you can’t code, you’re doomed! If you don’t have the “right” skills (aka ALL skills, it seems!), you can expect a lifetime of poverty and misery.

Same goes for the misguided ones who decide to pursue post-secondary education in the arts or humanities.

Historically, we have been abysmal failures when it comes to accurately predicting the future of work or defining a clear and discrete set of the skills or specific educational pathways that lie at the core of labour market success. With the labour market becoming ever more complex and dynamic, it’s unlikely our predictive skills will magically improve.

So, in the face of certain uncertainty, what do we do??  What can we hold onto as a solid basis for navigating the turbulent labour market and building the life we want to live? Career development has always been a powerful lever for building future success, but in today’s emergent reality, career development is truly a superpower.

Think about it – career development is the basis for four essential elements that position Canadians for stronger career futures, better health, stronger workplaces, stronger communities and a massive competitive advantage in the global economy:

Self Awareness

In a world in which we need to constantly brand and rebrand ourselves in order to pivot, adjust, shift and transition across diverse learning and work, we had better have a solid foundation of self-awareness. Without this, we risk losing the thread of who we are and what we really want for our life.  Imagine if every Canadian had a clear sense of their own interests, values and strengths.  Imagine if we all understood how we learn and work best.  Imagine if everyone of us knew clearly what we are naturally good at and love doing, what grabs us, captivates us and makes us want to get out of bed in the morning. With self-awareness, we have the power to make intentional decisions about learning, choosing programs in which we are more likely to succeed and trudging through tough courses because we know they are leading us to where we want to go.  There would be fewer of us watching the clock at work, willing the hours to go by, and more of us satisfied, productive and creative in our work. Employers would get more from their workforce and Canadians would be more able to proactively manage their transitions.  Career development gives us this.

Mobilizing Skills

We are being told that skills are the currency for success. Our federal government has invested a massive amount of money in the creation of a Future Skills Centre and Council to better prepare Canadians for emerging skill demands. Likewise, RBC has pledged $500 million over the next 10 years through their Future Launch initiative. These investments have the potential to give Canada a huge competitive advantage, if we take a career development approach to skills. If we focus solely on identifying those that will be “in demand” and ensuring Canadians have those skills, the impact will be limited and underlying dysfunction in our labour market will grow. A career development approach would have us:

    • Working with education, from elementary through to post-secondary, to ensure students are aware of the skills they are developing across their courses and the myriad of ways those skills might be applied in the labour market. It is a small but powerful “tweak” to education. It would effectively eliminate the age-old question, “Why do we have to learn this?” because the relevance would be obvious.  Students would know the skills they are building and be able to apply and market those skills in diverse ways as they navigate learning and work.
    • Working as intensively with the demand side as with the supply side, ensuring employers have tools to accurately assess skills needs, build recruitment and retention strategies based on those needs, understand the relative return on investment of various business practices and contribute to equitable, decent work opportunities for Canadians.

Labour Market Awareness

Our formal labour market information systems are struggling to keep up with the pace of labour market change and dynamic nature of work. While there are no doubt pockets of excellence when it comes to LMI, the “more is better” approach has sent us off the LMI rails. The average Canadian seeking LMI is faced with an overwhelming, vomitous mess of websites and stats that may or may not be relevant, timely or have anything to do with their specific LMI needs. Career development provides users with context and a “road map” to access and make personal sense of formal LMI. But it also provides Canadians with skills and strategies to find real-time, personally relevant informal LMI in their own communities. Whether it is watching for signs of sector growth or constriction on your own main street or in your local news, information interviewing, work-integrated learning or cooperative education, career development helps Canadians to gather meaningful information and apply that information to their own lives. Career development turns what could be just discrete information and experiences into cohesive and personally-relevant learning.

Expert Navigation

Finally, career development actually teaches the skills and strategies Canadians need to effectively find or create work and navigate transitions across learning and work. We know that the work search strategies of yesteryear are utterly ineffective in today’s reality. What does search/development look like in today’s global, technology-driven economy? What skills do we need – not just for specific growing jobs – but to manage our life and transitions in a world in which non-standard employment is on the rise? Career development lies at the heart of a labour force able to successfully get/create work and navigate multiple transitions across the lifespan.

In short, career development is THE superpower in the emergent labour market. Let’s figure out how to ensure every citizen gets it.