Ms.

Nguyễn Hoàng Oanh
VNU - HCM University of Science - Vietnam

Career development is a lifelong process during which you develop your ideas on yourself and your career identity. Overlooking the diverse expectations, professions, personal abilities, there are some extensively essential skills that need mastering in order to pursue a successful career. The author has chosen to depict them in three pillars: the ability to learn & discover, the attitude to experience more, and the practice to enhance cleverness.
According to dictionary.com, ‘skill’ means “the ability, coming from one's knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., to do something well; competent excellence in performance,
expertness, dexterity; a craft, trade, or job requiring manual dexterity or special training in which a person has competence and experience”. Therefore, it could be broken down to this matrix: three aspects are knowledge, cleverness, and experience can be acquired by these elements: attitude, practice, capacity. The study of each pillar consists of understanding the requirement of each aspect, the means to acquire that by breaking them down into proportioned elements, and the visualizing steps toward each goal.
 

The necessary skills for career development

Author: Nguyễn Hoàng Oanh, VNU – HCM University of Science

Career development is a lifelong process during which you develop your ideas on yourself and your career identity. A lovely little elementary kid wants to be a zoologist to help all the hurt dolphins, so he watches discovery and reads books about dolphins. A determined high schooler has a thorough plan on pursuing a medical degree; from going to multiple vocational workshops, lab tours, campus tours, to getting down to apply for a specific pre-med school. A sophomore in medical school takes part in various internships, conferences, volunteers. They are all the devoted skill-based preparations in the name of ‘career development’. Overlooking the diverse expectations, professions, personal abilities, there are some extensively essential skills that need mastering. The author has chosen to depict them in three pillars: the ability to learn & discover, the attitude to experience more, and the practice to enhance cleverness.

According to dictionary.com [1], ‘skill’ means “the ability, coming from one's knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., to do something well; competent excellence in performance,
expertness, dexterity; a craft, trade, or job requiring manual dexterity or special training in which a person has competence and experience”. Therefore, it could be broken down to this matrix: three aspects are knowledge, cleverness, and experience can be acquired by these elements: attitude, practice, capacity.

 

Knowledge

Cleverness

Experience

Attitude

2

2

1

Practice

3

1

2

Capacity

1

3

3

Table 1. The matrix of aspects and means to acquire by priority (1: most proportioned).

The study of each pillar consists of understanding the requirement of each aspect, the means to acquire that by breaking them down into proportioned elements, and the visualizing steps toward each goal.

  1. Knowledge

To begin with, the “knowledge”, which consists of professional knowledge, socio-economical knowledge, and the hardest part “workplace” knowledge. Author stated that capacity is the number one mean here, which means your personal strength drives this engine. It is nothing new to say that “Your learning ability decides how far you’ll go in school”. But what if we switch it a little bit to have this new approach, which promotes not only genius but also efficient learners: “Your learning ability & methods decide how much knowledge you’ll absorb through the course of life”? Even in schools, there are a lot of “straight-A” students who aren’t born the smartest, they just make themselves that way. Learning techniques and “hacks” are not detailed in this article. Author simply suggests a balanced ratio of personal enhancement, curiosity, critical observation, and life-long consistency in both the mind and the practice. That way the attitude and practice cooperate to yield and prevent one from giving up at failures.  To really stand out in a company, you should always be looking to improve, both individually and company-wide. Hone your inquisitive thinking skills by asking questions like “why?” and “how?” to your employers, your customers and yourself. Everyone will appreciate your interest and thirst for knowledge. While it may be difficult to open up initially and admit you don’t know it all, curiosity helps strengthen self-confidence. As a result, you will learn new ideas and job skills that will stay with you throughout your career.

But does knowledge refer to profession-related topics only? Absolutely not.

No individual survives ‘the career fight’ without any socio-economic knowledge. The 21st century world of work is very different. With rapid developments in technology and globalization of the economy and job markets, there is an increase in competition. There is constant outsourcing of work, downsizing of companies and customizing of jobs. More people are in temporary and part-time employment (over 20% of employed people in the UK, Germany, Japan, Australia…) [2] and increasing numbers of people are self- employed (over 15% of employed people in the UK, EU, Spain, Italy, Korea…) [3]. Many careers today can thus be described in terms of the following: uncertainty, unpredictability, insecurity, reduced likelihood of promotion, work intensification, increased likelihood of mobility out of one’s initial occupation, non-standard contracts, part-time work, and self-employment. The average person changes jobs 10 to 15 times (with an average of 12 job changes) during his or her career. In January 2016, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average employee tenure was 4.2 years, down from 4.6 years in January 2014 [4]. The global economy is focused on information generation and delivery of services. What are you going to do with this struggling information? How are you going to turn them into your pros and not your cons? The answer lies within your deep level of understanding of this economy.

Furthermore, what are “workplace” skills? These are the ones that were probably not “listed” in your job description or school programs but are in the survival kit. Be observational & thriving. Be prepared for lifelong learning. It is essential that you are constantly on the lookout for possibilities to develop yourself and your skills. There is a trend toward multi-skilling: the acquisition of a number of different skills rather than just focusing on the skills in which you were originally trained. A continuous learning process is essential in career development. In career development, building up a valuable network of contacts so that we are able to increase our network coverage in the future. Besides, we have to be prepared to perform tasks that may not be exactly what you want to be doing, but which could pave the way for future development (develop transferable skills). These are any relevant skills that you have developed in one context that can be transferred to another. The skill of organizing, for example, is one such transferable skill that employers look for. Perhaps you gained this skill through organizing a camp for underprivileged children, which involved arranging a venue, transport, a caterer and a program of events. Although you might not do the same in another work context, the skill of organizing something is one you could transfer.

When office feels distressing, find yourself a mentor-someone whom you can rely on to give you feedback, encourage you and help you to find opportunities to develop in your career.

Learn to code. Even if your job never requires you to be technical, you should know what’s happening under the hood. The knowledge will help you interface with development and engineering teams, as well as hold more realistic expectations.

Project management skills. Can you see the big picture and break it down into small, manageable and action-oriented steps? Then you have undeniable value. If you can prioritize and get things done, you’ll be able to lead a team in no time.

The last but not the least, learn to work effectively in solidarity. Employers hire people with domain expertise, of course, but mostly they hire people they like and can get along with.

  1. Cleverness

Continuing on the next pillar is “cleverness”. Talking about cleverness, what do you think of the word? Is it dexterity or the ability to perform a highly technological/ difficult/ specific task? Is it communication? Is it creativity? Is it adaptation & flexibility? The author proposes that cleverness is a combination of all the listed concepts. First and foremost, practice. Many people think that dexterity comes from genetics. Misinterpretation! A 2011 study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise showed that increased stiffness may actually make you a better runner, the large majority of us are not competitive athletes [5]. You might be a little bit advantage inherited if you were born flexible, but no one was born a master. So, practice, and practice, and make perfect.

Another aspect of cleverness is adaptability. Rapid change in the use of technology itself creates a need for continual updating of one’s skills. Things don’t always go as planned, and instead of digging in your heels, you need to be able to pivot and find alternate solutions. “The speed of change in any given workplace is so rapid,” says Joel Garfinkle, executive coach and author of Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level [6]. Consequently, employers need workers who can adapt to industry shifts and keep the company current. This is when the attitude & capacity kick in. You might not be able to solve a problem in the first days, or alone in the first days. Be consistent, critical, and know your limits enough to call for the right aid.

And never ever forget this, communication. Both written and verbal communication skills are of utmost importance in the workplace because they set the tone for how people perceive you. They also improve your chances of building relationships with co-workers. Communication skills boost your performance because they help you to extract clear expectations from your manager so that you can deliver excellent work. It also boosts your confidence and self-esteem if managed the right way. In order to communicate effectively, remember the 2nd element: attitude. You can practice all you want, but you won’t go anywhere further than the surface if you don’t have a friendly and positive personality.

  1. Experience

All of the mentioned pillars will mean a dime if you don’t have this part. Experience, described by the author, is something one cannot possess simply by being taught to. It is also the psychological power to reflect, move on and perform better through time. Many fears it, some brag about it as much as possible in their CV, employers have been looking for this “gem” since the beginning of the term “job hunt”. You should embrace the experiences that you have, and have the most curious, critical, positive attitude possible to engage in new experiences.

Right from your first year, make a start on your career development. Career development is not about planning exactly what you will do for your career from the time you start studying to the day you leave; it’s about exploiting every opportunity that you come across to acquire new skills which will enhance your employability. By taking on many different roles, you will learn about yourself. You will get to know what you are you good at and what you enjoy. Consider what excites you and what makes you enthusiastic. Make a note of these activities as they may be the very things around which you should build your career.

The career development process is aimed at achieving self-knowledge and learning how you can become as marketable as possible in the current world of work. In order to be able to develop your career and make effective career decisions, you need to engage in self-reflection and self-assessment from time to time in order to ascertain your current position and progress. If you know yourself and have insight into who you are, you will be better able to know where you could be going. This knowledge will equip you to plan and develop your career path effectively.

To sum up, the dynamic business environment in this society creates the demand for the employees to continue to learn. Career development is a continuous process to enable employees to excel and sustain themselves in when the business undergoes digitalization, globalization, and differentiation.

 

 

References:

[1]: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/skill, date Oct 20th, 2018

[2]: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development,  Part-time employment rate, https://data.oecd.org/emp/part-time-employment-rate.htm, date Oct 20th, 2018

[3]: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Self-employment rate, https://data.oecd.org/emp/self-employment-rate.htm#indicator-chart, date Oct 20th, 2018

[4]: ALISON DOYLE, ‘How Often Do People Change Jobs?’, https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-often-do-people-change-jobs-2060467, date Oct 17th, 2018

[5]: Karen Morse, ‘Flexibility: Inherited or Learned?’, https://www.healthyway.com/content/flexibility-inherited-or-learned/, date Oct 20th, 2018

[6]: Joel A. Garfinkle, Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level, John Wiley & Sons, Sep. 2011

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