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Career Sustainability

How to Keep Working

      ....when the world keeps changing around you.
The world keeps changing. You need to keep changing direction, adding to your skills, build your awareness, networking, knowledge, experience etc. We talked in the previous chapter about developing your people skills and also your complementary skills, but this does not stop when you get a job. Life should always be an ongoing process of change and development. You get the job you wished to, for example, you become a nutritional counselor, but you will need to continue to develop. For example, you may need to keep updating on changes in good nutrition, good ideas for exercise and so on. It is important to continue to update your knowledge and skills to develop and maintain your relevance in the workplace.
So how do you continue to improve your skills and knowledge? There are many options.

Training and education can obviously help people to learn new skills.  Training may involve in house training within your job, training with an external agency, taking a course and so on.  Some jobs will require people to continually update their training and knowledge, for example, some jobs will require a person to update their Continuing Professional Development points to keep their job.  For some people, this may involve short training courses, whilst for others it may involve taking courses that take several years to complete. 
Development is also important. Development is not quite the same as training, but does involve you improving on your existing skills and knowledge.  For example, Jay is a manager of a day service for adults with learning disabilities, Jean is her assistant manager. Jay wishes to be promoted and for Jean to take her place as manager but recognises that there are some areas of management that Jean is not too skilled at.  Jay develops a development plan to ensure that Jean develops the skills and knowledge she needs to develop. For example, this may involve skills, such as chairing a meeting, taking notes, preparing a report, taking a staff development review, etc. All of these skills can be developed under Jay’s guidance and ensure that Jean develops the skills that she is currently lacking or needs to improve upon.
Reading journals, textbooks, websites and newsletters to keep up to date with your knowledge can also be important. Many professions will have different journals specific for their industry, but it can also be useful to read around your own profession to keep up to date and knowledgeable.   People who read around their own areas can also gain more useful knowledge.  For example, a person working in marketing may read in the news about some changes in holiday trends and use that to develop a marketing campaign targeting the people interested in the new trend.  
Other Work Experience
Gaining other work experience can also be beneficial to our career. Different careers and work positions will have different requirements and encourage us to do different things. A doctor working in an emergency room will require some different skills and personality traits to a doctor working in a war zone.  So gaining work experience in other areas can help improve our job prospects AND our skills and knowledge.
Voluntary work
Voluntary work is another way in which we can gain other work experience.  Many people will not have the time to do voluntary work as well as their current role, but it can be helpful if they do. Also, if you do not have a job, then voluntary work can be a good way to get new skills and knowledge. 
Sam has just completed a degree in forensics, but is unable to find suitable work, so he looks for voluntary work in the area, whilst working four days a week in a shop. Through his voluntary work, he is able to gain useful work experience, keep his skills updated and have something good to put on his resume/curriculum vitae.  Through the voluntary work, he is also put up for paid employment opportunities and eventually finds paid employment.
Ethical Guidelines/Codes of Conduct/Quality Assurance
Ethical guidelines, codes of conduct, quality assurance and so on can also give you useful knowledge on how you should perform within a work situation to ensure you are offering a good quality service to your clients/customers. Become familiar with those relevant to your industry. These may change, so keep updated with any changes.
People Watching
Silly as it may sound, people watching can also be an excellent way to improve our own skills. Watching other people who work well, perform well, say good things can help us to improve.
Terry worked with Lex and couldn’t stand him. She found him patronising and insulting.  But he was a brilliant sales man.  Terry also wanted to be good at sales, so she watched him when he was with his clients and found that Lex was very good at listening quietly to what was being said. He paid attention to his clients, then when he talked, it was always relevant to them and showed that he had paid attention and was interested in what they had to say. Other sales people she worked with would be too busy saying what they wanted to. Lex sold the most in the whole firm. Terry came to realise that it was because Lex actually paid attention to his customers and what they wanted. Although Terry didn’t like Lex in other ways, she was able to use that skill of his to improve her own sales performances.
So watch other people. Look at people you admire, what do they do well? Listen to what they have to say? Try to work out how they think. But do not discount people because you do not like them, they may have excellent skills and something to pass onto you that could benefit you.
Pushing Yourself
With any of the things we have mentioned, an important way to maintain your relevance to the workplace is through pushing yourself. We can all be complacent and think that our job is ours for life and that we do not need to train or learn or improve or develop. But today, with the global market and many new technologies and knowledge coming up all the time, it is essential to push yourself and ensure that you continue to change and develop to be the best you can at the role you do.






Read a book, do a course, join an organisation; talk to people in the know.
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