Forget About Staying Ahead. Stay Relevant Instead.

D igital transformation. Artificial intelligence. A Bladerunner reboot. If you feel like you’re struggling to keep up, you’re not alone. So perhaps you shouldn’t.

Technology in various forms is rapidly changing the modern working landscape. PEPworldwide:nz managing director Kathryn Anda knows of at least two organisations that are planning to cut jobs in favour of automated technology. “However, until they fully understand how they will use the automation, they can’t be certain which jobs it will affect and how it will affect them,” she says. So the problem is this: how does an individual in this or any other organisation stay ahead of technology that no one yet understands?

Short answer? You can’t. But what you can do is work on staying relevant instead.

Most professionals focus on their productivity and efficiency – and as you know, we’re all for that. However, the best way to counter the challenge posed by a rapidly evolving work environment is to expand that focus to include self-improvement. Forbes columnist Michael Simmons notes that Bill Gates and other top business leaders like Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffett all set aside at least an hour a day (or five hours a week) for “deliberate learning”: engaging in activities like reading, reflection and experimentation so that they are constantly improving their knowledge and skills.

Nice in theory. But how do you fit what sounds a lot like homework into an already precarious work/life balance? We’ve provided a few PEP-style pointers below:

  • Identify a particular area of interest or a gap in your knowledge.

  • Focus your reading or research on topics that are applicable to your role. If you don’t already have a folder where you store articles of interest, start building one. If you do already have one, fantastic: your challenge is to start working through it. Which brings us to the next step:

  • Start small.

  • Remember that PEP principle of “one bite at a time”. “You won’t suddenly be able to complete five hours’ extra reading a week,” says Anda. “Start with half an hour of reading every second day on a topic that’s pertinent to your role – something you’ve always been meaning to investigate, but never have.”

  • Schedule a regular time to achieve it.

  • Simmons contends that “The long-term effects of not learning are just as insidious as the long-term effects of not having a healthy lifestyle.” Just as you make a conscious effort to fit exercise or some other form of recreation into your life, schedule time for this form of self-improvement, too. “Recognise that there is information that you need to read and understand in order to develop, and allocate time accordingly,” advises Anda. After all, if this is important enough for Bill Gates, it should be important for you too.

Yes, it’s a brave new world – but let’s put the emphasis on “brave”. Don’t resist the unknown: embrace it. The result? “Making personal development one of your priorities will give you a greater insight into your role, increase your engagement, improve motivation and minimise your natural resistance to change,” enthuses Anda. Now that’s a battle worth winning. And more importantly? It’s a battle you can win.