September 13, 2017: Not Back to School, but Forward to Professional Development

2016-2017 Issue 1

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Welcome. In our previous article that launched the second year of this column, we highlighted that this year’s theme will focus on fulfillment. We noted that in today’s workforce, especially for generations X, Y and the imminent Z, the atypical, innovative, non-linear career path is a much better fit for a meaningful professional identity than the choices or circumstances that pushed us in a certain direction in our late teenager years. And that when coupled with an action plan, this revision and revaluation is a wonderful thing, although it is no doubt unsettling. Here is why.

We operate on the premise that your quest for professional fulfillment goes beyond the search for a job with good benefits, and that what matters today may be quite different from what mattered yesterday and what will matter tomorrow. Is this comfortable? Of course not, but it is the very nature of this evolution that prepares you for the challenges of your work because it makes you nimble and resourceful. Plus, the studies and professional experience you pursue along the way also ensure that you ultimately find the right fit.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of us pursue continuing education courses and programs, additional designations, or seek to upgrade our hard and soft skills to the latest standards. We call this going ‘back to school’, when in reality, we go ‘forward to professional development,’ or better yet, ‘forward to professional fulfilment’. This play on words is more than a wink at a sales pitch. It is actually a greater reflection of today’s dizzying pace of economic, technological, and organizational change, a pace that implies and requires that leaders, entrepreneurs and employees at all levels adopt a mindset of continuous learning.

In this society and this era, already quite open to professional mobility, there are many more career changers and back-to-school goers today than there were half-a-century ago, and much more recognition awarded to their transferable skills, change management, and agility.This trend will only get stronger. In fact, for those of us who choose to pursue something higher, something parallel, or simply something different, the pace of change may have actually done us a favour, because it has placed open-mindedness, adaptability, and learning skills at the forefront of professional success. We have embraced change with full force in our own lives, and that is exactly what today’s labour market requires.

Has an interviewer ever asked you whether you can deal with change? Have you been asked how you might cope with increasing requirements or new technologies? Have you ever been questioned on your apparent lack of local or specific industry experience? Next time, keep in mind that first of all, the very fact that they are interviewing you means that they think you can do the job, and secondly, remember to own your learning ability and adaptability. You have already demonstrated some of the soft skills most fundamental to today’s and tomorrow’s career success by ‘going forward to professional development’. All you have to do is say it.

Connect with Maia and McGill’s School of Continuing Studies on LinkedIn.

This article was originally published in French in 24heures Montreal.

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