You and Your Development

Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity
— Aristotle

Long-term readers of this missive will be familiar with my interest in self-development. I have been thinking even more intently than usual about skills and self-development over the last month.  Two of the reasons for this are:

  1.  A series of conversations I have been having with a friend. He left his full-time driving job earlier this year and set up his own catering company. Unfortunately, the huge take-off he was expecting hasn’t materialised. He is now having to think about doing something else that he can quickly change to in order to maintain some income. As our discussion about options for him ensued, I asked him what other skills he could draw on. His response was that there was nothing else he could do. He quickly acknowledged that he could have done much more over the years to focus on his development. Now, approaching his mid-fifties, he is running into difficulties.
  2. The second example relates to something you will be more familiar with: Uber’s licence to operate being withdrawn for London. This story has been well publicised, so I won’t repeat the detail here. On an Uber journey from Paddington to Chelsea last week, the driver (Jim), unprompted, used the whole journey to express his distress about the potential of losing his job. He only started with Uber three months ago, having left a previous job as a University campus security guard.  He has no idea what he will do in the event that any appeal by Uber is unsuccessful. As you know, there are many thousands of others who will be impacted. They may have similar anxieties to Jim. I actually think it’s unlikely that Uber’s troubles in London will reach such a breaking point that the company ends up being forced off the streets. However, if they do leave, there are already a number of apps in play that would seek to pick up the extra business – and the orphaned drivers.

The similarity in these stories is striking.

The pace of change in the world of work is rapid. It is also relentless. Just last week I read, for example, about the trial at Sainsbury’s in Euston where shoppers can purchase their products via their mobile phone – thus further reducing the need for human contact. Constant change is here and it isn’t going away.

Our failure to keep up with the pace of change and ensure our skills remain relevant could cost greatly. If you haven’t read the book ‘100 Year Life’ by Lynda Gratton yet, I highly recommend that you do so. I remember approaching Barclays Bank for a career development loan nearly twenty years ago. This allowed me to go to University for the first time. It is one of the best investment decisions I have ever taken.

We would do well to understand how to apply the concept of ‘pivoting’ to our own lives and careers. I first came across this term when reading ‘Plutocrats’ written by Christia Freeland. The notion is that individuals (not just organisations) know how to apply knowledge and skills differently as the world around them actively changes. Just knowing of course will not be enough. Applying and doing is the key.

How about you? Are you staying relevant by keeping your skills up-to-date? I am not often deliberately provocative in my missives, but I fear I am going to be now. It is actually your responsibility to keep your skills up-to-date – not that of the organisation you work for.  Disagree? I’m open to hearing why.

In closing:

As some of you may know, Helen, our Training and Development Manager, volunteers for the charity Meningitis Now after her daughter contracted the illness when she was just 13 months old. Helen is organising a charity ball with two friends who are running The London Marathon for Meningitis Now next year to raise funds for the charity. The ball includes a raffle and an auction scheduled for the evening of 18th November.

Would you be so kind as to support the event by donating any prizes for the raffle/auction? The charity really has been a huge support to Helen and her family and all donations would be gratefully received and very much appreciated. If you can help, please email Helen at Thank you. 

Helen RobinsonCareer