Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Obsolescence and Lifelong Learning

Time is running out for many professionals who may soon face obsolescence, warns Umair Mohsin.
Published 05 Mar, 2024 10:33am

In the quiet of the office, the clock relentlessly marches toward 7:30 p.m., serving as a reminder of time slipping away. Each day unfolds in a similar fashion, propelled by the urgencies of deadlines, the buzz of meetings, and fleeting interactions – brief applause for a short-term victory before plunging back into more of the same. It is in this fleeting moment, that the average mid-level professional finds themselves wrestling with a silent fear – the fear of obsolescence.

The epiphany mirrors the collective sentiment of professionals navigating the complexities of today’s fast-paced environment. Amidst the incessant pressure to meet short-term goals and the insistent demand for immediate results, the question is, how does one play the long game when the world insists on a quick win? In this age of short-termism, professionals face the looming spectre of becoming obsolete in a job market that is evolving ceaselessly.

In the swift currents of the 21st century work environment, technology has not only woven itself into the fabric of our lives, reshaping industries and economies, it has changed the essence of what is work and what we require in a professional.

Automation, AI and other technological marvels are steering a paradigm shift in the world of work. Jobs once deemed secure for a middle-class lifestyle now face the prospect of automation, while new industries burgeon, necessitating a new skill set or upskilling. According to the World Economic Forum, half of the world’s employees are anticipated to require reskilling by 2025. Consider these new titles and roles such as Data Scientist, Blockchain Developer, Data Privacy Officer, AI Ethics Analyst, CXO, and more. These titles were non-existent five years ago and stand as glaring examples of the swift metamorphosis of work and our roles within it. Reflecting on my own experience, even my current role did not exist in banking five years ago. It serves as a striking anecdote that even industries as traditional as banking have had to rethink themselves in the face of rapid technological evolution.

Embracing the long game thus becomes imperative for professionals who wish not only to survive but thrive. Whether it is mastering emerging technologies, gaining leadership skills, or delving into new fields, continuous learning empowers individuals to adapt to the changing demands of their industry. The key lies in the idea of lifelong learning – a commitment to continuous self-improvement, adaptability and skill enhancement. This requires a shift from the rat race of daily tasks to a deliberate focus on skill development, intellectual stimulation, and strategic networking.

Strategies for professionals to embrace lifelong learning within the framework of the long game include setting clear learning goals, using online learning platforms, engaging in workshops and conferences, seeking mentorship, and promoting a learning culture within their workplaces.

1 Set Clear Learning Goals
Begin by defining specific, measurable, and achievable learning objectives aligned with your personal interests and career aspirations. Develop a ‘roadmap’ for continual skill enhancement, ensuring each learning goal contributes to long-term professional growth. Explore online ‘roadmaps’ for various industries to understand the necessary skill sets for career progression.

2 Using Online Learning Platforms Effectively
Harness the flexibility of online learning anytime, anywhere. Explore a myriad of platforms like YouTube, Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, Udacity, and others for relevant courses and certifications. Even if you have only three minutes in the car, you can listen to a lecture on your way to work. Consider online weekend courses offered by universities and business schools that are tailored for professionals in technology and future industries. Choose courses that align with your current job requirements and future industry trends, striking a balance between immediate applicability and long-term relevance.

3 Engage in Workshops and Conferences
Participate in industry events, workshops and conferences to stay updated on trends, innovations and best practices. Network with professionals from diverse backgrounds to foster connections that contribute to immediate insights and long-term career prospects. Explore online conferences if physical attendance is not feasible, ensuring you don’t miss out on valuable opportunities for learning and networking.

4 Seek Mentorship for Guided Learning
Identify mentors within or outside the current workplace who can provide guidance, share experiences and offer insights into navigating the complexities of the industry. Establish a mentorship relationship characterised by regular feedback, goal-setting, and a focus on long-term career development. LinkedIn is an excellent platform, as are many WhatsApp groups set up by professionals.

5 Promote a Learning Culture
If you are a senior professional, aim to foster a workplace culture that encourages learning through sharing insights, forming innovation groups and advocating for continuous improvement. Create internal corporate team engagement events, such as hackathons, innovation challenges, ‘Seven year strategy’, ‘learning lunches’ or ‘instant rewards’. You would be surprised at how much your own learning will grow.

Frequently, the most recurring response to ‘lifelong learning’ is, ‘I don’t have time.’ It’s a sentiment shared by many in the professional sphere, often stemming from the pressures of daily middle and senior management responsibilities. Yet, there is a tendency for individuals to become more open to experimentation when faced with challenges or setbacks. However, it is also crucial to recognise that waiting until things have gone awry is the wrong time to embrace change or to experiment. Proactive exploration, especially in moments of stability, can lead to more strategic and successful outcomes. In this regard, the following are some guidelines which have helped me toward my own goal:

Empty Your Glass Before Filling It Again
Embrace the wisdom of the Zen saying: ‘You can’t pour more liquid into a glass that’s already full.’ Acknowledge that constant busyness may be a status symbol, but a cluttered mind is detrimental to long-term thinking. Reflect on what matters to avoid optimising for the wrong priorities. This is easier said than done because ‘everything is important’ and ‘everything is a top priority’.

Challenge the Myth of Time Scarcity
Challenge the common belief that there isn’t enough time for long-term strategic thinking. Recognise that your time is often spent on non-essential tasks, like spending the majority of the day processing emails or attending meetings which do not align with your goals and targets. Identify and prioritise tasks that contribute significantly to long-term goals rather than succumbing to constant busyness. Do you really need to view another presentation of a new vendor or sit in the first meeting of a creative design?

Embrace the Power of Saying No
Refuse opportunities that do not align with your long-term vision. Carve out 20% of your time for transformative experiences, such as the workshops and conferences you usually do not attend, or the consumer and social events of alternate industries. Just step out of your comfort zone.

Strategic Overinvestment in Alignment with Goals
Companies want everything in a person. They refuse to accept trade-offs – leaving a lot of professional jacks and no professional masters. Yet in order to be good at something, you have to be willing to be bad at something else. Strategically overinvest time and effort in opportunities that align with long-term goals, even if it means sacrificing other areas.

The clock ticking toward the ultimate 00:00 a.m. is a symbolic call to action for mid-level and senior professionals; an urgent reminder that the time for continuous learning is now. Either succumb to obsolescence or embark on a lifelong learning journey. Lifelong learning, far from being a one-time event, is a continuous journey, and one that has become an indispensable strategy for individuals navigating the currents of change.

Umair Mohsin is a former traditional and digital advertising professional now working as a banker.