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Book extract: How to stay relevant in the new world of work

In ‘Career 3.0’, author Abhijit Bhaduri offers a new approach and outlines key skills needed to thrive in today’s work landscape

Expertise is built through repetition and focus. (iStockphoto)

By Abhijit Bhaduri

LAST PUBLISHED 04.12.2023  |  06:30 AM IST

As the nature of work is evolving, so are the career archetypes. Career 1.0 and Career 2.0 are giving way to Career 3.0. Career 1.0 can be described as a tunnel with three stages: learn, earn and retire. Career 2.0 is like a fork in the road, with side gigs carried out after office hours in stealth mode. Once the side hustle starts generating funds, it leaves open the possibility of becoming the main career path.

To visualize Career 3.0, think of it as a pizza in which each slice is a skill. The skill can be based on your deep domain knowledge, your emotional intelligence, creative thinking etc. The key to success in Career 3.0 is to develop a range of skills and keep creating combinations of the skills that are valued in the marketplace. Another way to think of the pizza is look at those slices as the percentage of time spent on each distinct activity.

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Authors Ravin Jesuthasan and John W. Boudreau describe the coming few years as a time when organizations will have to rethink the operating system around work and workers. Automation and AI will augment the work of the employees. In their book Work Without Jobs, they describe a future where workers will advance their careers through their skills and capabilities—not through seniority.

By 2025, eighty-five million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labour between humans and machines. At the same time, ninety-seven million new roles will emerge that need humans, machines, and algorithms to work in tandem.

Some skills are common to everyone in the workplace. We stop mentioning them in our CVs. They get labelled as commodity skills. Commodity skills are those which many people possess but they do not get monetized. Some of us may recall that people used to list ‘proficiency in Word, Excel and PowerPoint’ on their CVs. Today, it is not a differentiator in the marketplace. Mentioning these skills on your CV does not get you noticed by any recruiter because these are now commoditized. Not having this skill is a disadvantage but having the skill is not a differentiator in the job market.

Six Skills for Career 3.0 that everyone needs to build—even if you are employed

Skill No. 1: The ability to build expertise—depth and breadth

Cal Newport, author of the book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, says that becoming a grandmaster at your work requires years of practice and development of your skills. The greatest experts rarely achieve success solely on the strength of their talent or intelligence. Musicians, doctors and even writers must practise a long time before they can succeed. In the case of doctors, they learn the theory, then observe experienced doctors as they diagnose patients, check the diagnostic tests and discuss the findings with other peers across disciplines. Variations of this process take place in other disciplines.

Expertise is built through repetition and focus. Indian classical musicians practise the nuances of music by singing just a few notes for hours or even days and weeks until their guru gives them a nod of approval.

A musician friend told me that she first learnt Raga Malhar that is said to bring rains and is traditionally played before or during the monsoons. The day she started her lessons, it was raining, and the guru said that he would teach her the Raga Malhar because she would find it easy to remember the association. Over the next two years, she learned many variations of Raga Malhar like Gaud Malhar, Ramadasi Malhar, Miyan ki Malhar, Megh Malhar, Dhulia Malhar and Sawani Malhar. With each variation, she built her expertise so she could learn many other ragas. To the untrained listener, they all sound the same. It takes a lot of skill to differentiate between them.

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Here are ten ways to build your expertise:

1. Break it down. Break the project down into small, achievable steps and set specific goals that you can work towards, one step at a time. It is easier to master one single line of a song than the entire opera. The key strategy is deliberate practice, which involves setting specific, measurable and challenging goals, and then focusing on practising the skills needed to achieve those goals with feedback and reflection.

2. Create an email account for learning. Look for opportunities to learn from a variety of sources, including books, articles, lectures, courses, and practical experience. Create a new email account and use it to sign up on YouTube, Twitter, Spotify etc. The algorithms will push out content on that topic. You can then consume multiple perspectives of the same topic.

3. Practise regularly. The more you practise, the better you will become. Find ways to apply what you are learning in real-world situations, whether through internships, projects, or just working on personal projects.

4. Collaborate with others. Work with others who have expertise in different areas, as this can help you learn from their perspectives and experiences. For example, if you are a computer scientist, consider collaborating with a psychologist on a project that combines your respective areas of expertise.

5. Seek out mentors. Find people who are experts in your field and ask them for guidance and advice. They can provide valuable insights and help you avoid pitfalls along the way.

6. Attend conferences and workshops. Conferences and workshops can be great opportunities to learn from experts in your field, network with others, and stay up to date on the latest research and developments.

7. Leverage video and audio. Make a habit of reading papers, articles and blogs in your field to stay up to date on the latest research and developments. Listening to podcasts and watching videos made by experts can help build powerful learning habits.

8. Seek feedback. Ask an expert to give you feedback on what you need to do to get better. Track your progress. Reflect on your mistakes and think about what you can learn from them. Tracking the timing of each lap is a great way to know how much you are improving.

9. Take on challenges. Seek out challenges and stretch yourself to learn new things. This can help you grow and develop your expertise.

10. Teach others. When you teach, you receive feedback and questions from your students that can challenge your own understanding. This can help you to identify areas where you may have gaps in your knowledge. Plugging those gaps will keep deepening your expertise.

Excerpted from Career 3.0 by Abhijit Bhaduri, with permission from Penguin Random House India.

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