Old enough to remember Grace Slick of the group Jefferson Airplane belting out that line at the end of their 1967 classic, “White Rabbit”? Sorry about the reminder it was that long ago by the way… Whether you are or whether or not you’ve only heard it being spun on the radio since, you may recall that what the dormouse actually said was, “Feed your head.”
Now let’s not get into a debate as to what Grace was actually advocating we put into our head; after all it was the 60’s man and there were all manner of counter-culture happenings in that groovy time; not the least of which included experimentation with mind-altering drugs and hallucinations. Feed your head… good advice actually. Let’s spin that for the current year; a whole 50 years after Grace wrote it and it first hit the charts.
How do you feel about acquiring knowledge; developing your expertise, stimulating the little grey cells, learning in general and reading? In my experience I’ve found that while some folks go out of their way to do these things with a love of learning, there are others that seem to have grown stagnant. They know what they know and count on that acquired knowledge to sustain them. The problem they eventually experience is that because they are not invested in learning what is new, they are spinning outdated practices and information out of sheer ignorance; they don’t know what they don’t know because they only know what they knew long ago.
So what’s the problem? The problem for you and I manifests itself when we come into contact with these people in our professional capacities and to some extent in our personal lives and we are dependent on them for their knowledge to aid our own learning. We assume incorrectly that because of the position this person holds; perhaps as our Mentor, Teacher, Consultant or yes even Employment Coach, that they are up on the latest and greatest.
When you think about the job application process, one of the key requirements interviewers often examine in the candidates is their education and professional development. In the case of the person with recent training and a fresh degree or diploma, they would do well to emphasize the fact that their competitive advantage is that they have learned current best practices; that their using the latest technology, etc.
Now suppose in your own case, the certificates hanging on your wall are old and faded dating back to the late 60’s like, “White Rabbit’ itself. Sure you have that diploma or degree but of what relevance is it anymore? What have you done since to keep pace with changes in your industry, new trends, improved practices and the knowledge required to excel in your field? If you are an older worker, you’d best be doing something to counter the stereotype of being an old dog who can’t learn new tricks.
The last thing an employer wants is to hire someone who is not only out of date with current practices but who has a resistance to investing the time required to get up to speed. It is going to cost that employer money in the end if most people are pulling in one direction and one or two are just going along for the ride as dead weight. This only makes others have to work harder and that’s going to breed discontent in the workplace and lower overall productivity.
I imagine that if you’re honest, you can fairly quickly identify someone in your own workplace who is looking forward to retirement. Whether it’s one year away or 4 years away, they may be so focused on that big day that they have neglected to invest the mental energy in the job they have in the here and now. Be more than cautious about the person who has actually figured out and is counting down the days. Stand a little apart from the person who announces each day, “Only 1 year, 4 months and 6 days to go!”
Some interviewers ask questions of those they interview like, “What are you reading at the moment?” or, “What are you doing to keep up on trends in the industry?” If the latest thing you’ve read is the label on your prescription medication, you are in deep water and about to hear those classic words, “Well thanks for coming in. We’ll be in touch.”
Brush up on online learning which can be free. Invest some time reading the thoughts of people who currently work in similar roles you want for yourself in discussion groups on LinkedIn. Get interested in websites that pertain specifically to your industry. Libraries for many are growing redundant but they are still great places to go if you need some professional help tracking down publications, literature and most of all advice as to where to find it.
However, before you can benefit from any material you come into contact with, you must have an attitude that is receptive to what you’ll discover. This is going to require a certain amount of letting go of your old, outdated knowledge and that can be disturbing as you realize how little you actually know of what’s current.
Should you embrace life-long learning and, “feed your head” as the dormouse so accurately put it, you may just find that your past life experience and your current knowledge make you the ideal candidate.
Written By Kelly Mitchell
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