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8 Ideas for graduates that want to succeed at work

What advice would you give to graduates who are just starting their careers?

I recently met with some graduates from a well known multi-national to discuss the potential impacts of exponential technologies on the world of work.

It was a fascinating discussion.

On the one hand, this generation could easily expect to live well over 100 and will have access to technologies that enrich their lives in ways that we today, cannot possibly imagine.

On the other hand, there were a lot of concerns raised about how new recruits can remain relevant, as new technologies place millions of jobs at risk.

So I shared eight ideas, which I hoped might help them thrive in a world where the rate of change will surpass anything seen in human history.

And now I’m sharing these ideas with you, for two reasons.

Firstly, because idea 5 places me in the juxtaposition of making suggestions on how to succeed, while myself being one of those experienced people, that I suggest they ignore.

And secondly, because I want to compare and contrast my views with yours. Perhaps the best suggestions are not on the list, while the worst are. I’d like your help in fixing that.

But remember one thing if you do decide to contribute and you, like me are over 40. Our knowledge and experiences were built from educational and workplace systems, designed for an industrial age. The new digital world may reject our wisdom….because it’s no longer wise.

The Letter

Dear Graduates and New Recruits, I do hope you benefited from the session. If you left feeling excited, scared and thoughtful about what the future holds, then I’ve achieved my goal of pushing you a step closer to thinking about how to succeed in an exponential world. Here are 8 suggestions that I hope you find helpful as you start your careers. 1. Ask more questions. Inquisitive minds will go further in the 21st century than knowledgeable ones did in the last. 2. Regularly push your boundaries by doing new things that make you feel uncomfortable. You’ll often fail but will learn and grow faster. 3. Never worry about what other people think about you. If you do, you’ve failed before you’ve started. 4. Knowing what other people think about you can be helpful, if you empathise to try to understand ‘why’ they feel that way (rather than how it made you feel). 5. Be wary of advice from the knowledgeable and experienced. They are the least likely to imagine the opportunities of a rapidly changing world. 6. Stand out by thinking how you can. Most of your peers will look for reasons why they cannot. 7. Don’t accept the status quo. You’ll never live in a time where things cannot be improved. 8. Don’t get emotionally attached to your ideas. Become dispassionate and concentrate on developing empirical tests to take better decisions on which to progress and which to discard. 9., 10., 11.,…. To be continued These are not easy suggestions to apply in real life. You’ll have to push yourselves to escape the gravitational force of the naysayers and corporate antibodies that try to pull you back on a daily basis. Like climbing Mount Everest, or playing classical guitar, mastery of anything requires daily practice. That’s why I believe purposeful people succeed more often because they harbour strong emotional beliefs, which give them the edge to get up earlier, train harder, accept failure more, ignore detractors and keep persevering. Pick one of your heroes (e.g. Nelson Mandela, Richard Branson) or a villain (e.g. A president you don’t like). Then consider how they became successful? You’ll find they had a vision or purpose (could be good, could be bad), which was foundational to their success and let them find the necessary grit to try something every day. So what’s your purpose? If you don’t have one yet, don’t worry. Perhaps start with something like ‘I want to help improve peoples lives’. Whether you move in to finance, HR, operations or marketing. Whether you join a multinational, an SME or go self-employed, it doesn’t matter. Focusing on trying to help people (colleagues, shareholders, customers, suppliers, communities), isn’t a bad purpose to get started. You can always refine over time. And people who know how to help people, are likely to become more in demand in an exponentially changing world, than they ever were, when progress was linear. Good luck. Col MD Absa | CEO The Equinox Leadership and Innovation Centre


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