The future belongs to problem-solvers

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” That’s one of the few questions I remember my uncles and aunts invariably asking me as a child. My answers reflected whatever my flavour of the moment was. One day my dream job was to be a baton-wielding policeman and the next, an engine driver. On a lazy day a railway guard’s job of waiving a green flag at every station would be my favourite dream. But that’s all in the past…

Today when I have conversations with my nephews and nieces about what they want to be I keenly look forward to hearing about their aspirations because the word ‘job’ is too ‘old economy’ for millennials looking for hot careers.

Follow your passions

An opportunity to sit through a fireside chat between Indian school students and Blair Slater, a career counsellor at the Sydney-based University of New South Wales (UNSW) recently, was an eye-opener. Blair, a former Hollywood star and now a full-time career counsellor for international students of over a hundred nationalities, had an interesting take on careers. He predicted that in the next five to ten years, there will be plenty of jobs that don’t even exist today. In an ever-evolving job market, his advice to students was to prepare for a career by following their passion, pursuing what’s important to them while building a strong academic foundation.

Blair said, problem solving and adaptability should be the key leitmotifs in young peoples’ toolkit of skills in a world of fast-changing jobs. As I listened to Blair I was reminded of a quote “You’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem” by Eldridge Cleaver that I have absorbed from the desks of many colleagues.

But if I had an opportunity to get back into the job market, I would like to work in a profession that simulates a steam engine driver’s work day. To me an engine driver’s job is one of a pathfinder–one who leads from the front, demands continuous hard work while simultaneously keeping an eye on distant signals.

Mindset shift

Leading management guru Prof MB Athreya sees the need for a shift in mindset to gear up for a fast-changing world owing to rapid changes in technology.

Challenges posed by economic and business environment call for inculcation of newer competencies among all of us. These include the right mindset, attitude and skills to overcome challenges facing an ever inter-dependent world. Alluding to the work done by outstanding Indian leaders–Prof Varghese Kurien who helped farmers group as co-operatives to get a much bigger share of the price paid by consumers and E Sreedharan who is helping every major Indian city build a metro with a unique sense of purpose–Prof Athreya says leaders from different walks of life–corporate, social, national and world—present opportunities to learn.

The new-age professionals need the right mindset, the right attitude and problem-solving abilities. They also need to address the inequities between the haves and the don’t haves. ‘Bottom of the pyramid’ opportunities need addressing by professionals ready to scale greater heights in a fiercely competitive global economy that faces challenges of climate change, rising inequality and terrorism.

The views expressed here are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of Reputation Today.

Sanjiv Kataria
Sanjiv Kataria, a veteran marketing and communications professional who served NIIT and NIIT Technologies as brand custodian for 20 years, is now a practising Strategic Communications and Public Relations Counsel to the services industry and start ups.

He can be reached at sanjiv (dot) kataria (at) gmail (dot) com.

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