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OPINION: Why a ‘Good Job’ Isn’t Good Enough

How job seekers, parents, and students can prepare themselves for the modern workforce

A man holds a box of office items after being laid off from his good job
Forbes reported 300,000 layoffs across the country in 2023. (AdobeStock)

Imagine this: You’ve dedicated years to mastering a skill, building a career and providing for your family. Then, one day, you find yourself facing a layoff, uncertain about the future and what it holds. It’s a reality that many are grappling with in today’s ever-changing workforce landscape. The wave of over 300,000 layoffs in 2023 is a stark reminder that the traditional notion of job security is rapidly fading.

For years, the narrative has focused on pursuing specific career paths like coding as a guarantee of a stable, high-paying job. However, recent events have shattered this illusion, revealing the volatile nature of the modern job market. The truth is, we’re no longer living in a world where one job defines our entire career. The average Baby Boomer has held almost 13 jobs in their lifetime, and this number is expected to be even higher for future generations.

This reality underscores the importance of adaptability, resilience and continuous learning. It’s about preparing not just for a job, but for a lifetime of career changes and opportunities. So, if you’re facing a layoff, remember that it’s not the end of your story.

It’s a chance to reinvent yourself, explore new passions, and embrace the exciting possibilities that lie ahead in the ever-evolving world of work and for parents of students it is an opportunity to grow alongside your children to prepare them for the future.

The recent NC Portrait of a Graduate from the Department of Public Instruction also emphasizes adaptability, and lifelong learning. Research from McKinsey shows that adaptability is most linked to a higher likelihood of employment and that coping with uncertainty is one factor that is strongly linked to increased likelihood of employment, higher income, and higher job satisfaction. LinkedIn also recently ranked Adaptability as the top skill of the moment.

The reality is that we need to develop a robust set of skills to remain resilient workers in light of an ever-changing landscape. It is only through this development of a broad base of skills with at least a few areas of in-depth expertise that we can be prepared as individuals to transition across industries or occupations when occupational demand shifts necessitate.

Success depends on both foundational skills and the right attitudes. While coding is an important technical skill, it’s not enough on its own. You also need to be able to think creatively and solve problems.

If you let mental barriers get in the way, you won’t be able to effectively use your coding abilities. Technical skills alone are insufficient to actualize excellence, they must be paired with an underlying approach and mindset that enables the skill to be fully expressed.

For job seekers and parents alike in this evolving landscape, preparing yourself and your children for the future means embracing a mindset of continuous learning and adaptability.

Kevin Loux, chief impact officer at Charlotte Works. (photo by Nichole Nicolas)

Here is a short guide to navigating these changes:

1. Foster Lifelong Learning. If we were to reduce all this advice to one point it would be this: The ability to continually learn and adapt coupled with a growth mindset will enable you to do everything else on this list. In a world where AI continuously reshapes job functions, the ability to learn and adapt is invaluable.

2. Develop Tech Fluency. Understanding and interacting with technology is not just for IT professionals. Basic coding, data literacy and understanding AI’s role in society will become essential skills. Virtually no office job today can be done without basic technological skills, the minimum technological fluency required for these jobs over time will likely continue to grow for at least the near term.

3. Soft Skills/Mindsets Are Essential… As outlined by McKinsey and in the NC Portrait of a Graduate it is not just skills, but a mixture of skills and attitudes that prepare individuals for success. Mindsets and attitudes are essential to unlocking the full potential of individuals as skills must be applied to real world business problems that are not always formulaic or structured. Those who struggle with the unknown, adaptability or lack confidence are not positioned to utilize their skills in real-world situations.

4. …As Are Diverse Skill Sets. The concept of a linear career path is fading. Encourage exploration of diverse interests and the development of a broad skill set that can be applied in various contexts. While there may not be a clear defined career path today for your unique mixture of skills that can change either in a new career field that emerges in the future, or even on an individual basis with a new opportunity created to best leverage your individual skill set. Focus on developing the skills you are interested in and a career path will follow. Do not limit yourself to a defined area in thinking that a plumber could never use coding skills.

Read more: It’s Not a Labor Shortage, It’s a Shortage of Employer Creativity

As we navigate the impacts of artificial intelligence and automation on the labor market, it is crucial to embrace a mindset of continuous learning and adaptability. By cultivating a diverse skill set and addressing social inequality, we can create a workforce that is resilient, innovative and prepared for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow.

Kevin Loux is the chief impact officer with local workforce development organization Charlotte Works.

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