Will online training save you from the megatrend that will eat your job?

Is there a more misleading oxymoron than “permanent employee”? The CSIRO has just reported on multiple global megatrends that create plausible scenarios in which “many — possibly most — Australian workers become portfolio workers and freelancers.” Online training, among other kinds, is going to be crucial to workers wanting to stay relevant.

When I started my last job working for someone else, I used to tell my colleagues I was still self-employed as far as I was concerned, and so were they. We might have just one client, but we had to keep the client happy by staying relevant or else. You don’t understand, they’d tell me. We’re permanent.

It didn’t bother them that the marketing of their jobs as “permanent” was done by the same people who called them human “resources” or, somehow worse, “capital”. The sheer volume of euphemisms for “you’re fired” should have been another clue — redundancy, retrenchment, restructuring, rightsizing, and that’s just the Rs. What are all these words for if everyone’s permanent?

Aside from the risk of being fired when shareholders aren’t making as much as they think they should, what happens if you don’t keep training to make sure your skills are current? If you’re a horse and cart driver, your employer might retrain you when it decides to replace the horse with a van. But would you bet your mortgage on it?

Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce from the CSIRO has reports on megatrends that will affect Australian workers. It’s encouraging reading for people with an entrepreneurial bent, but a grim read for anyone still clinging to the illusion of permanence.

The same people could have written Deloitte Access Economics’ Future Inc report, which also came out recently.

Both reports reference the importance of online training, among other forms, to keep us relevant.

Get ready for portfolio working

A third of working Americans are independent workers. They freelance, they contract, they mix the two — “portfolio work”. It’s a global megatrend, says the CSIRO, which means it’s going to happen here.

“The ideal job within a large organisation may not be awaiting an increasing number of future job seekers. This means individuals will need to create their own job. This will require entrepreneurial skills and aptitudes.” — Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce

Train and re-train, whether online or otherwise

We’re going to have to be ready — if we’re not already — for lifelong learning. And we’re all going to have to be digitally literate.

That might not sound like a leap to you as you surf LinkedIn, but I’ve worked with highly capable people who approached their computers as they might an unexploded IED.

Formal education will remain important, both reports find, but online education will be faster and more responsive to filling gaps in our knowledge.

Everyone’s an entrepreneur

Online training is important to staying relevant
Online training is important to staying relevant

A CIO told me once that he couldn’t believe how complacent his mainframe team was. They knew mainframe computing was going the way of the horse and cart, but they were doing nothing to learn new skills. It appeared they were expecting to stay at their desks after the mainframes were eventually retired, waiting for the company to pay for them to learn something else. They were in for a surprise.

“In tomorrow’s job market adaptability, resilience, buoyancy and entrepreneurial capabilities are of growing importance… Workers will need the capability to handle a career dead-end (or job loss) and create their own job in another space.” — Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce

But you and I are halfway there (if you're on LinkedIn, too)

The CSIRO gives snaps to anyone on LinkedIn already:

“Additionally, the once separate domains of professionals such as journalists, scientists, business owners and the general public are increasingly becoming more and more interconnected, with social media enabling immediate and significant connections – connections that may previously have been considered beyond conventional reach. An excellent example of such interconnectedness is LinkedIn.” — Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce

It’s great to be independent (88% favourable)

According to the CSIRO, the number of independent contractors in Australia is around 1 million. Thirty-two per cent of them say demand for their services is growing, and 88 per cent would continue with freelancing even if they were offered a traditional full-time position.

But the competition just got global

Glass half full or half empty? Tomorrow’s freelancers and portfolio workers are going to be competing on a global scale.

“The rise of the “virtual global worker… means that employees in… Australia will increasingly need to compete against talent from other countries in the future, while allowing Australian companies to access a much larger pool of global talent and putting downward pressure on wages.” — Future Inc.

The market just got a hell of a lot bigger, but so did the competition. Keeping up your training, taking online courses, reading blogs, listening to podcasts… it’s all going to be crucial

The answer?

Keeping current. Training. Always learning.

I’ve worked building websites, as a journalist, in PR, as a social media consultant, and producing audio and video. Mostly I’ve taught myself and moved into new businesses as I’ve learned.

Along the way, I’ve paid for training, read countless books, put in thousands of hours practising and figuring things out. And yes, I’ve been lucky enough to have some training from employers, but I’ve never counted on it.

If I had, I’d probably still be working on the door of a nightclub.

What about you? What’s your plan? If it involves getting a website for your consultancy services, we know the best website content writers!