5 Strategies for Extending Your 'Sell-by' Date

By Desda Moss Jan 27, 2016
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stretch.jpgBy Karie Willyerd and Barbara Mistick

People are worried about becoming obsolete. That fear is even more pronounced among HR professionals, as evidenced by a recent Harvard Business Review cover story that declares “it’s time to blow up HR.” Fortunately, in doing research for our new book, Stretch: How to Future-proof Yourself for Tomorrow’s Workplace, we found there’s plenty you can do to future-proof yourself.

Here are five strategies we identified:

1. Find five to thrive. As Warren Buffett suggests, “Hang out with people better than you, and you cannot help but improve.” Who are the five people who can help you be a better person, especially when it comes to your work? Every time you are with them, you should feel like you have upped your game and are thinking a little differently.

2. “Do it scared.” We learn from experiences. The best experiences are those that make us sweat just a bit under the collar. Allyson One person told us that she was given a new assignment that she was convinced was too much for her at the time. She went to her boss to admit her skepticism about her ability to do the job well. Her boss’s advice? “Do it scared.” In other words, push through the fear. Embrace the experience, and accept that fear is part of the process of trying new things.


3. Know when to unlearn. We are in the midst of enormous social and economic change, and HR perhaps feels this most profoundly. Demographic shifts, globalization, technology, data explosion, and business model complexities are just a few drivers of change. Not only do we need to learn and embrace new ways of doing work, we must also let go of old ways. Do you have processes, systems, or organizational structures that pre-date Pluto’s 2006 demotion from planet status? Perhaps it’s time to unlearn the old and embrace the new.

4. Be open. The longer you are in a field, the more of an expert you become. But the down side of being an expert is that you form rules of how everything works. Opportunities can pass you by because you don’t recognize the new side path you could have taken. Watch how some of the new employees in HR think and act. Perhaps there’s a tip or two you can take from them.

5. Find a boss who is a “career maker.” Who we think of as good bosses may not always be good for our career. The boss who makes it easy for you to coast along,  and balance your life, and who limits feedback to praise may make you feel good. B, but you could wake up five years from now and realize you haven’t grown at all. Good bosses stretch you and make you feel uncomfortable. Find that kind of boss if you want to progress in your career.

People are working longer, not just out of financial necessity, but also because, as humans, work gives us meaning. To remain relevant for tomorrow’s workplace, we must continuously stretch to build new skills, find new ways of thinking, and discover new options for fulfilling our dreams.

Karie Willyerd@Angler on Twitter, is a workplace futurist for SAP SuccessFactors, the co-author of The 2020 Workplace and former chief learning officer of at Sun Microsystems. Barbara Mistick@BarbaraMistick on Twitter, is the president of Wilson College and former distinguished service professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Their new book, Stretch: How to Future-Proof Yourself for Tomorrow’s Workplace, is now available. 

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