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18 October 2007

'Can't Do' V/s 'Can Learn'

From time immemorial, the experts have tried to classify people into different groups. There are the whites and the blacks and all shades of gray in between, there are Indians, Chinese, English and the rest, there are Europeans and non Europeans, there are pliant and aggressive people.....

The list goes on.

In my opinion, there are only two types of people in the world. They are the 'Can't Do' people and the 'Can Learn' people.

For instance, suppose I pose the same questions to two groups of people.

Can you do this job?

Both the groups begin their answer with 'I haven't worked on it...'. The 'cant do' type will say, "I haven't worked on this, I have only worked on this, this and this, I don't have the experience in doing this job and so I can't do it'. They assume that once they say yes, they are committing to this and people will later on come back and say, 'look, you told us that you can do this, but you are not able to. That means you were lying to us in the interview'. These people feel that you can apply for a job only if you know the nuts and bolts (and the bearings and the lubrication and the electrical circuitry..) of the job.

The 'cant do' type is internally controlled. They do not rely on the organizational resources to meet their skill development objective. They do not want to feel obligated to the organization for the support provided to meet their 'personal' career goals. They will pay from their pocket and do a certification program rather than utilize the organizational resources which would have been available to them. They feel that they are individually responsible for the work they are called upon to do and are sceptical about the quality of help and support available within the organization.

They always try to build up on their existing skill sets and soon become experts in their area. These people collect certifications in hoardes. They are recognized in their organization for their technical expertise and is looked upon to provide guidance and solve critical technical issues. Typically they are loathe to change jobs and rarely try to learn new skill sets in line with market expectations and requirements.

On the other hand the 'can learn' type will answer the same question somewhat like this. 'I have not worked on this job specifically but I have worked on this, this and this. Even though I have not worked on this area, it is closely related to the work I have done so far and it is easy for me to pick up this skills in a very short span of time. In addition to the technical skills associated with the job, over my past experience, I have picked up a lot of soft skills like communication skills as well as man management skills which are common across different jobs. Only thing lacking is my knowledge in this specific area which I am confident that I can learn in a short span of time.'

Approach of this group to skill development is one of collaboration and team work. They understand the potential of the organizational resources and enthusiastically tap them to meet their career and skill development goals. They understand the power of team work and use it to their advantage. These people continuously analyse the job market and plan and prepare for any new opportunity that may be available in the market. Their updated CVs can be seen in various job portals. They try to stay one step ahead of the market at any point in time.

What is the career strategy for these groups?

If you are a 'can't do' type, you might be missing out on some of the big opportunities that the world is throwing at you. You could be wrong in your 'linear' assessmet of your carrer opportunities. The flat world and the new economy offer much more scope for using the same skill set in multiple ways. For instance, if you are a domain expert / project manager in construction industry, in addition to the linear growth in your own industry, an IT organization with focus on construction industry vertical could be one such opportunity for you. This industry is constantly on the lookout for construction industry specialists and project managers, both skills of which you have in abundance. To get into this industry, you might have to learn some IT the knowledge of which is available cheaply in the market. You will come to know of this requirement only if you are constantly in touch with the market.

Another non linear opportunity could be to work for banks that lend money to the construction companies. They are on the lookout for domain experts who can assess the risk of the project and provide effective mitigation strategies. This role can be only played by domain experts who have spend a lot of time in the construction industry.

You could also use the power of internet to brand yourself. You can use blogs, networks and even yahoo groups to project your capabilities in addition to the ubiquitous job search portals. You can read a very good article on 'e-BRANDING YOURSELF' here.

As far as the 'Can Learn' group is concerned, they have to be careful about the 'Jack of all and master of none' syndrome. They have ensure that they stay for a sufficient duration in a specific job to pick up expertise in that area. Since they normally switch careers midway, they have to have a clear long term strategy and a vision of where they want to reach in the medium term to long term and plan their career switches accordingly. Moreover, they should always be able to integrate their career choices as enablers to achieve the above objectives.

One of the complaints about these people is that they use the organizational resources to upgrade their skills and then quit the organization. In these days of reference checks and background checks, this adverse reputation could significantly impact their ability to sell their upgraded skills in the market.

P.S: What type are you? What do you feel about this article? Is this useful? I would love to hear your comments.

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