Imagine sitting next to a career coach with 10 minutes of uninterrupted time to seek help for the most burning issues in your career. This is what can help you grow. In the second of a four-part series, Abhijit Bhaduri, a leadership development expert, author and ex-chief learning officer of Wipro, tells millennial employees how to navigate the demands of the current job and prepare for the future, and why it is important to proactively find opportunities to apply one’s newly learnt skills sooner rather than later. Edited excerpts:

If I become too futuristic, I am seen as impractical. If I only focus on the job at hand, I am not future-ready. How do I approach this dilemma?

When we drive, we need to keep an eye on the road ahead and also keep track on a map if we are moving in the right direction at the desired speed. One needs to do both. Today, the car that you drive is also ever-changing. So, drivers need to continuously update their skill set. When the cars go driverless, they will still need skills—that may not be in driving but in coding or manufacturing.

We need to have skills that are valuable in the marketplace. If there is a demand for a skill you are moderately good at, you will have more options. If you are terrific at a skill there is no demand for, you will not get any opportunities. Keeping an eye on what the hottest new jobs are, is a good idea. It will help you know which skills to add and get ready for future opportunities.

Disruptive technologies are spawning jobs requiring specialized skill sets. However, one often does not get opportunities to apply these learnt skills. What is your advice?

When you learn a new skill, it is important to try it out at the earliest. The first step is to see which skill (that is being used by your current employer) interests you. It is easier to find opportunities with your current employer if you offer to be an apprentice to someone and help them in a project. As an apprentice, you get to learn the nuances of applying your skills to solve problems. I know people who have done their “passion project" in addition to the day job. Employers are also more willing to let you try out something if they see that you are doing your day job in addition to supporting a project.

If your current employer, however, does not offer such opportunities, then you have to find these “apprenticeship" options outside. Freelancing platforms such as Upwork and TaskRabbit offer paid projects where you can take your skills to the marketplace. Online learning platforms such as Codecademy, edX and Coursera offer courses that you can take to learn hundreds of new skills.

How can I keep inching towards my larger goals, and not get stuck in the daily demands of the job?

If you want to, for example, run a half marathon, you have to train for it. That would mean finding time to train every day. This, in turn, will demand a change in your lifestyle. It may need you to pay attention to what you eat and drink, when you sleep, and how you make space for the new dream you have.

You may be able to use your current skills to do the current role. Talk to people who are in the roles that you aspire to be in. Find out how they have built those skills. Understand the soft skills that are needed to succeed in the role. That could mean not just the job knowledge but also the amount of people interaction you need to have. Being technically good does not guarantee career success. Having the drive to succeed and being easy to work with are important factors in success.

Millennials are thought to be lacking in patience towards building a long-term career. In this VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world, is it even required any more?

Technology is destroying some jobs, augmenting some jobs and creating new ones. The definition of long term has changed. Our career paths see many more bends and diversions. The skills that once commanded a premium (like knowing word processing or being able to use spreadsheets) no longer command a premium.

Yet, some aspects of careers have remained unchanged. Being clear about what matters to you as you make career choices is important. The definition of success is very personal. Self-awareness can be a great starting point of career satisfaction. Those who go into the demands of a profession by being fully aware of what it takes to succeed are less likely to then evaluate how much they will enjoy doing the job—day in and day out.

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