A few months ago I was waiting for my turn at the local tax assistance center (a public agency): a man finally came out of one of the 2 offices, loudly greeting the clerk inside with a few jokes. Still smiling, he announced to the silent audience, “We are construction workers, during the winter we are out of work. And there is a crisis. What can we do? Let’s wait for better times,” as to justify his request for unemployment.
“Well,” I replied, “there are new technologies that allow you to work in buildings even when it’s cold outside. You could take this chance to attend some courses. It will help you differentiate from your competitors, and get back to work earlier since it’s a new trend in our Country”. He looked a bit surprised, murmured a greeting to all and left the office behind his colleague.
This reminded me of a couple of conversations I had at different times with some friends of friends, both electricians. When I asked if they also implement home automation solutions, the answer was always “No, because no one is using them”.
In all cases, these workmen were just sitting and expecting others (contractors or customers) to tell them what to do. They were assuming their job is to do that one simple thing they have learned to do, no matter what else is happening around them.
In my view they forgot a simple truth: people buy from people.
Remember who said “It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want” (clue, both my friends’ electricians were enthusiastic smartphone owners): things today would be much different for all of us if he had thought otherwise.
No matter what field we operate in, we cannot wait for our customers (or contractors) to come up with the solution they need. Customers are looking for an expert, and in OUR job WE know how things really are – and if we don’t, we should.
If we continue to do things “because that is the way we always did them”, we’ll end up in developing habits and simplifications, flattening our knowledge. Whether we like it or not, things change (simple test: go to Youtube and search for your favorite TV series or comedy show from10 years ago. See the way we were. Then repeat the search with 20 years ago). To simply ignore it will mean to pay dearly. In Italy we already have a name for this, professional illiteracy (a byproduct of returning to illiteracy*). It does not indicate a low level of education, but the ignorance of technological (as well as legal, administrative, ethical, etc) innovations resulting from missing professional updates.
We have to remain open to opportunities, open to learn and to grow.
No matter what business we are in, a career is a marathon. We cannot improvise – we need preparation as well as constant training. And just like spectators, our customers and colleagues are looking at us. At the starting line they will incite us because they trust us, but we are not running alone… who will they cheer for at the finish line?
I’m not saying everyone of us should go and get an Engineering degree. Today technology makes it easy to attend courses, and not only US Universities are giving online courses for free: check out what Schneider Electric is doing with Energy University.
Just like a marathon anyone can join, no matter where you come from, how old you are, or what your previous experiences are. And anyone can contribute to make it a success because the final result impacts other people’s lives – your customers.
Are you ready for the long run? Let’s go.
*Literacy it is not just about reading and writing: it “involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society” (UNESCO definition)