SHOW DATE: MAY 29, 2013
Cockroaches are generally regarded as the spawn of Satan. They’re creepy. They’re crawly. They spread germs and disease. And even when you’re armed with a hefty shoe, they’re virtually impossible to squish.
So why would we want you to model your behavior after these pests? Because, as a species, they are virtually indestructible. And that’s how you need to be if you plan on surviving in today’s workplace.
A recent study published by Science found that cockroaches are actually evolving to avoid and become immune to the toxins and poisons that harm them. Every time we come up with a new chemical to kill cockroaches, they simply adapt. Every time a new threat comes along, the cockroaches come up with an antidote. You know that old saying that cockroaches will be the only thing standing after the apocalypse? Looks like it’s true.
While it’s unlikely that your employers are trying to kill you off with poison, traps, or a giant shoe, your job security is still under constant threat. Computers and robots are replacing people. Jobs are being outsourced to China. New, complex software is constantly being introduced into your industry. Change is all around you, and it never waits to make sure you’re ready for it. It just keeps coming, and if you don’t keep up, you’re history.
While it’s easy to feel powerless in such uncertain times. But you’re not. You can survive it. You just need to become a cockroach. Here’s how:
Be open to change. Stop resisting. Accept that change happens whether you like it or not. This isn’t about giving in—it’s about developing as mindset that accepts the way things are. Once you do that, you’ll stop passively cowering whenever change rears its ugly head, and begin to embrace change in a proactive way. Just as vinyl was replaced by cassettes, cassettes were replaced by CDs, and CDs are being replaced by MP3 files, the tools you use at work are going to replaced by new ones. Get over it.
Reinvent yourself constantly. This means learning new technology, software, and skills—not when you absolutely have to, but when they’re still new. If that means taking a class or doing some research on your own, do it. You can become the person who can train others instead of the person who “needs to get trained”. In other words, you go from being a liability to being an asset. And when you learn a new technology, you are creating a new job.
Embrace new people. Don’t just embrace the new technology—embrace the people who come with it. Too often, people distance themselves from the “newbies” and the “kids”. They see them as the enemy. But that’s a sure-fire way to set yourself up for being replaced. Instead, reach out to the new people. They’ll be eager to gain from your wisdom and experience, and they’ll be happy to teach you what they know. This also means that you should ask for help if you’re struggling to learn new things. You probably shouldn’t ask your boss, but you can ask a co-worker or someone else you trust. Don’t avoid what’s scary—the best defense is a good offense!
Recognize crossover skills. Be aware of what skills you have that are universally applicable to any job. These days, more and more people have to change industries. Your hard skills might not be able to transcend that gap, but you likely have many great soft skills that can—such as writing, creating consensus, or being a good negotiator. Knowing what they are will allow you to showcase your greatest strengths in your resume and in interviews.
If you’re looking for something more immediate and tangible than the above, here are three things you can start doing right now to adapt within the workplace:
- Understand social networking. If you’re not using it, you’re going to get left behind. And having a Facebook account is not enough. You need to be on Twitter and LinkedIn—and actively managing your online profile!
- Keep your Microsoft office skills current. Do you know how to use all the new bells and whistles?
- Be willing to toss out #1 and #2. Remember, it’s about adapting! In 10 years, there may be no Facebook or Microsoft, so master them while they’re here, but be willing to jump ship to the next technology when it’s time!