Photo: Rev. Albert Ocran (Pastor, Author, Executive Coach and Media Educator)

The most successful people in life consistently transform their economic fortunes by strategic positioning, the acquisition of relevant knowledge and speedy response to opportunities. However, some individuals significantly disable themselves from this process through their career choices and economic positioning. These are people with limited options who run the risk of being marginalised by the dynamic and evolving knowledge economy.  Believe it or not, you are under threat of career stagnation or extinction if:

  1. Your career prospects are only tied to your current job. Some people are only suitable for a particular job in a particular company. They have a narrow set of skills and abilities that make it impossible for them to be employed elsewhere. They therefore hang on to their jobs as if their very lives depend on them. You must be good enough to be employed at the same or even a higher level if you had to leave your current job or if your organisation closed down.  You are at risk if you lack the capacity to rebuild your career outside your current job. I have seen people who have been in management before find themselves unemployed for long periods because they failed to broaden their scope of relevance.
  2. Your career success is dependent on a person. Some people are surviving in organisations not on merit but by virtue of the fact that they are in the good books or related to someone in a position of authority. That is not the right way to build one’s career. Should that person suddenly leave the business or change their opinion of you, it could mark a certain decline or demise for you.
  3. You only have the minimum qualification for your job. Sometime ago, certain positions in corporate organisations were filled by people with O-Level and A-Level qualifications. Things have since changed and today, many of those hitherto-mundane roles are occupied by university graduates. Similarly, some positions previously held by graduates are now being offered to post-graduate applicants. You may still hold such a position by dint of hard work and long service even though you have a lower qualification. However, you must not be comfortable there: you are at risk because you will most likely be the first to go if the company ever needs to cut its staff numbers. In that case, your options will be very limited because after leaving the organisation, you are not likely to find the same job or level elsewhere.
  4. You have only one dimension of one skill. Our dynamic world keeps changing every day and the knowledge and skills we have and work with are continuously becoming obsolete. If you have only one dimension of the critical skill you require for your work you are in trouble. Imagine someone who types excellently on the typewriter but cannot use a computer. That is a limited dimension of the typing skill that could easily render the person redundant. The same thing applies to people who get stuck on one machine or only one model of the key machine used in their work. The rapid rate of change in technology implies that you must update yourself and consistently keep abreast in order to retain the same position. If you refuse to upgrade yourself or migrate to newer models of the machines you work with, you reduce your chances of earning more and growing in your organisation. Do not leave things to chance. Start improving your skills today.
  5. You can be replaced by someone more competent at a lower cost. What would you do as an employer if someone with a low competence level wants to get paid more and you are aware of better and cheaper alternatives? That is the challenge facing many people today. They are not at the cutting edge of their fields but are sadly unaware or unconcerned about it. There has been a lot of lobbying in the USA because competent Information Technology (IT) professionals from India are available for half the price of their American counterparts and are thus knocking them out of business. Incidentally, the hue and cry that led to the unfortunate xenophobic attacks in South Africa in 2008 were partly because migrant workers from other African countries were alleged to be offering better service at lower cost to employers and thus marginalising the locals. You are at risk if your potential employer can find more competent and cheaper alternatives not just from your country but from any part of the world. Globalisation has made it possible for organisations to look anywhere in the world for the skills they need. Your competition is therefore no longer restricted to your geographical jurisdiction.
  6. You can easily be replaced by a machine. With rising costs of labour especially in more advanced economies, technologies and machines are consistently being designed to significantly reduce the number of people who operate them. This trend means that future production processes will become more integrated and require significantly less hands. As a result, unskilled workers in many fields will find themselves competing with machines for their jobs. And considering that machines do not come with all the human resource costs and uncertainties that come with employing people, the natural consequence is marginalisation and removal of such people.
  7. You are functionally illiterate. Formal education opens one up to the world and lays a foundation on which other educational structures must be built. One cannot possibly acquire all the knowledge one needs for career success from the classroom. Indeed, people often study subjects in school that have little or no direct relevance to the industries in which they operate. One could therefore conclude that the primary role of educational qualification is to open the career door. After entry, there is no point flaunting the degree because qualifications by themselves do not solve the problems that plague organisations on a daily basis. What really makes a difference is the industry-specific or relevant knowledge that you acquire along the way either at school, through courses and seminars or by careful observation, reading and personal study. If you are not appropriately informed or educated about the work you do and the industry in which you operate, you are likely to be marginalised as your company continues to grow and the marketplace becomes more competitive.
  8. You cannot survive six months without working. One of the easiest ways to measure financial independence is the ability of the individual to live a normal life for six months if for some reason they find themselves out of work or unable to earn an income. If you have not invested to the point where your stocks or assets can tide you over a six-month period, your career progress could easily be derailed by circumstances. While speaking in a conference in the United States, we met a young man who had lost everything because he suffered a domestic accident that left him bedridden for three months and unable to work. His first challenge was that he was uninsured: that meant he got no compensation for his injuries. Subsequently, he also lost his job and ended up at home for the most part of that year. He suddenly found himself unable to pay his mortgage and bills. At the time we met him, his home was being foreclosed while his cars had been repossessed. From a well-paying job and comfortable conditions, the guy found himself unemployed and almost homeless within a short space of time.
  9. You do not have what it takes to make it in another country. If you lack the talent, language or skills to earn a living in any other country than the one you are living and working in, you could also be at risk. In today’s globalised economy, you could find yourself having to live in another country when you did not plan for it. Political instability in parts of the world has made this a reality for many. Alternatively, opportunities related to your field could open so wide in another country that it would be imperative for you to work there for a while to advance your career. If your knowledge, skills and experience are so local that they are not relevant abroad, you deny yourself the chance to participate.  Moreover, if you are only a vernacular speaker and cannot communicate in any international language, you are likely to further reduce your options.
  10. You are forgetful, careless and lack attention to detail. Information is an important currency for personal and organisational development. In most job assignments, one of the most critical requirements for success is the ability to observe, assimilate, store or retrieve relevant information when needed. If you are forgetful or careless, you could easily ignore or mishandle important data and thus restrict your career progress. Information is about fine details. Sometimes one misplaced dot or comma can totally distort the value or meaning of an important business transaction. If you are not detail-oriented and are in the habit of making careless mistakes, you will never be a favourite with any boss and are likely to suffer career stagnation

We live in a constantly changing world. 31 billion questions are asked on Google every month. With over 750 subscribers Facebook would have been the world’s third most populous country if it were one.

Social networks are the most dominant activity on the internet and have redefined the face of communication and business the world over. In the face of rapid changes, globalisation and increased competition, individuals who are not equipped with requisite knowledge, skills, competence and versatility will find themselves becoming dinosaurs in the 21st Century.

By Rev. Albert Ocran (Pastor, Author, Executive Coach and Media Educator)

The author is an international motivational speaker, author and minister. He is the Executive Pastor of Christ Temple of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC).

Albert is in demand as an executive coach and speaker in corporate strategy sessions with high profile clients spanning the mining, petrochemical, banking, manufacturing, pharmaceutical and insurance industries. He is the Co-founder of Combert Impressions and Lead Consultant of Legacy & Legacy, a human capital development firm.

Albert and his wife Comfort are highly-respected authors with Twenty-One (21) bestselling books already published. He presents the motivational radio seminar Springboard, the Virtual University, which airs weekly on Joy FM and daily to millions on radio networks across Ghana. The couple travel extensively every year with the Springboard Road Show, a series of personal development conferences that reaches across Ghana and into Africa.

Rev. Albert Ocran was voted as Ghana’s 7th Most Respected CEO for 2009. He also received the “Millennium Excellence Award 2010” for his Inspirational and Motivational Work.