What is your next career, fortysomethings? – IV

APM Rover and APM Hexacopter

APM Rover and APM Hexacopter

In the previous three installments, I talked a lot about some of the qualities that will be important in a world where career change is the rule.  In this world, the ability to learn new skills, particularly technical skills, will be necessary occupational currency.  And by the way, I am not talking about learning how to master spreadsheets or presentation software.  Think more like picking up calculus as your ticket to your next job.

Hey, don’t run away screaming, okay?  It’s not quite that bad. 🙂  The point is that the old model was to master a single skill set and then put learning on cruise control, only passively absorbing incremental new details.  This is small learning.  The new model is big learning, on a continuous basis, over several career phases, by employees who are always looking for the next challenging skill to master.

For me, the next challenge has been electronics, coding, remote digital control systems, motor control, and open source software development.  These have been the gateway skills for the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and Unmanned Ground Vehicle projects currently taking shape on my workbench.  But it’s also been drum lessons, blogging, screenwriting, acting, scuba diving, photography, etc., etc.  In the past, this type of “unfocused” experimentation has been written of as mid-life crises, a juvenile attempt to re-capture impractical youthful dreams and aspirations. So what if it is, I say?  In the old world, there wasn’t much of a market for forty-somethings with newly acquired gateway skills.  In the new world, it will be absolutely essential to you prove you can jump sideways into a new field and be competitive.

So go out and pick something.  Doesn’t really matter what it is as long as it challenges you, motivates you, inspires you, and educates you.  This is really important or you simply won’t make the time for it.  Don’t be surprised when you run into frequent obstacles, and don’t quit or be discouraged when they come along.  Working through them is the learning, not the stuff that comes easy.

A buddy of mine just posted an article talking about how Amazon is planning to use UAVs to deliver packages.  Maybe I’ll go write a program for mine to meet it at the door and fly it up to my office.

Go learn something hard!


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