The modern working world is changing at a rapid pace, across every industry. With constant changes in technology and the way we operate in business, it is vital for individuals to update their thinking frequently in order to keep up.
There are numerous studies indicating that lifelong learning, developing new and improved skills at every opportunity, is crucial to remaining relevant and surviving the modern working world.
According to the World Economic Forum, it is estimated that up to 65% of children entering primary school today will end up in jobs that do not yet exist. In fact, many jobs today did not exist a decade ago (think of app developers, data scientists, cloud computing specialists, and other now in-demand roles).
When Judiet Barnes started out in the tourism industry, working in the marketing department of Cape Point, social media was still a new creation on the market. At the time, there was no training available in social media strategy. There were no dedicated social media managers. There was no handbook on engagement or how to use such platforms to the advantage of your business.
“A great deal of my training in the tourism industry has been on the job, especially in my time working at Cape Point. There was a lot to figure out in the early days of social media. We talked to industry peers to find out how they were doing things,” explains Barnes, who at the time was tackling the mammoth task of figuring out how to use marketing to get a million people through the gates of Cape Point ‒ a feat that was later accomplished.
Barnes, who is now Thebe Tourism Group Marketing Manager and Kruger Shalati General Manager, says this was the start of what sparked her passion for lifelong learning and for embracing whatever tools she could to continue her education and stay on top of everything new and current in her industry.
She believes that it is crucial to continually improve yourself to stay top of your career ‒ whether in tourism, or in any other industry. There are many ways to achieve this. Peer to peer training, as she experienced in the early days of social media, is just one pool of knowledge worth tapping into.
It’s also hugely beneficial to have mentors at different levels (people whom you find inspiring with a range of different skills that you can learn from), to attend workshops and listen to talks by industry leaders (whether in person or online), to network whenever possible whether online or at events and, of course, to grab opportunities to achieve formal qualifications.
“Always attach yourself to the people you can gain knowledge from and then make it your business to learn and to understand. It is important to continue learning because things, and people, constantly evolve and change. In the tourism industry, for example, things look very different now compared to a decade ago,” says Barnes.
“You have to stay abreast of developments and continually ensure you are clued up on current industry trends and how things are running. Courses and other training help you to stay on top of all that.”
Thebe Tourism Group is known for grooming young talent and building them to head up its divisions. In her roles within the company, Barnes feels strongly about passing on her learnings to junior team members and interns.
“Generations passing on what they've learned in their experience is incredibly important,” she adds.
Likewise, it is up to individuals to seek out opportunities and courses where they can learn something different or learn how to do things differently.
“There are so many learning opportunities available, you just need to keep your eyes open. Even if a course is offered around a different industry, there may be elements that are relevant to you,” she says.
“You might attend trade show events where talks around a topic are summarised in an hour, but that could spark one thing for you that helps you assess how you do things. It’s all valuable.”
Success can be found through a blend of hands-on experience in an industry, and the benefits gained from lifelong learning. This, Barnes concludes, is how to stay relevant and get ahead.