Do you know what you’re worth on the labor market?

It has been 9 years since I left my last employer. As a matter of fact I stayed there too long. During 4,5 years I tried to find a useful role I could play and I sought to get recognition for the contribution I wanted to deliver. It didn’t work. I ended up with exhaustion. I made my decision in the spring and finally at the end of September 2009 I left to start my life as a self-employed business owner. Because I stayed at my last job too long without seeing any useful contributions for myself, it totally messed up my confidence. I was convinced I couldn’t do anything and had nothing to offer. Not exactly a powerful starting point to my self-employment journey.

At this moment, 9 years have passed and I’m working with people who don’t know what they’re worth, day in and day out. Or better: if they’re worth anything at all. The labor market has become a turbulent place. A lot is changing, and these changes keep accelerating. More reason to know what you’re able to do, what you’re worth and primarily how to keep your learning ability fresh. It seems to me that this is the main reason why employers doubt hiring ‘older’ candidates. Like me, being 48, for example. It is thought that we are slow and not as flexible when it comes to adjusting and learning. It is crucial to keep learning. But knowing what you’re already capable of doing is just as crucial. Lately I’ve been meeting more and more people who acquire degree after degree. Admirable, brave and maybe a bit much. As long as learning comes from a personal wish for growth it’s a very productive thing. It doesn’t matter what you learn, as long as you’re learning something. But just as often I see people hiding behind the assumption that they need to have another degree before they can enter the labor market.

Digging for gold
Experience is never lost. When your self-confidence has hit a low, it’s perfect timing to make a list of everything you have. We call that, digging for gold. How you do that, you ask? Simple. You take a few pieces of paper. You start from your last job, the one you have right now or did recently. Ask yourself the question: what would I never have been able to known and do if I didn’t have that job? You then continue with your job before that. It’s possible that you stayed with the same employer for a while, but even then your role probably changed quite a bit over the years. There, you ask those same questions: what would I never have been able to known and do if I didn’t have that job? You go all the way back to the first job you ever had, like a student job, or to the time where you were a monitor at a children’s camp. You will be amazed by what you discover!

Do you keep your brain ‘fresh’?
Okay so: training can be useful. Receiving a new certificate every year, might be a bit much. You can totally exhaust yourself doing this. I know people who when they first start their business, spent so much time on getting certified and following training that they barely have any time to actually work for money. That can’t possibly be the point. The other end isn’t great either: no training during the last year. Training can be broad, you can learn almost anything through YouTube or by enrolling in online courses. Do you stretch your brain enough to learn new things? By looking things up, by following online courses, by trying out things yourself, by following internal or external training? If it’s really been too long, then it’s time to take some action. Your capacity to learn diminishes with age, unless you teach your brain to keep making new connections. You do that by stepping outside of your comfort zone and learning new things.

And do you dare to jump?
Keep learning, if that’s something you want to do just for the sake of learning. Learning as an excuse to not take any action seems like an expensive and intensive endeavor. And more importantly it won’t bring you to the place where you want to be: a nicer job in a nicer place. What you should learn, is taking a risk. That’s something you won’t learn in a course, you learn it by doing. So before you enroll in yet another excuse-course: make a list of everything that you already have and go out into the labor market.

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