We are living in challenging times. There is an imbalance of resources, opportunity, and reward in the marketplace. For every job available, there are 4 or 5 applicants. For every college graduate, unemployment is 5% -- still far lower for the college-educated than for high school graduates (10%) and those without high school diplomas (15.7%). In each of these categories, African Americans are disproportionately impacted.
Entrepreneurship is also becoming a high priority option for many who have been displaced. Depending where you fit on this spectrum, the difference in reaching your goals is how well you understand your value.
Competition, economic factors and changes in technology can all affect the market and impact your success if you don't practice constant vigilance. Whether you are a professional, blue collar worker, or small business owner, assessing your market value becomes something more personal -- you must evaluate your own worth within your field. You must compare your knowledge, skills and experience to your competitors to see where you stack up. It can be a humbling experience to perceive yourself as your customers see you, but it is vitally important to the success of your business.
There are three factors that make up the value equation in the marketplace today -- Knowledge, Education and Skills.
- Knowledge -- I
often hear the expression, "it is not what you know but who you know that is
important." While still important, that is an old cliche' isn't as important in
the innovation economy that we are experiencing today.
Relationships are vitally important, but your "knowledge" is a blend of your experiences, training and all of what you have learned from your successes and failures. You must assess all of these factors to understand the value of your knowledge. The value of your knowledge -- whether it is who you know or what you know -- is measured in your ability to use that knowledge to affect positive outcomes.
- Education -- As
indicated above, education is the baseline value for everything you do --
whether you are a professional, Blue collar worker, or entrepreneur. What is
more important, however, is that you commit to being a "lifetime learner." That
is how your value becomes greater over time.
I often said to my children that a college education is where you "learn how to learn" within a specific discipline -- how to do critical analysis, how to make decisions, how to solve complex problems, how to present your ideas verbally and in writing, and how to work with other people. Your educational foundation helps you to continually learn how to do all of these things better.
- Skills -- The rubber meets the road when we have to "perform in the marketplace." That is where your skills are honed. It is critical that we perform at our highest level -- every day -- and take advantage of every opportunity to acquire new skills. The ability to apply your skills across a range of business activities adds up to real value that is rewarded with success as an employee, manager, or entrepreneur.
To succeed in this current environment you must frequently analyze your knowledge, education and skills to determine your value in the business community you serve -- whether your market is global or based in your own home town.
We are living in the Innovation Economy that rewards thought leaders and those who make a measurable difference by developing innovative solutions to the problems we face. This new environment rewards those who take the initiative to self-select themselves for success. There are no handouts. Affirmative action is over. But institutional barriers remain.
These barriers must be conquered by a new cohort of African American self-starters whose value -- based on education, knowledge and skill -- is their competitive advantage.
Roger Madison, CEO
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