Tomorrow’s young leaders: trainee resilience officers?
As this year’s graduates seek jobs in a volatile world, Philip Monaghan asks if the increasing demands on organisations to demonstrate resilience suggest the rise of a new career path.
Philip Monaghan is a writer and strategist in the fields of economic development and environmental sustainability. He is the author of the acclaimed Sustainability in Austerity (2010) and the forthcoming Hard to Make, Hard to Break: How Local Resilience Creates Sustainable Societies (out February 2012).
Will trainee ‘Resilience Officer’ be the graduate fair job of 2015?
This is the time of year when UK universities send many fresh-faced graduates out into the weird and wonderful world of employment.
Environment related career options are increasingly the norm, ranging from opportunities in environmental consultancy and renewable energy technology to nature conservation. But will these posts best equip the employee and employer with the skills and capabilities that we will need for the UK to be competitive further down the line? Maybe. Maybe not. We should consider what career paths may look like at the Graduate Fairs of 2015 and beyond.
First things first though; let us start with the present day. It is a strange and difficult time to be entering the jobs market. Not just in terms of the scarcity of opportunities in an age of austerity, but also in terms of the new and complex challenges we now face. If in 2007 you were to tell someone that just four years later we would live in a world where banks are nationalised (to bail out a failed economic system) and nature is privatised (to generate new wealth from ecosystem services), at best you would have been laughed at.
A fast changing, complex world is nothing new. But such volatility means anyone interested in sustainable development – in business, public sector or civil society alike – is challenged to ensure their organisation, community or network is resilient to such changes. That is, having the capability to understand the complex systems you live in and to make smart interventions accordingly. So when shocks occur – be they food price hikes or energy blackouts – you are able to bounce back, learn and transform.
So what? This means any organisational development strategy of value should now factor in the need for a new set of skills and management frameworks. Offices must be led by people who thrive in such complex systems; people who are adept at overcoming silos (through charm and through challenge), to work across disciplines and sectors to create shared value. Vice Presidents of CSR, Directors of Environmental Campaigns or Chief Information Officers at BT, RSPB or Leeds City Council may all still be necessary, but no longer sufficient: arise the post of tomorrow – the Chief Resilience Officer – someone as comfortable with strategising or stakeholder engagement as with a balance sheet or a scientific journal. Leading an office whose responsibilities entail ensuring that key leverage points in their organisation’s complex system – across a host of departments and disciplines – are fully utilised in support of its strategy.
So what does this mean for the UK Graduate Fairs of tomorrow? Well, another four years on, and who knows, by 2015 the post of Trainee Resilience Officer may just be many graduates’ dream job.
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