Q. How do I deal with a younger co-worker who is better at our job than I am? He has much more knowledge about the technical side of our work and I feel worried about my job security.
A. Your co-worker isn't the main issue; the big question is how you cope in an ever-changing work environment.
The inner game
Evaluate the situation and your responses. Your practical concern is job security. What's underneath? Jealousy? Anger? Maybe a sense that you'll be passed over for promotion? Identify your emotions so that they don't pop out in destructive ways.
Be realistic about the relationship, too. You could be allies or adversaries, so think carefully about ways that you could help or hurt each other.
Do an inventory. Assess your technical skills, as well as other characteristics you possess. Your work experience has doubtless given you a valuable set of leadership and interpersonal skills. Think about factors that may be holding you back, and consider ways to address them.
Know what you want. Consider your direction for the next five to 10 years. If you prefer to be a technical expert, then focus on ongoing training and skill development. If you see yourself in a leadership role, you'll design a different plan. In any case, job security -- any type of ongoing success -- will require continuous learning.
Identify your options. Many companies provide funding for training, but also think about how much time and money you're willing to personally invest.
The outer game
Create a learning plan. Find appropriate courses, books, mentors or other options. Consider the practical aspects, too. Advancing your skills requires a commitment of time and energy from you and those around you.
If you plan to take classes at night, be sure that fits with your family responsibilities, or make alternative arrangements. Include study time, too, and work through how it all balances with work and other aspects of your life.
Find support. In addition to the support of your boss and partner, look for others who can provide encouragement and practical assistance. Also, plan how you'll maintain your energy and health as you increase the demands on your time.
Maintain relationships. Starting with this co-worker, be sure that you are building positive working relationships. He could be your boss someday. And even if he isn't, he could be a great resource as you strengthen your skills or move up in leadership.
Watch for the next wave. It's one thing to catch up, and quite another to anticipate and prepare for the next trend. That could leapfrog you into an extremely valuable position.
The last word
Ongoing learning provides great rewards, but it also takes effort. Setting clear goals and making a realistic plan can help lead you to successful outcomes.