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Mastercard's CHRO on Why Learning Is The True Currency in Today's Economy

Posted by Julianne Pepitone

Last Updated December 9, 2021

Workplaces have evolved rapidly over the past decade, and the pace of change is only accelerating. Technology has suffused all industries. Four generations of employees are working alongside one another. And relying on what you learned back in college will no longer suffice.

“The speed of change is so quick that if you don’t stay on top, you’ll be left behind,” says Michael Fraccaro, Mastercard’s Chief Human Resources Officer. “Employees need to constantly refresh their skills to stay relevant.”

“Learning is the true currency in today’s economy,” he adds.

Continual learning has fueled Fraccaro since the beginning. He started his career as a high school teacher in his home country of Australia, where he saw firsthand the effect of governmental policies requiring companies to invest a portion of their payroll on employee training. Fraccaro went on to obtain several postgraduate degrees, and he later worked in financial services in Saudi Arabia as well as in several leadership roles at HSBC before joining Mastercard in 2012.

Job seekers should no longer see a job as a “finish line,” Fraccaro says, “but an entry point to a lifetime of continuous learning — which their continued sustained employability will depend on.”

Here’s how to refocus your career goals — and build your own personal “lifetime job charter” — around learning to stay relevant, engaged and highly employable.

Obtain the Three Es: Education, Experience and Exposure

The “three Es” is a Mastercard term, but staffers at any company can work to get education, experience and exposure at the office.

Education. “This is perhaps the most formal way to keep learning and stay relevant,” Fraccaro says: Take advantage of any company education programs, whether it’s tuition reimbursement for advanced degrees or internal career development offerings. At Mastercard, for example, all employees are eligible for the “Degree” program that includes a range of courses for personal and professional development, from presentation skills to reading a profit and loss statement.

Experience. When mapping out your ideal career path, think about the kinds of experiences that will help you continue moving forward. Perhaps you need experience managing a team, or in developing and designing a product. “The specifics depend on your individual goals,” Fraccaro explains. “I wanted international experience, and I couldn’t get that at home in Australia, so that meant seeking overseas opportunities in different markets.”

Exposure. Attend a conference, join an intracompany network or shadow a mentor or boss. “Whichever path you choose to take, this is about getting involved in things outside of your day-to-day responsibilities,” Fraccaro says. “Think about what your career passion is and identify two or three initiatives you can invest time in, without taking away from your responsibilities.” That last point will help you get support from your manager, who is likely to take notice of your ambition.

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Explore Valuable Out-of-Office Opportunities

Learning experiences relevant to your career need not be only within the four walls of the office or the classroom. Becoming the treasurer at your local church can give you financial and operations experience, for example. Community volunteerism may spark interest in corporate social responsibility.

Even travel for pleasure can garner valuable cultural insights, Fraccaro says, but “it’s all about taking the time to assess what’s the value and the payback for your career. You need to actively use your left brain to make those connections.”

Highlight Your Desire to Learn in Your Resume

Employers are focusing less on experience and more on potential, the latter of which is highly dependent on how quickly you can learn, Fraccaro says. Use your resume to highlight examples where you stretched yourself on a project or took the initiative to obtain a certificate — and once you land the interview, be sure to connect that experience back to what you’ve learned.

When Fraccaro interviews applicants, he’s “looking to see how curious they are, how inquisitive when it comes their time to ask me questions. I like to see what they’re involved in outside the office, too, because it tells me how much they invest in themselves and their learning.”

Rebrand Failure as a Learning Experience

From startups to behemoths like Apple and Google, even the biggest success stories include notable failures. Recognize that your career will include some bumps: a difficult coworker, a tone-deaf boss, a project that just didn’t go the way you’d hoped.

But failure can be a powerful way to learn, Fraccaro says.

“Everything is so frantic, so caught up in the day-to-day, that sometimes great lessons can be found in merely stepping away for a while to reflect: ‘What could I be doing differently, or better?’” he adds. “That pause is an important part of the learning process, and people don’t spend enough time on it.”

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Don't Chase Job Titles — Seek Valuable Opportunities

“Quite often we get so tied up in chasing career levels rather than thoughtfully charting our paths in terms of the learning, experience and exposure,” Fraccaro says. “We lose sight of what’s fundamental, which is: ‘What is it that I’m trying to achieve?’”

Fraccaro recommends drawing up your own “lifetime job charter” that identifies what’s fundamental to you personally.

“For me, I wanted jobs that were centered on people, cultures, international considerations and making connections,” Fraccaro says. “When you think about jobs in terms of your own values and what you want to learn, you start to chart a path that’s so much more meaningful than a certain job title.”

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