We live in a rapidly changing world
Deciding in which direction to take our careers can often feel like an impossible task. The world is changing rapidly. Technological and social trends are transforming the world of work at unprecedented speed. What skills will I need in the future? Are robots going to take my job? How can I prepare myself for the careers of tomorrow? This article provides four recommendations for how to future proof your career development and prepare for the jobs of tomorrow.
1. Develop your ability to scan the horizon, identify trends and evaluate them
In the past, the speed of change was sufficiently slow that people had time to adapt. Today that pace of change has become almost exponential. Jobs, and the skills needed to do them, are changing within the space of a generation. Many people are being left behind and government’s around the world are struggling to respond. Proactively identifying the trends impacting work, and anticipating future skill needs is one of the best ways to future proof our career development and take advantage of future career opportunities. Recognising the challenge, Singapore, has recently established an agency to help its citizens and companies plan future skills development.
One key capability you should consider developing is Horizon Scanning. Many organisations use it to analyse their competitor landscape and trends and develop scenarios for how their organisations should react. Enhancing our personal horizon scanning capabilities can help us explore how our future might change, and future proof our career development. Whilst it’s services are geared towards organisations, Futures Platform, provides a free trail to its future trends tool. Organisations such as Foresight University also provide useful resources on frameworks like STEEP and PESTLE that can help organisations and individuals scan their horizons.
Whilst speed is clearly important when identifying trends, because the sooner you spot something, the sooner you can react, objectivity evaluating them is also important. For example, is a specific trend a genuine threat to your job, or could it lead to a potential new career path? Don’t let your past experiences cloud your judgement about potential futures – always try and remain objective.
2. Nurture your T or T’s
As a management consultant, I was repeatedly encouraged to think of my skills development like a T. The horizontal part of the T symbolises the breadth of your skills – i.e. knowing a little about lots of things. The vertical part symbolises the depth of your skills – i.e. your specialism. As I argue in my article on portfolio careers, many people are now choosing to develop several skills as verticals – by doing two or even three part-time jobs at once. These people have, through need or choice, decided to develop multiple verticals to their T. In fact, my former boss (well former boss’s boss) has recently spoken about the need to help workers prepare for multiple careers.
One of the best ways to future proof your career is to nurture transferable skills – those that are going to be useful to a wide range of future jobs and careers. Good examples include problem solving skills and interpersonal skills. Depending on our jobs and personal circumstances, career diversification can also be a great way to simultaneously build transferable and specialist skills and help future proof your career.
It’s also worth viewing transferable skills development through the prism of technological development. Many jobs, dominated by repetitive, high frequency tasks are being lost to AI and automation, whilst new jobs are being created in more creative industries. Consequently, one way to future proof your career is to develop those skills that AI or machine learning can’t replicate. It’s also important to stay alert to developments in this field. Computers used to just score credit card applications. Now, with the right algorithms they are grading school homework!
3. Increase your mental resilience to change
While it may sound somewhat obvious, those of us who are more comfortable changing jobs or careers, are going to be better placed to weather successive changes in the world of work. But don’t just consider the skills that are useful to doing this – also think about the mindset and behaviours that can help. Try a identify positive opportunities in every change, rather than jump straight to the negatives.
Practices such as Cognitive Restructuring can help us change the way that we think about negative situations. Mindfulness, while great for helping reduce stress, can also help us reflect on challenging situations. It can also help us react more in a more considered, balanced manner. As a career coach, I regularly help clients develop their mental resilience to challenging feelings and fears, and make better decisions. In fact, developing mental resilience and agility forms a core part of my Career Re-Orientation Programme.
4. Think and act global
Technology is transforming not just the types of jobs, but also how we work. Many more of us regularly work from home than 10 years ago. Some of us (myself included) now provide services and products exclusively online, freeing us from working in a specific geographical location. Depending on your career objectives, consider developing skills that can help market or sell your services to a global audience. Relevant skills might include digital marketing, web design (or configuration) and even a second or third language.
As the world becoming increasingly interconnected, employers are increasingly valuing individuals with multiple-languages and appreciations of different cultures and customs. Many larger firms now offer their employees international secondments. These can provide great opportunities to work in different countries and expand our networks outside of their home country. While such schemes and conferences are the obvious way to meet others, don’t ignore other opportunities to connect with others. An obvious example being through holidays and vacations. And don’t forget to keep your LinkedIn up-to-date!
Be optimistic – our capacity to anticipate change has never been greater
While its true the world of changing rapidly, we should be optimistic. Consider the telephone operators of the 1920’s and 30’s. They weren’t aware of an imminent technological advance – automated telephone exchanges. As a result, they didn’t see the end of their occupations coming. But thanks to the internet, our access to information about trends and their possible implications has never been greater.
In conclusion, the tools to equip ourselves for change and future proof our careers are at everyones’ fingertips. Our greatest challenges are knowing where to look and how to make the right choices. Equip yourself to be alert to emerging trends, forward-looking, and ready and willing to change, and you can reduce the risk of redundancy or finding yourself in a dead-end job. In addition, you will be better placed to take advantage of future career-related opportunities, and lead a more fulfilling life as a result.
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