Future-Proof your Career


“It is not the strongest in the species that survives nor the most intelligent that survives.  It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”  Charles Darwin

We live in turbulent times.   Advancements in technology are dramatically changing the nature of our world.  The rapid growth of online shopping, disruption in the taxi and hotel industries created by Uber and Airbnb, the decline in the publishing industry – these are just a few examples the impact of new technologies on our economy and our work.   And the pace will only intensify as we move toward the 4th industrial revolution when advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning will have far reaching ramifications eliminating some jobs, creating new ones and fundamentally changing the nature of how many of us work.

One thing is clear – in today’s world, it’s not just a matter of keeping up, but of staying ahead of the curve.  (Learn more from Deloitte’s extensive research on the future of work.)

So how will these changes impact your career?  How will your work be different in 5 to 10 years?  What steps can you take to prepare? 

Get in the know

This is fundamental.  You can’t prepare for what you don’t know.  In my work I see continual evidence of what happens when people are so preoccupied with the day-to-day that they don’t notice that the ground is shifting around them.

One of the best ways to keep informed is to attend professional and industry events.  These organizations exist to protect the interests of their members, to provide information and education to keep you up to date.

Read industry and trade journals to learn about emerging trends in your field.  Follow thought leaders on social media.  Join the LinkedIn groups to get a sense of the concerns of colleagues in other organizations.

Keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening not just in your own world but beyond.   Build relationships both within and outside of your organization and field.

Connect with people in the know.  Find a mentor who has a grasp of the bigger picture and can keep you abreast of changes that might be coming.

Keep learning

Recognize that the diploma or degree you obtained is now just the price of entrance for launching a career.  Continuous learning is necessary to equip yourself with the skills you’ll need to succeed in the new world of work.  While technological literacy is essential, not all of these skills are technical.  Critical thinking is required to analyse the data generated by these new technologies, creativity is needed to market them and interpersonal and leadership skills are indispensable to manage customer relationships and inspire high performing teams.

The good news:  we have at our fingertips a world of online learning and much of it is free. Online platforms such as Coursera and edX provide courses on a wide variety of subjects taught by some of the best teachers in the world from universities like Wharton and Harvard.   Some of these courses are technical, some address specialized fields like business analytics and others are on topics of enduring importance such as soft skill development and people management.   (Learn more about online learning options from Upwork.)

Of course learning in most areas is greatly enriched by the opportunity for interaction and group discussion.  Research the advanced learning opportunities offered by colleges and universities in your field to learn more about programs that meet your learning needs.

Be ready to change course

Sometimes the winds of change blow so strong that the wisest course of action is to change course.  For some, this can lead to a decision to retrain in an entirely new field.   The key is to do your research and not just assume that just because there is a college or university program in an area, that there will necessarily be a healthy job market at the end of it.

For an increasing number of people, the shift will be to self-employment.  At least a third of the workforce is now freelance, operating as independent consultants and contract workers selling their skills on a project-by-project basis.  This number is only expected to grow as technology enables a very different relationship between employer and worker, and new talent platforms such as Upwork and Freelancer pave the way for workers to compete in a larger and potentially global market.  If you are considering this path, you will need to equip yourself with additional skills in marketing and business management to ensure your success in the world of self-employment.

Whether your future career is radically different, or a continuation of what you’ve been doing but with new tools, one thing is certain.  Your greatest security will come from being open to new possibilities and new learning, and from embracing the mindset of the entrepreneur, poised to adapt and re-invent yourself as circumstances demand.

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