Adapt, be flexible and future-proof your career
The landscape of work is changing all the time. New industries are being created while others are becoming obsolete. Things that were new and innovative just a year ago are now obsolete and being replaced. In this day and age, flexibility and an acceptance of change are of utmost importance. With this in mind, there are several things you can do to future-proof your career and ensure you’re able to adapt when necessary.
Keep learning – study never gets old
Alec Ross is a former presidential aide who has written a book called ‘The Industries of the Future’. Our attitude to education is changing. The most important change of all, according to Ross is; “If you think your education stops the day you leave university you are wrong,” he declares. “It used to be the case when you left university you had sufficient formal education to sustain yourself in the workplace for 30 years. That’s absolutely not true any longer. The pace of change is such that what you have to do is be in a constant cycle of both formal and informal learning.”
An important aspect of this is Continuing Professional Development (CPD). It exists to ensure that an individual enhances their skills and abilities once they have formally qualified. Typically, academic qualifications have already been completed at this stage and an individual is now working within their specific industry and job function. CPD is important as it helps to ensure that further learning is progressed in a structured, practical and relevant way to guarantee that there are applied efficiencies in learning. CPD allows an individual to focus on what specific skills and knowledge they require over a short-term period, say 12 months, in order to be confident there is recognisable improvement within their proficiency and skill sets.
Broaden your horizons – literally
Ross advises travel as a strategic tool to help future-proof your career. “If you are at the start of your career or have just left university then get as many old-fashioned ink stamps in your passport as possible,”. But he’s thinking emerging economies rather than the gap-year standards. “Because as important as the question of what you do is the question of where you do it. There are many countries that are going to see fascinating expansions of their economy and you can be a part of that growth.”
Don’t be myopic
Remember, your industry and its imperatives are not the entire universe. There are other priorities, other exigencies that can directly or indirectly affect your career. “It’s very important to understand things that are scientific and technological. However, to be a leader in the future industries you will need to combine it with skills that we associate with the humanities, from communication skills and emotional intelligence to an understanding of things like behavioural psychology and economics.” Ross cites Mark Zuckerberg as the best example of this. “People think of Facebook as being the product of a brilliant computer scientist, but Facebook is as much a product of his expertise in behavioural psychology as it is computer science.”
Keep Your Options Open
Review your options for career progression and be proactive about responding to a lack of opportunities, even if it means changing your job, or your career.
You may be fortunate enough to work for an organisation where there is a clear and attractive career path ahead of you but, for many people, this will not be the case.
This may not be a problem if you are in a fast-growth industry, where opportunities appear frequently. But, if you are in a slow-growth or declining industry, there may be no onward career path and your development may be blocked, however hard you work. Moving into a new direction can be difficult, but with a well-written resume that frames your skill-sets in a broader landscape, you will find it possible future-proof your career and to branch into a new direction.