Steve Tooze, Special Projects Editor for The Future Laboratory, explained that “technological change, economic turbulence and societal transformation are disrupting old career certainties, making it increasingly difficult to judge which degrees and qualifications will remain a passport to a well-paid and fulfilling job in the decades ahead.”
The research focused in part on graduates making the right decisions about degree subjects that will be sensible to study in order to future proof their careers. However it is not just about graduates predicting what to study, what happens to those already in work? What happens when your career path veers off course because of technological developments or market changes? Everyone should be asking themselves “how do I remain in control and future proof my career?”
Fortunately there are some steps to consider:
- Don’t bury your head in the sand
Make sure you keep your finger on the pulse of what is going on in respect of workplaces and trends. There is no point thinking things will go on unchanged. Better to be prepared and to think about how you can position yourself rather than let events overtake you.
- Get savvy with technology
The technological revolution is picking up apace. From social media through to augmented reality, technology is changing the way we live and work and it will continue to do so. As each new generation enters the workplace they bring with them an inherent understanding, familiarity with and desire to increase digital interactions. As this continues, those who are in older generations run the risk of their skills and experience becoming less relevant. Maintaining awareness about technology is essential, as is pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and engaging in this new ways of using technology to deliver increased business performance.
- Think about the skills economy
Think hard about the skills which are likely to become dominant over the coming years. We’ve already mentioned social media, but there are other trends such as the sustainability agenda, education etc. What can you do to get the skills and become relevant in these areas? And if you are looking for a complete change, it is also worth considering wider careers that are often considered “safe”, for example the type of job that, even though tasks may become more technologically enabled will always need the human touch (at least from what we know today!) such as plumber, hairdresser, medical professionals etc.
- Become an expert
Learning a little bit of everything rather than focusing on something specific may harm your career prospects. No employer is impressed by a ‘jack of all trades, master of none'. By developing an expertise in a particular area, or a specific skill will stand you apart, increase your value and – provided it is a desirable skill – secure your career. It takes focus and dedication to become an expert, with attention to continuous personal or professional development, but will prove beneficial in the future.
- Work differently
The way people work nowadays is fundamentally different to the ‘job for life’ culture of 20 years ago. Starting up your own business, contracting, freelancing and virtual working are all alternatives to a permanent job. The composition of the workforce of the future will encompass many different types of employees, with very varied work patterns, contractual arrangements and locations. Considering how working differently could future proof your career is a sensible move.
- Network, network and network
Building up your network of contacts, forging relationships and engaging with online communities will prove invaluable. Not only will it help with knowledge sharing, which can enhance you career, but future opportunities are increasingly likely to be presented to you from this group of people. You are also likely to hear and see work trends sooner.
- Shake off the comfortable slippers
It is very easy to fall into the routine of only speaking to people who share similar views. Like a comfortable pair of slippers, this attitude allows you to feel at ease and in control. But away from this bubble, the world of work is moving on. It is therefore important to push yourself into new situations with new people who are different to you and perhaps challenge your thinking. That way you will become more knowledgeable, more aware and future proofed.
- Family and friends are important
The increasingly 24/7 nature of our highly connected business environment means that family life can often suffer. When the balance is too skewed towards work it can actually have a negative impact on your career. Spending time not thinking about your work and career has been proven to actually benefit you when you are back in the workplace. Furthermore, the support you gain from close friends and family, as you navigate your career, will often lead you to new insights and increased confidence.
- Make the choices others avoid
The path of least resistance is not going to future proof your career. Sometimes life is about making the difficult decisions. Of course an emotionally driven decision may ultimately be regretted, but learning to listen to your own “inner voice” – the one you supress when its telling you to do something that is not easy, can be one of the best ways to future proof your career. Over time your instincts become honed and although difficult decisions may not get any easier, you start to feel more confident about your ability to make your career choices and business decisions work for you.
- Consume and share knowledge and learning
Of course the world of work is competitive, but that does not mean you should become isolationist. In fact the very opposite is the case. Every opportunity to learn should be taken, any opportunity to undertake new experiences realised. But not only that, it should be a two-way street. Sharing your knowledge and experience widely with others can only benefit you, as it will enhance your reputation and bring more opportunities your way.
The future is of course uncertain, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t take a proactive approach to future proofing your career. No matter what stage you are at, during your career, you will be presented with a number of challenges that must be met. As Tooze himself commented, “in the next decade, a technological revolution, essentially a second industrial revolution, will open up inspiring and exciting new career opportunities in sectors of the economy that are only in their infancy today.”
And whilst it is fair to say that some of the more adventurous job titles may appear futuristic, they are very much symbolic of workplace changes that are already present. Future proofing should be a measured and considered action that people reflect on regularly in order to get ahead and stay ahead.