9 Ways to Future Proof Your Career
Staying Relevant for Tomorrow's World
What will your job look like five years from now? Will it even exist in five, 10 or 20 years? And what will happen to the organization and industry you work for?
We don't know what the future holds, but we do know that we live in changing, turbulent times. This means that your job description could be very different – or even irrelevant – in the years to come.
If your skillset or experience fall "behind the times," you may struggle to find work or gain promotion. But there are strategies that you can put in place now to ensure that you don't hit a career "dead end."
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In this article, you can explore nine strategies for future proofing your career.
How to Future Proof Your Career
Before exploring the nine strategies, it's worth considering your own mindset. You will likely give yourself more chance of success if you can develop a growth mindset.
In other words, you should believe that, with effort, perseverance and drive, you can overcome obstacles and develop your skills, and take responsibility for your own success.
1. Find an "Academy" Organization
Whether you're starting out in your career or have an opportunity to change direction midway, apply for roles at companies that invest in their people's development. Telecoms company AT&T®, HR services provider Randstad®, and hotel chain Marriott International®, for example, are among those known for the quality of their training and development programs.
When you work for organizations like these, you'll more likely fulfill your potential. You'll be enrolled in continuous development programs that go beyond the technical skills you need for your current role.
2. Remain Tech-Savvy
Push yourself to keep your technical skills current, even if new developments don't seem directly related to your current job. Otherwise, you may need to catch up a huge amount before you can head off in a new direction in the future.
If that means becoming familiar with coding, virtual whiteboards, wearable technology, or AI, do it. And if you're in a highly technical field of work, be proactive and stay current – even if your company does not.
3. Develop Skills to Carry With You
Continue your professional development by learning the transferable skills that all employers seek. Skills such as leadership, communication, innovation, and stress management, for example, are core competencies in the jobs of today and tomorrow.
Developing a broad range of competencies, skills and abilities can help you to secure a new job or open the door to working in a new industry. That's why you might see, for example, a nurse with business skills, and a web designer with financial experience.
Here are some ways to do this:
- Use the tips in our Personal Goal Setting article to set development goals for yourself.
- Choose two competencies or skills to improve each year. Monitor and track your progress (apps like Strides and Lifetick can be useful here).
- Develop a five-year personal learning plan to acquire the knowledge and education you need.
- Develop broad cross-functional skills. Beyond a certain stage in your career, and in uncertain environments, specialization can pay off, but you run a high risk of your skills and knowledge becoming outdated.
4. Think Globally
Look beyond your local business community, find out about your sector in other territories, and open your mind to new attitudes and techniques.
Businesses operate more globally – and are more culturally diverse – than ever before, and chances are that your co-workers, clients and stakeholders work throughout the world. The more experience you can get of working with them, the more confident you'll be. This will make you more attractive to employers of the future.
You could develop your ability to work globally by learning about working with diverse cultures, by asking for assignments that require international exposure or connections, and by learning another language.
5. Keep a "Success Journal"
Keep a record of what you do well, the accolades that you've received, and the results that you've been responsible for. Employers want to know what you'll do for them, and it's easier to recall your successes and strengths when you have an accurate, up-to-date list to hand.
The time to do this is now – not while you're applying for a promotion or about to switch roles.
Start by tracking your duties, projects and results, and listing the professional development activities that you've participated in. List any training that you've completed, note any volunteer work, and file appraisals and emails that mention your performance.
Use this success journal to continually record your strengths and successes, and to affirm your qualities. We all need to boost our confidence and self-esteem at times.
Having an objective list of strengths and accomplishments, and a positive reputation, can boost your motivation and belief in your abilities. It's also a great way to overcome impostor syndrome and to prove to yourself that you can do it!
6. Build Your Professional Network
Develop relationships or build new connections with people within and outside of your organization.
These people can be an invaluable support as the landscape of work changes, bringing you with them as they weather the changes, and providing opportunities when your position looks uncertain. You'll have the bonus of learning new skills, technologies and strategies that will help you to move your career in the direction you want.
Also, join online forums and professional networking associations such as YEC, Ryze and WEBS, and participate in a range of industry events and activities. Remember to develop relationships beyond your current career or industry, too.
7. Scan the Environment
Follow changes and trends in your profession, your industry, and the wider economy. Keep yourself informed, and aim to work in industries and for employers that have a positive outlook and long-term sustainability.
Consuming quality news and your industry press will keep you up to date with business trends. Completing a PEST analysis for your industry (and for any others that you're interested in) will help you to get a grip on the political, economic, social, and technological changes shaping its environment.
You could also analyze your organization's attractiveness using Porter's Five Forces and USP Analysis, and back your hunches and analysis with action. For example, if your analysis suggests that your company is not in a strong position to withstand potential changes, think about what you can do to help to make it more resilient.
Overall, it's wise to avoid industries and organizations that are on a downward slide, because you'll eventually have to leave. It is better to prepare now.
8. Keep a Clear and Open Career Path
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 organization where there's 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're in a fast-growth industry, where opportunities appear frequently. But, if you're in a slow-growth or declining industry, there may be no onward career path and your development may be blocked, however hard you work. This can lead to frustration, boredom and failure to achieve your potential, and you may choose to try an alternative path.
You can find tips about keeping open a clear career path in our article, Managing Your Career.
Remember, it's important to deliver on your existing job description, but don't be limited by it. Our article, Job Crafting, explores how you can change aspects of your current role to suit you better, and to the benefit of your team or organization.
9. Develop Resilience
Cultivate your ability to weather disappointment and turbulence. The future is uncertain and you'll likely encounter setbacks no matter how much you prepare and plan.
The most successful people have resilience. They work with purpose, bounce back from setbacks, and look at mistakes as learning experiences.
To learn more about resiliency, listen to our Expert Interview with Cal Crow.
Pick and choose from these strategies as circumstances change, but refer to them often. Each time, take an inventory of what you could be doing differently from, or in addition to, what you're doing now.
These strategies can be useful throughout your working life. They'll help you to keep your skills current and your opportunities open. All have elements of risk management and career planning, and you need to become skilled at both to future proof your career.
Finally, bear in mind that the future is just as likely to bring opportunites and positive developments, as it is to bring disruption and uncertainty. By taking steps today to future proof your career, you can look to the horizon with optimism and excitement!
While your job description may not be relevant in the future, you can ensure the skills that you bring to the table are. With forethought and planning, you can take control of your future career today.
Strategies for future proofing your career include:
- Joining an "academy" organization.
- Staying tech-savvy.
- Developing your skills, competencies and experience.
- Being a "global" worker.
- Keeping a "success journal."
- Developing a professional network.
- Following profession, industry and economy trends.
- Reviewing your options for career progression.
- Building your resilience.
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