Future proofing your career

17 May 2018

Michelle Gibbings

Michelle is a workplace expert and author of three books. Her latest book is 'Bad Boss: What to do if you work for one, manage one or are one’. For more information, click here.

Technological change is creating a seismic shift in the workplace - making us more mobile, workplaces more flexible, and impacting the roles that exist now and into the future.

Technology as a catalyst for change isn’t new.

The difference today is the rapid pace of change and its breadth. Society is approaching a crunch point, with the World Economic Forum dubbing this period of history as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which involves a fusion of technologies that’s blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological.

This is where robotics, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, machine learning, genetics and biotechnology are coming together to create totally new environments.

It’s easy to focus on the negative aspects from this change and the dire warnings that nearly half of all jobs in Australia are at risk from computerisation and automation.

It’s impossible to future proof your job, but you can future proof your career.

Future proof your career

The term ‘future proof’ is often used in the technology and medical sectors, where it’s desirable to build products that retain their value and don’t quickly become obsolete.

It equally applies to your career. If you want to have a long-lasting and interesting career, you need to know how to future proof it.

The work we provide is a service, and a service, just like products on the supermarket shelves, over time become obsolete and get replaced by something else. Something that’s bigger, better, brighter and more innovative.

As Salim Ismail, the author of Exponential Organizations and an expert in helping organisations leverage technology and strategy to grow faster, says:

“Today, if you’re not disrupting yourself, someone else is; your fate is to be either the disrupter or the disrupted. There is no middle ground.”

Now, more than ever, you need to be comfortable designing and orchestrating your own career path. You need to find roles that work for you, and in some cases, you have to just create your own. You must be ready and equipped to embrace change at any moment.

Thriving in this environment means you need to be planned and always thinking ahead.

Get future focused

Take time to actively plan your career by setting aside time to reflect on the goals you want to achieve, progress you’ve made and identify key next steps.

This includes elevating your awareness of what is happening around you, in terms of how your role, profession, industry and sector is changing. The majority of the workforce will be impacted by automation and artificial intelligence, and you want to be ready for this.

Also, look at developments in other industries that may impact you. This helps to widen your view about what’s possible for your next career steps.

Know your personal commitments

Your career is one part of your whole life, and the choices you make are influenced by the other elements of your life. Get clear on those commitments and know what is most important to you.

Life is often a series of trade-offs and when you know what matters most, it becomes easier to prioritise and focus your attention.

Learn constantly

Don’t wait for the organisation you work for to develop you. Successful people know that learning is crucial to future career success and are constantly seeking out new ideas and ways to stretch themselves.

This includes taking the time to understand themselves and to develop their emotional intelligence, which in many roles is more important than technical skills.

Ready your financial position

Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does buy freedom.

Having a sense of financial freedom doesn’t mean you are a multi-millionaire. It means you have enough money in the bank that you are not tied to one location, one job, one occupation. Freedom gives you power when you negotiate. It gives you options when you are seeking to future proof your career.

This money in the bank is what I commonly call ‘F#@k You’ money. It’s the money that is enough to give you wriggle room, and the comfort to know you are not tied to a job. It’s not enough to retire on, but it’s enough to provide you with at least three to six months of reserve in the bank if you want to walk away from your job or if something happens.

It’s true that everyone’s circumstances are unique and there are many people who struggle to make ends meet. But there are also lots of people who spend money on things that are not essential, and this choice can limit their career options.

Having a cash reserve is about making conscious choices – having the occasional treat, but not at the expense of your wellbeing and financial security.

Get connected

Build a profile where you are known for something and are respected, and have a network of people willing to back you and advocate for you.

That means you need to spend time thinking more about what you can do for others than what they can do for you. The more you proactively help others, the more they will want to help you.

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