Each generation experiences innovation. The average career spans four or five decades, making it inevitable that everyone will face a new technology that will revolutionize their industry. Sometimes people get lucky and can retire before the technology changes their job, but for someone mid-career, an innovation could push them out of their job. When new technology changes your industry, how can you future-proof your career?
The World Economic Forum has released the 2023 “Future of Jobs Report”, and this is a great place to start when thinking about how to future-proof your career. You can gain insights into the skills and competencies that will be in high demand in the coming years. A few things stood out to me in this year’s report:
- Over 85% of organizations surveyed identify increased adoption of new and frontier technologies and broadening digital access as the trends most likely to drive transformation in their organization.
- Businesses predict the strongest net job-creation effect to be driven by investments that facilitate the green transition of businesses, the broader application of ESG standards, and supply chains becoming more localized, albeit with job growth offset by partial job displacement in each case.
- Within technology adoption, big data, cloud computing, and AI feature highly on likelihood of adoption. More than 75% of companies are looking to adopt these technologies in the next five years.
- Analytical thinking and creative thinking remain the most important skills for workers in 2023.
With this report in mind, here are the five most important things you can do to future-proof your career:
1. Become a Lifelong Learner
“Never stop learning,” was a piece of advice I gained early on in my career and that’s why I’ve started the list with it. This doesn’t mean you have to get an advanced degree or go back to school. But you do need to prioritize learning new skills. You can do this by reading books, taking a Masterclass, getting online certifications in your industry, watching how-to videos on YouTube, learning a language, etc. In thinking about your career, use LinkedIn to find the top performers in your industry or in your type of job and see what skills and certifications they have on their resumes. Is there anything that might apply to you?
Start by setting a specific goal, like reading one new industry article each week, or reading a management book every month, and hold yourself accountable. You might even include learning on your annual goals and make it part of your review – this could include going to a conference or getting an industry certification – bonus points if you can get your company to sponsor you. This helps you stay updated on the latest industry trends and bring new ideas back to your team.
2. Keep Up with the Latest Technology
This one can be challenging for us all. You might feel like the 24-year-old down the hall is running circles around you with the new software that was rolled out, but you can do it, too! If you need help, offer to mentor someone younger than you and while you offer career advice, they can offer you the best tips and technological tricks. This is where support tutorials and YouTube videos can be your friend – there is a video for EVERYTHING!
Consider becoming an early adopter of new technology. When something new gets released – log on and check it out. Threads recently rolled out – have you logged on and tested it out? Even if it’s not your cup of tea, just checking it out and having the insight can open you up to new conversations and make people think about you differently. For example, you might always do your budget using an Excel spreadsheet – but find out what the 20-year-olds are using to budget – maybe it’s an app. Download it and try it out. Practice being adaptable and open to change. In the workplace, this might be embracing Slack or becoming the Microsoft Teams expert. Don’t let your company rely on the youngest person to spearhead these projects.
3. Build and Maintain Your Network
We tend to be better about networking early on in our careers and then life happens, and we push it to the bottom of our list. Having a strong network is a great way to future-proof your career and keep your name top of mind in the industry. Maintaining your network is easier now than ever before with LinkedIn. Here’s how to start cultivating your network online:
- Engage with their content – Identify your desired connection and start engaging with their content. If they’re posting on LinkedIn, make sure you are periodically liking and commenting on their posts. They will start to get familiar with your name.
- Send a personalized connection request – Do more than just “Connect.” Send a personalized note that explains why you want to connect with them or how you know them. You can also look for commonalities such as colleges or organizations.
- Follow up on your connection – Once you are connected, send a follow-up message. This could be sharing what you have in common or what you’re hoping to gain from the connection.
- Take your connection offline – When you’ve developed a rapport, try to move the relationship to an in-person meeting. This could be attending a networking event together, grabbing coffee, or if they’re not local connecting for a happy hour on Zoom.
- Offer assistance – Is there someone you can connect them with or help them with? This could be sharing information or even endorsing them on their page. Part of every good relationship is the ability to ask and give – this is how you build and use your network.
4. Improve Your Soft Skills
What’s your leadership style? How are you as a manager? Are you an organized and efficient employee? Or are you more visionary and creative? All these soft skills can be developed and improved on. Most people get promoted to management because they are great at their job and have to learn how to be good managers. Why not take that to the next level and really dive into your leadership role? One of my favorite management resources is Radical Candor, which is a book, podcast, and leadership style developed by Kim Scott.
List your strengths and weaknesses and look at how you can improve upon some of those weaknesses. If you’re not great at following up – get a book about workplace organization or master a tool like Asana, ToDoist, or Evernote to keep track of all your tasks and follow-up items.
Consider how you’re being perceived in the workplace – do you have connections at the office? If you’re in a remote workplace, you might have to work a little harder to build those relationships. Think about a time when you received feedback from a boss or a team member…how did you take it? Being adaptable to criticism and keeping an open mind is key to career longevity. This obviously doesn’t apply to everything, but you don’t want to get the reputation of the old curmudgeon who is set in their ways or the micro-manager who doesn’t let anyone get ahead.
5. Develop Your Personal Brand
If you’ve ever been to a networking event and introduced yourself as (name) from (company), it might be time to develop your personal brand. Think about what would happen if you were known for your accolades versus the company you work for. This frequently happens when your identity is tied to your company. It can be devastating if you change jobs, lose jobs, or take time away. Developing your personal brand is essential to future-proof your career. You don’t only want to be known for the company you work for but for what you bring to your industry.
Start by determining what you want to be known for. Do you have a specific expertise or a skill that you can highlight? Consider what people might seek you out for in your industry. Use this to start building your story – what is your career message? Is it educational or inspiring?
Get active on your social media channels. Start sharing industry news on LinkedIn with your opinion. Consider starting an industry newsletter, blog, or podcast. This doesn’t have to be company-supported (and probably shouldn’t be) but is a way you can make a name for yourself. Assess opportunities in your industry and apply. This could be for awards, speaking engagements, or writing opportunities. Your company won’t always do this for you, so it’s up to you to do the leg work. These are accomplishments that you own and can share on your social networks no matter what company you work for.
If you are worried that your career path might be in jeopardy or that you are getting pushed out of your industry, these five things can help you future-proof your career. These are also the types of things we address in my Crossroads Group Coaching program, and I work with clients one-on-one. If you’re interested in improving any of these skills let me know!