Why You Need to Future-Proof Your Career (Part 1)

Your job, your career might seem secure at the moment, or even for the next few years. 

But what about the longer term, the next 5, 10 years? Is your job, and your career future-proof? Will your career as it exists now, still be relevant in the future? 

Most people hate to think that far into the future. That’s a problem to worry about later, in 10 years, some would say. 

But by then, it might be too late. 

If in 10 years your job doesn’t exist anymore, and your career has become obsolete, how can you come up with a new career at the eleventh hour?

A better way is to have some foresight. 

No one will be able to predict the future. But we can think of possibilities and scenarios and anticipate some of these.

In any case, future-proofing our careers just a bit will be better than nothing at all. 

Adding a skill, gaining certain experiences, brushing up on knowledge that is becoming increasingly more important, will give you an edge.

 

Many people, especially who work for large corporations see their job as relatively secure. 

After all the company is making profits year after year, the industry is solid, and so my career should be safe here.

But is that the case? 

A company might be profitable and developing fast.

But whether you have a positive outlook within that company will all depend on what you will have to offer in the future. 

In today’s world, changes are happening rapidly. Changes in the economy, the job market, technology, and AI. Hence, career prospects also change over time. 

What used to be a bullet-proof career in the past, might not be in the future.

There is a lot of debate about the ways in which AI and automation will affect the job market. ‘The Robots are coming – The future of jobs in the age of automation’ by Andrés Oppenheimer, provides a lot of insights into this.

But what’s certain is that things will change.

One scenario, the very optimistic one would be that automation and AI will get us to a point of productivity where humans will need to work less for the same pay and can afford to spend more time on leisure activities. In this case, there is no threat of competition.

Another scenario would be, that although automation and AI produce efficiencies for companies and their profits, these are not passed on to their employees. 

What could also happen is, that AI and automation replace certain jobs and make it necessary for employees to shift into higher-skilled jobs. Or jobs that basically cannot be performed by robots.

They either lose their jobs or have to quickly adapt to be able to perform a new role that is in demand, that cannot be performed by a robot (yet).

A major development in AI and automation can have much more far-reaching consequences than a recession. 

During a recession, there may be temporary lay-offs. An accountant who can no longer work at company A because it became bankrupt can move to company B and work there with the exact same skills and experience. 

But what if the job itself no longer exists?

Or what if it continues to exist, but many tasks are performed automatically so that the original job becomes reduced in its scope?

Then in this example, for the accountant, the options are to either accept the job in its new reduced form or move beyond this job. 

This can only be possible if at that time he/she has skills and capabilities that a robot does not have.

And this is what makes the person indispensable. 

As no one knows for sure what will happen, it is prudent to prepare if just a bit. By making efforts to future-proof your career in small ways.

Let’s look at it this way. If you have a mortgage you hope that you will be able to keep paying it until the end. But still, just in case anything happens, you take a mortgage disability insurance.

Is one harness enough?
Is one harness enough?

Future-proofing your career is the same. You don’t know how things will turn out in the future.

But as a precaution, you would want to take out an insurance policy – which is your process of future-proofing. 

Future-proofing your career means keeping your intangible, or productive assets relevant not only to today’s world but also in the future. 

By future-proofing your career, you anticipate the future and minimize the effects of shocks and stresses of future events. 

In ‘The 100-Year Life’, productive assets are defined as ‘those intangibles that support productivity at work and boost income and career prospects’. 

These include the skills and knowledge you’ve acquired over time. 

Ideally, you not only acquire knowledge and a skillset at one point in the past when you last studied in university but constantly expanded and upgraded it. 

If you continue to develop your skills to remain relevant, in line with the changes happening in the world, then you’ll never be stuck. You’ll always be in a competitive position. 

In summary, here are 3 reasons for future-proofing your career

Reason 1: No Jobs are secure

During the time of parents, grandparents, someone could reasonably expect to work for one company for their entire life. 

Job market in the good old times

Coming from such a background, many parents told their children to get a good education and get a ‘stable’ job. 

But nowadays the job market is volatile, there is no such thing as a truly secure job.

A lot of jobs may disappear in the next 10, 20 years. But a lot of new job types will also be created. And these developments might surprise us. 

Of course, there are companies that keep their employees for the long-term. But who wants to be at the mercy of that one company?

Many things related to your job can change. The job might even still exist, but the management, the industry, the way things are done may change.

If things develop in a way you don’t like or you don’t connect with, you’ll be without a choice. You can easily become stuck in a dead-end job.

Except if you have diversified your career. 

Reason 2: Career path outside of the company

You never want to be stuck with the career path provided by your company. 

Granted, companies nowadays offer a lot of interesting and inspiring career paths, and they put a lot of effort and thought into it. And many companies genuinely want the best for their employees’ careers.

However, as long as you are working for a for-profit company, then the company’s primary goal in the majority of cases would still be to achieve their goals, profit goals, shareholder value goals.

Rightfully, because that is the job of the company. 

The problem is only, the career path will be set up in such a way that is oriented toward the company’s goal.

Which is great for the company – but not always great for you.

Corporation's goals and career path to maximize shareholder value and profit

Let’s say you work in Marketing. You started as Assistant Marketing Manager, worked your way up to Marketing Manager and VP of Marketing. 

With this career path, the company ensures that they have adequate roles filled to meet their goals. But this might not match your goals.

Perhaps the reason why you went into marketing in the first place was that you wanted to do something creative. 

But at one point you realized that you can’t exercise your creativity in the way you’ve imagined.

Companies’ career paths are mostly designed for people to move up.

And most people want to move up as fast as possible, at least that is my assumption.

The company will provide all the necessary resources, training, learning tools, mentors to help you move up. If you meet their expectations, then up you go and you get your next promotion.

However, ‘up’ is not the only way.

Perhaps not everyone wants to rapidly move further up within a company?

Perhaps you want to explore a different kind of career path. 

Some people are more interested in developing specialized skills, or varied skills.

Going further up is not the only way.

There is also such a thing as horizontal career mobility.   

Future-proofing your career will open up doors for you to explore different, non-traditional career paths.

Reason 3: To have the flexibility to change careers and build a customized career

This is the continuation of reason 2. For many people, the traditional career path is suitable. But not for all. 

There are certain kinds of people who have multiple interests, which they want to pursue in a professional setting.

They want to have the freedom and flexibility to pursue a different combination of things. Perhaps even define their own niche.

Specific career path and niche

If you want to build a career that is intentional, aligned with your vision, purpose for life, suited to your lifestyle, then you have to consciously invest in yourself.

Invest in yourself by acquiring skills and knowledge, gathering specific experiences that prepare you for the future you want.

Don’t leave your career development to the HR department. 

Don’t make your career progression dependent on that one-hour performance review or development talk that you have quarterly/bi-annually with your line manager and HR manager.

I’m sure they are determined to help and support you in your career. 

But they may not know what your goals are. They might not be able to accommodate your goals within the framework of their company. They might not even possess adequate knowledge. 

And ask yourself at this point: Do you know what your career goals are? 

In any case, career development and getting you the best career is not the company’s, the HR manager’s responsibility – at all. So don’t say ‘That company doesn’t have career development opportunities’

Career development is what you make out of your career beyond the confines of a company. It is supposed to be an overarching concept.

If you want to have a purposeful, fulfilling career, you need to future-proof it. 

Have a strategy, develop your skill and brand.

What kind of career do you want long-term? What future events or developments do you think are likely to happen in your industry or target industry? How might it affect your job and your career? Are there specific developments in the country you live in?

How would you need to invest in yourself so you can pursue the kind of carer that you want?

This way you will never be stuck.

Stay tuned for Part 2: How to Future-Proof Your Career

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