If you have not read Future-Proof Your Career – Part 1, I would encourage you to read it first as it will help you to understand the context of this article.
In part 1, I gave you the background as to why having the right skill sets is the only way to future-proof yourself. In part 2 and 3, I am going to focus on how to equip yourself with the right skill sets – both for present and future.
Building Block 1 – Keep Up-to-date
One of the critical career skill is to keep yourself up-to-date and be disciplined and committed to doing this regularly in a productive manner. We all know this – don’t we? But, just like fitness or exercise, we neglect what we should do (for whatever reason) regularly. Just as lack of exercise will cost our health – not staying in touch with what is going on is going to damage our career. Here, I am going to be emphatic about why this is paramount and forms the foundation of your future-proof efforts.
Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing – Warren Buffett
In order to know what you are doing, you need to first know what you have to do, why you have to do it and how to do it. Staying up-to-date helps you in all these 3 aspects. Let me break it down into the following 4 aspects.
1. Distinguish & Filter the Right Information
You not only need to stay up-to-date but, with the right information. Earlier, people had too little information. But, these days we have too much information and are overwhelmed by it. You must develop your ability to dissect and filter things out.
I consider being Rational as a 22nd Century competency. You can’t get this wrong as much depends on it
The information you filter, test and approve will be the bedrock of all your efforts to future-proof your career.
2. Stay in Tune with the Trends
Keeping a tab on the latest trend is vital. For some functions or industries, the trends are subtle and evolve slowly whereas, for some, it changes at a lightning speed.
Sales, Marketing, IT and HR are changing drastically and I expect this trend to continue as the business needs have outpaced the practices and requirements
If you are in one of these functions, you might want to keep a closer look. Trends are often shaped by current and future requirements and they are a good companion in securing your career. Trends also get established into acceptable business practices while some might fade away.
3. Being Aware of the Changes
Many of us stumble upon our next step and not on the ones further ahead of us. However comfortable you are in your career right now, you need to closely observe the slow/sublime changes.
On a daily basis, I see employees and executives struggle to land their dream role. They had been so focused on their current roles, they forgot to follow the market and equip themselves with the relevant skills. We live in a hyper competitive world. If you don’t work hard, others will overtake you
Banking is a good example – a lot of things are changing in this space and it is difficult to predict how it will evolve. Though traditional banking will still remain (in my view), there will be inevitable changes due to the disruptions brought by start-ups.
Sometimes small changes can also trigger trends or even disruption. Pay attention to them.
4. Separate Hype from Credible Developments
We live in a hyped and populist world. A lot of bubbles are created – be it in business or concepts or people. Get a bit in depth into the areas or topics that concern you and your future. Explore, question and scratch beyond the surface. You can neither be swayed by the hype nor be surprised by the groundbreaking developments that emerge without much fanfare.
Building Block 2 – Follow Influencers, Experts & Leaders in Your Field
This is an interesting thing to do and most of us enjoy it. They act as a bridge between the future requirements and the current practices. By the nature of their roles and interest – they stay on top of their fields and enjoy sharing it with others so that everyone can benefit from it. Often they shape the developments, test them and promote or share. They act as an early warning system.
I always recommend to follow credible people irrespective of whether they are promoted by media or not. Again the ability to distinguish whom to follow and filter out what they say is an invaluable skill
But note, even they might have a blind spot to disruptions lurking round the corner and hence this should be an additional source and not the only one.
Building Block 3 – Create Short, Medium and Long-Term Career Plan
We do not live anymore in a world where we can plan for the next 20 or 30 years. But, we must start with the long-term plan and work it backward. If you do not have a vision or goal, you will be drifting. You can’t succeed in your career if you do not know who you are and what you want to do with your life.
For example, my long-term plan is to be in a Leadership role and be of transformational impact to businesses and people’s lives. What I do currently not only fits into my long-term goal but also into my short and medium term goals.
It is very important to figure out your long-term career plan and stick to it. Most of us do not find it an enjoyable experience to pivot and change the long-term plan every 10 years. It also affects the market perception and your attractiveness to employers. I am an advocate of widening your career foot print and trying different things, but you should do it in a way that does not jeopardize your long term goal.
Having said this, it is critical to keep it flexible. You never know where, when and how your next opportunity will come. This is what makes the career management so difficult. You have a goal but it has to be aligned to the latest developments and insulate you from career disasters. You need to be willing to put up with some momentary setbacks or sacrifices that will deem you well for the future.
Successful people know that there is never a Status Quo or an easy path to success
In the next and final part Future-Proof Your Career – Part 3, we will continue with the other building blocks that you need to have to future-proof your career.