I have just read Lionel Shriver’s The Mandibles 2029-2047, about a family struggling to adapt to a catastrophic US economic meltdown in the future. It is imaginative… and pretty depressing. Hopefully none of us will face the same predicament, but it does make you wonder how best to plan for the future when the only certainty is change. Almost every career coaching client of mine wants to work for Apple, Facebook, Google or Amazon. These companies are relatively young and in 10 years time the most compelling companies will be different again. So how can we shape our careers when we don’t know what the future is going to hold?
Here are 10 ideas to help future-proof your career:
- Remember That No One Will Ever Care About Your Career As Much As You. Sure, your manager and your company can help, but it is not their responsibility. When we wait for someone else to do something than we handover our responsibility. When you retain control you always have a choice.
- Focus On The Company of Me. The focus used to be on who you worked for and what that said about you. However, few of us will work for the same company forever and most of us will move on after a few years. You need to think of yourself as the company – the ‘Company of Me’ – and decide what you want to stand for, cultivating your skills, and your results. If you were to create a website for ‘Company of Me’ what would it offer? What would you want the company to be famous for?
- Ask Yourself: What’s Your Story? For people to believe in the ‘Company of Me’, you need to understand how to effectively tell your story. How can you connect the often disparate dots, and pull them together to create a unique and logical story? Can you describe your career in 8 sentences that hook people in?
- Think Skills, Not Job Titles. I have long thought job titles are meaningless; what matters is skills and impact. What are the skills and experience that you will need in the future? In every role there are opportunities to develop skills and experience. Chase these opportunities rather than job titles.
- Become Obsessive About Learning And Practice. People will buy deep (and also unique) expertise; experts will be consistently employable. This is about practice, and doing things again and again. If you have developed a successful marketing plan for a new product, have you been able to repeat that success? Perhaps in a different country or market? Doing it once does not give you enough opportunity to practice. I still do a minimum of 10 days personal training a year. How can you all develop learning plans?
- Mash Up Your Skills. We have talked about skills and expertise, but where it gets really interesting is where your skills intersect. ‘Mashing up’ skill sets will be what makes you unique. I have a client who is an ex lawyer, and an expert in entertainment and technology: that ‘skill mash-up’ is rare and is why he is always in demand.
- Build Relationships Not Links. This is perhaps obvious, but we are getting worse at building relationships. Digital has allowed us to have many links and connections but these are not relationships. It is solid relationships that will build your future career success. Relationships are built around trust. Trust comes when actions match words. This requires a strategy that is consistently applied – it’s hard work. If you have worked in the same company for more than 10 years then this may be doubly difficult, because your pool is smaller, which makes it harder if you step out of that company.
- Be A Creative Collaborator. Strong relationships are not only helpful for finding work, but also for helping you to collaborate creatively. Solutions are becoming more complex, and being able to connect with a disparate group of collaborators will form far richer solutions.
- Find The Right Mentor. We need to redefine the word ‘mentor’. Often it is assumed that a mentor must be someone more senior than you are. However, mentoring is as much about finding different thinking, insights and perspectives as tapping into experience. If you are 40 years old, a 22-year-old mentor would provide insight that your peers can’t. We need to stay hungry for perspective and that can come in many different forms.
- Remember That Leaving Is Never Goodbye. Thinking about leaving a job on good terms is important, because the world is far smaller than it ever was… and people from your past may well impact heavily on your future. Headhunters and recruiters all play a role in finding you your next job and often your connections can really help unlock what you do next. Time and time again, my clients land fantastic roles through their contacts.
Your future career is created by what you do today, and taking some proactive steps can pave the way for a successful future.
If you are interested in finding out more, please do get in touch at:
Jenny Williams, Career Coach @jenfi