Would you like to have some form of confidence and certainty among the eddies and currents of constant change in the career market of today?
Personal Disclosure: I am older than a 20 something! And if I’m even more honest, I’m older than a 30 something!! Whoa, Nellie! I told you! In case you were not noticing, the job market of today is not what it was 10 years ago, 5 years ago, or even 2 years ago!
Whether you are a career professional in the Boomer, Gen X, or Gen Y generations, the global economy demands a critical success factor, and that’s called future proofing! I am grateful to some excellent resources on the web about this critical performance development skill. Let’s dive in!
Future Proofing Success Factor: Work for An ‘Academy’ Company
There are many companies who realize that people capital is the most important resource they have. Look for a company such as GE, Toyota, and Mars. They place a premium in making sure that their employees are in a continuous development mode throughout their careers.
What if you are self-employed, or if you are a business owner. Create your own professional development plan! I have been so excited to find sites like MindTools and personalmba.com These sites will help you be proactive in formulating your own personal career plan, so that you are always expanding your professional skills.
“But I don’t have time!” you say. I would say that you cannot afford not to have time. Darren Hardy, publisher of Success Magazine, posted a mind-blowing solution to freeing up the time you need to change the world and to get the critical skills you need to future proof your career.
No excuses!!! 🙂
Future Proofing Success Factor: Get and Remain Tech Savvy
Innovation is the name of the future proofing game. Have you joined the social media revolution? It’s not optional: it’s mandatory, because that’s the future of the recruiting and social networking game. One of the best ways to keep your technical skills current is to read regularly about new digital developments. I recommend Kim Komando, the self-proclaimed American Digital Goddess ;-). I’ve listened to her show, and she has a passionate and infectious way of educating her listeners in all things technology.
I would also recommend checking out any in-house courses at your company or community college courses in technology. Community colleges are on the cutting edge of many business developments, and they are always working with people of every age to help them sharpen and future proof their careers.
Much of the change we see has to do with new technology. We keep finding faster and leaner ways to do things. Force yourself to keep your technical skills current, even if new developments don’t seem directly related to your current job. Otherwise, you’ll get lag behind and may have to catch up a huge amount before you can head off in a new direction in the future. If that means learning the newest online tools like blogging and web conferencing, do it. If you’re in a highly technical field of work, be proactive and stay current – even when your company does not.
Future Proofing Success Factor: Develop Your Competencies, Skills and Experience
In addition to technical skills, critical success skills that all employers are looking for include leadership, communication, innovation, stress management and interpersonal skills
Here are some ways to do this, which I found at MindTools:
- Choose two competencies or skills to improve each year. Monitor and track your progress.
- Develop a five-year learning plan to acquire the knowledge and education you need.
- Develop cross-functional skills. Beyond a certain stage in your career and in uncertain environments, specialization is no longer the route of choice. It can pay off for some; however, it has high risk of obsolescence attached.
You need to think specific for your current job, but you also need to think creatively and broadly for future proofing purposes. What you are doing in your current job and career may become obsolete. “That’s why you see nurses with business skills and technology experts with financial experience. A broad range of competencies, skills and abilities can help you secure a new job or may even open the door to working in a new industry,” as per the MindTools article I am referring to.
Future Proofing Success Factor: “Think Global”
We live in an connected global economy. You will need cultural literacy skills. Here are some ways to future proof yourself to assure yourself a place at the global economy table:
- Learn about working with diverse cultures. You may want to consider checking out free audio programs from the library about different countries, economies, cultures, and customs. Or, make it a habit to watch programs featuring life in cultures different from your own.
- Volunteer to work in another country. A good friend of mine works for a Japanese company based in the United States. He worked for a couple of years in London, England, setting up their first office there. The skills and knowledge he acquired there were probably worth 5-10 years of experience here in the United States, because he learned the skills of doing business in a cross cultural setting.
- Learn a new language. You can use the Rosetta Stone Method to learn Spanish (Rosetta Stone Spanish), French (Rosetta Stone French ), Italian (Rosetta Stone Italian Level 1, 2 & 3 Set with Audio Companion), German (Rosetta Stone German), or whatever language you set your sights on. Or you can take courses at your local community college. Once you have a foundational grasp of the language, consider connecting with a group of native speakers in your area. I live in the Chicago, IL, area, and there is a huge array of language groups represented here. By befriending someone from another language group, you can get a feel for the conversational and cultural aspects of the language.
Future Proofing Success Factor: Create and Maintain A Success Journal
More and more companies use a behavioral interviewing technique, in which they ask you to describe your past track records of accomplishments for your customers and/or employers. Rather than go back and attempt to remember everything you have accomplished, it’s better to keep up an ongoing success journal.
Here are some tips from MindTools along these lines:
- Track your duties, projects and results.
- Keep a list of professional development activities you’ve participated in.
- List the training you’ve completed.
- Note your volunteer work.
- File your performance reviews and the written letters and emails you receive that note your performance.
Also, I am going to recommend that you utilize LinkedIn and Brazen Careerist as two career social networking sites that can help you continue to showcase your relevant skills and accomplishments. By the way, I would love to connect with you at both sites. Here are my LinkedIn and my Brazen Careerist profiles. Please stop by and become a mutual friend 🙂
Future Proofing Success Factor: Build and Maintain a Professional Network
As you well know, companies fill a high percentage of job positions internally, or through someone who the hiring person knows. Your professional network is your safety net, so you would do well to put time and energy into building contacts both inside and outside your organization. (A good resource for learning the ins and outs of networking is Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-how for Business And Career Success, by Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon.). Small business owners who network through chamber of commerce organizations, or business networking groups in their area generate ongoing business for themselves. In the same way, as your own personal company of You, Inc. (whether a business owner, contractor, or employee), you need to put a plan of action into place for building and maintaining these contacts.
Here are some more practical ideas from Mind Tools on this subject:
- Collect business cards.
- Keep track of former bosses and colleagues.
- Join professional networking associations.
- Participate in a range of activities and build relationships beyond your current career or industry.
Future Proofing Success Factor: Scan and Study the Environment
It’s impossible to exactly forecast what is going to happen in your industry, company, etc. However, you can become an observant student, so that you can put yourself to ride the waves of positive trends and forecasts. Here are some more great points from Mind Tools:
- Keep track of business trends by reading a good newspaper and the industry press.
- Complete a PEST analysis for your industry and others you are interested in.
- Analyze the attractiveness of your company using Porter’s Five Forces and USP Analysis.
- Back your hunches and analysis with action. If you think your company or industry is in trouble, it’s best to get out while the going’s good!
Future Proofing Success Factor: Keep Your Career Path Open
You may be fortunate enough to be in a high growth industry or company, but that’s not the norm. Embrace a renaissance mindset. Be willing to chart a new course, even if it is new or uncomfortable. Learn when to take your losses, and be willing to admit to yourself that you may be in a slowing or dead end company or career. Start re-tooling by taking advantage of community college career planning centers or other career planning agencies in your area.
Future Proofing Success Factor: Develop Resilience
- Evaluate and affirm your strengths on a regular basis.
- Develop realistic and achievable goals, monitor your progress and identify what is holding you back.
- Build your flexibility and maintain your enthusiasm despite what is happening around you.
I want to give full credit to MindTools for the article I read to prepare for this post. MindTools is a website that can really help you develop the plan you need to successfully navigate through the rapid currents of career change. I would also like to recommend another great article from Wired Magazine, which introduces the concept of future scenario planning, another way to future proof your career.
I hope that you find these suggestions helpful as your put yourself in the best possible place going forward. This will help you develop a sense of realistic optimism as you face an uncertain future, allowing you to move forward with personal excellence.
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