The way we work, the skills we need, and the demands of employers are all shifting at a dizzying pace. In this ever-evolving landscape, those who adapt will not just survive; they will thrive.
In this article, I explore strategies for future-proofing your career, based on this video by Michelle R. Weise. In addition to expanding on her tips, I’ve also incorporated my own thoughts and experiences. Michelle Weise is a coach, organizational advisor, and author of the book: ‘Long-Life Learning: Preparing for Jobs that Don’t Even Exist Yet’.
Strategies to future-proof your career
In her short TED video (~4 mins), Weise offers four practical tips that you can use to future proof your career. Discover those valuable soft skills and effective strategies you can leverage as you advance in your career. Do watch –
1. Highlight your human skills
In this world of ever-evolving technology, it’s easy to get caught up in the latest digital trends and forget the timeless value of human skills. Skills such as attention to details, empathy, effective communication abilities are like the Swiss army knife of the job market. They’re not tied to a specific industry or role, and that’s their beauty. Think about it – your knack for attention to detail doesn’t just apply to proofreading documents; it can be a game-changer in project management, quality control, or even customer service. So, these skills are highly transferable.
2. Become a skills translator
Ever been in a conversation where you felt like the other person was using too much of a jargon? It’s a common scenario in the professional world, especially when switching jobs or working with cross-functional teams. Becoming a “skills translator” can be your secret weapon.
This ability to speak your prospective employer’s or client’s language not only helps you bridge gaps but also shows your versatility. This is something that I often struggle with. You need to use the language (or lingo, if needed) of your listener to be effective.
3. Find data in discomfort
Staying in your comfort zone can feel cozy, but it won’t help you adapt to the ever-changing job market. Instead of shying away from discomfort, look for data in it. What does that mean? Well, it’s about recognizing those moments when you feel challenged or out of your depth.
When discomfort signals appear, they indicate your learning needs as well. Whether it’s tackling a new technology or a daunting skill – like, marketing or selling in my case. These moments present opportunities for skill acquisition. Consider if you’re willing to invest the time and effort necessary to acquire these skills, or if you’d rather focus on roles that align with your current strengths. Personality plays a role too, but we’ll explore that later in this article.
4. Get picky
When choosing your next assignment, don’t just settle for a paycheck. Look for a company that has plans for employee growth. That means they invest in training, offer opportunities for advancement in line with your personal aspirations.
Being picky might sound a bit idealistic, but it’s a critical step in future-proofing your career. Find an employer who not only benefits from your skills but also actively nurtures them. Your career path should be a two-way street, benefiting both you and your employer.
5. Embracing your personality
This isn’t a suggestion from Michelle Weise, but stems from my personal experiences and interactions with numerous friends, colleagues, and clients.
In the pursuit of future-proofing your career, we often emphasize acquiring new skills and venturing out of our comfort zones. However, there’s another critical factor at play – your personality. While skills are something you can learn, your inherent personality traits tend to be more resistant to change.
Consider an introvert suddenly thrust into a role demanding constant social interaction or an extrovert confined behind a computer screen. Such scenarios often lead to burnout and dissatisfaction. While adaptation is possible to some extent, it can be emotionally draining and may not provide the most fulfilling path in the long run. In fact, I’ve observed that individuals tend to gravitate back to their natural preferences as their careers progress.
For example, even though I enjoy collaborating with people from diverse cultures, I don’t particularly enjoy managing others. So, I simply avoid roles that involve people-management, and that’s perfectly fine. Knowing yourself is your own personal Guiding Star, guiding you even when you take a regrettable detour.
It is important to understand that while personality traits are deeply rooted, they’re not set in stone; personality is fluid. If you truly desire to adapt and evolve, it is always possible.
The career journey
Your career is a lifelong journey on your unique path, not just a destination. At each stage, you’ll need to employ different strategies for success. Future-proofing your career isn’t about chasing fleeting trends or attempting to be a jack-of-all-trades. It’s about embracing the enduring value of human skills, speaking the language of your employer or client, finding growth signal in the discomfort, and carefully choosing work and employers that nurture your development. Moreover, your inherent personality traits, though resistant to change, serve as a constant guiding star in your career journey.
So, which strategy or insight has been your guiding light on this journey? Share it with us in the comments below. Your experiences could be the inspiration someone else needs to illuminate their path.
The featured image is by Gerd Altmann, and I am using it here with gratitude.