Developing Your Career

Career

Preparing for Your Future? Be Prepared for Change

By Lee Hecht Harrison on October 27, 2015

In his seminal 1982 film Blade Runner, director Ridley Scott conjured a future world where Earth was overpopulated to the point of bursting, millions of people had relocated to “off-world” colonies on other planets, flying hover cars were the main mode of transportation and “replicants” – robots made mostly of flesh and blood – were indistinguishable from real humans.

The year Scott picked for his world of the future? 2019.

Although Blade Runner was an artistic and commercial success, it was hardly a prescient work. The gross majority of the social conditions and technological innovations Scott used to frame out his vision of 2019 have not come to fruition. And it’s unlikely that the next four years will make this future image of Earth any more realistic.

What does the film tell us about our own lives? It is, generally speaking, impossible to predict the future.

This has never been truer than it is in relation to employment trends. There are a good number of self-appointed workforce soothsayers who will try to tell you exactly what skills and competencies you will need to succeed in future iterations of the employment market. They’ll tell you what to say, how to say it, and what letters you want to have listed after your name.

And most of them will be wrong in their predictions.

If we’ve learned anything about these changeable, unpredictable times, it is that people who have the skills and mindset to take advantage of change and adapt are the ones who succeed.

That is, of course, easier said than done. How can you prepare for the future when you don’t know exactly what the future holds?

In broad, general terms, we all need to be more strategic in how we manage our career development to ensure longevity and relevance. Consider these techniques as you create a proactive strategy to manage your career:

  1. Conduct an objective self-assessment to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Be as frank and honest as possible, so that you’ll identify those areas that need work. As part of this process, it’s a good idea to seek input from individuals who have worked with you.
  2. Identify the professional development goals you want to achieve. You will need to know your goals for today, this week, this month and this year. The goals should be measurable, realistic and easily defined. Don’t be afraid to set the bar high.
  3. Share those goals with your manager. If your future is to be found at your existing organization, it’s good to make sure your objectives align with the needs of the organization and that you have your manager’s support. It also shows your manager that you are a motivated, organized person ready to move ahead.
  4. Understand your learning style. Not everyone learns the same way. You’ll need to choose tools for your development plan that will be the most effective for you.
  5. Be innovative. To be fully prepared for any new employment trend, you should consider things like cross-functional training and relationship building outside your normal network. Remember, every new competency and connection you can build outside your existing skills and network is a step towards being fully adaptable.
  6. Learn from others who have mastered adaptability. Look for people around you who have been able to change jobs and job descriptions with relative ease. Connect with those people and request a conversation to learn more about how they’ve managed to get ahead of new trends.
  7. Listen. Read. Learn. It’s a lot harder to see the signs of coming change if you’re not plugged into the world around you. Become a voracious consumer of news about labor market trends, advances in education, economic conditions and advances or trends in sectors you would be interested in joining.
  8. Make it part of a daily routine. Preparing for an uncertain future requires some discipline. Remember, you can’t predict the future. As a result, you can’t predict the moment when you need to start preparing for the future. Dedicate time to your development and make it part of your regular daily agenda.

It would be great if some of us were psychic and could predict the future before it arrives. The fact is that’s not possible. What we can do is network, educate ourselves and look for the signs of impending change.

The bottom line is to be prepared for change – whatever it means and whenever it comes.

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