This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
It is time to future proof.
As many in Alberta and Canada are discovering, when layoffs strike, the reality of tomorrow consumes our attention. Career thoughts reduce from years, to months, to days, with immediacy ruling the day. The driving need is to get working feet centred once again.
Yet for those facing major career questions, aside from tomorrow, where should strategic attention be focused? It is the question a growing group of Canadians should be asking.
Given the extreme pressure squeezing the world of work – new realities of globalization, geo-political tensions, commodity cycles, unavoidable demographic swings, recent progressions in automated work – the question that cannot be lost amidst the turmoil is: how do you future proof your career to ensure long-term value? If you have yet to hear the thunderclap message, hear it now. We all need a strategy to remain career relevant. Future proofing is the practice of identifying future scenarios, pro-actively creating solutions to minimize the negative impact of those potential events. Here are four steps to future proof your career:
Shift, no big leaps
Future-proofing starts with career mobility. Work environments are changing so quickly, careers cannot afford to get stuck.
Career paths are often badly damaged by the thinking that major career changes will be easy and often. Counter to popular statements, we will not have multiple careers throughout our working days. Instead, we will only have one.
The cold reality is that while job changes may be frequent, big career changes are difficult manoeuvres. This only makes sense. You start to be paid more by developing experience in a certain area. So when a big career leap forces you to leave that experience behind, it becomes difficult to justify a comparable new role. Consequently, life pressure makes it increasingly difficult to make these big leaps.
The more appropriate approach is to think of your career as a journey that will constantly be undergoing a series of shifts. Major career swings become possible through these constant shifts, but only by building a bridge between where you are now and where you want to be.
Push, to the forefront
Future proofing requires preparation for disruptions. Major waves are frequently hitting career shores. Best to be off the shore, in deeper water, when those waves arrive.
Careers need to stay mobile, an easy thing to say; but in which direction to continually shift?
At the forefront of your work are new discoveries and language forming to see beyond the edges of traditional models, roles and responsibilities. Think what Airbnb is doing to hospitality, or Uber is doing to transportation. We have quickly realized people do not need hotel rooms or taxis, they need a place to stay and a way to be driven around. In the same respect, organizations do not need marketers or managers. They need to connect to new markets, and they need to develop people who can get great work done. By thinking of your field through fundamental need rather than through current assumptions, you are able to push beyond traditional boundaries, seeing major waves before they arrive.
Build, a bio of relevance
Future proofing requires you to clarify your positioning.
The fundamental career pursuit is to become known for getting really good at something that is fulfilling to you and offers increasing value to others. Those four aspects – becoming known, getting good, discovering fulfilment, and creating long-term value – all must be satisfied in order to develop a career platform that offers happiness and value. Start by writing a career biography that positions your current experience, accomplishments and success. This is not a resume, think of the bio on the back of a book. Yes, it should be difficult to write. By looking at your career and skill set through a promotional lens, you will discover the value of positioning. As your body of work grows, keep adding to your bio by properly positioning skills and interests.
Compound, actions for growth
The final step in future proofing is a function of scale. Once you are pointed in the right direction, compounding – the most powerful economic force in the world – becomes your growth mechanism.
As careers become aligned to long-term strategy, the remaining aspect is to shape the size of your platform. Do this by compounding actions. This means doing something that tells a story, interesting enough to be included in your bio and compelling enough to excite someone else. You then use that story to inspire and earn the next action of greater size. Think leverage for growth. By compounding your actions and keeping them aligned, your platform will quickly grow to fit your emerging goals.
Try it. The strategy is sound. Future proof to ensure long term relevance and fulfilment.
Tyler Waye is president of IN.Form, a consultant at the University of Alberta, and author of I Went to School That Long for This?