The world moves fast, and chances are your industry does, too. The last thing you want is to be left behind while your company and colleagues embrace upward growth. So even if you plan to stay at the same job until retirement, how can you keep what you do and how you do it on track with the rest of your field? Below are three steps you can take toward future-proofing the career you love.
1. Be Open to Change
When the future is speeding at you, the best thing you can do is stay flexible. If you are open to changes– at your job and in yourself– you are more likely to weather bumps in the road like industry shifts.
Here’s an example of what it looks like to remain open to change. You’re a copywriter working for a large Palo Alto tech company. You see a growing trend in small Silicon Valley marketing companies hiring copywriters. You contact a recruitment agency handling talent sourcing for these companies, and they find you a new position with an advertising firm in Cupertino.
A year later, your former employer announces massive layoffs. Your former coworkers are stuck looking for writing work while you’re well-established at your new position. By remaining open to changing locations and the type of company your work for, you ride out an industry shift without a hitch.
This is a crucial point for staying open to change: anticipate industry shifts and embrace them with optimism. Read trade magazines, visit industry related forums, and network. Changes in technology, for instance, can cause broad changes in your field: If you’re a UX designer and a new wireframing program is released, you might expect some shockwaves through the UX community. Consider how that affects your specific position at your particular company and what you need to do to adjust.
2. Branch Out Your Skill Set
Brush up on your skills and abilities. Gaps in a skill set become obvious during a job hunt, which isn’t the most practical moment to start thinking about professional development. Instead, take steps now to deepen and broaden what you do best.
First, identify your skill set. You do this when you write your resume, but think bigger than a particular position for this list. Write out everything you do, both “hard” and “soft” skills. Depending on your industry, they can include:
- Computer programming
- Web design, UX design
- Technical writing, copywriting
- Accounting, finance
- Creative thinking
- Teamwork, collaboration, networking
- Conflict resolution, problem-solving, critical thinking
- Flexibility, time management
- Decision making
With your skills mapped out, plan how to build on your competencies. Certain traits and talents are essential for staying relevant in any industry. How can you fill in any gaps in your skillset? If you see areas of weakness on your skills list, what practical steps can you take to become more competent?
Herminia Ibarra at Harvard Business Review suggests taking on projects outside your wheelhouse: “All companies have projects that cut across lines of business, hierarchical levels and functional specialties. Find out what they are, and maybe more importantly, who’s involved. Getting experience across business lines is a better choice than further deepening your skill base within a functional silo. The new skills, big-picture perspective, extra-group connections and ideas about future moves that projects can bring are well worth the investment.”
3. Know the Deeper Purpose of Your Work
Professionals with career longevity tend to connect what they do with their personal goals and ambitions. They know what drives them as a person and match it to their professional endeavors. The result is a sense of belonging and purpose as they approach their work each day.
Career coach Kathy Caprino sees this connection with your deeper purpose as a state of mind transcending any particular job you have. “Happy professionals aren’t passive spectators in life – they actively work on themselves, and hone their skills and thinking. They’re inspired and energized (not resistant) to continually finding new ways to use themselves and their gifts in service of others. That pursuit of finding meaning, and of fulfilling their highest potential, gives juice to their lives.”
The more you enjoy what you do, the more motivated you are to continually improve your skills and yourself. You’ll remain open to changes, will strive to match your skills to the ever-changing needs of your profession, and secure your place in the future.