Fast forward to the future of work : How to future proof your skills and thrive in the “distance – economy"
As already shared in my previous blog here, the health crisis has accelerated the move toward a digital world of work. Working remotely and serving customers in new and digital ways will significantly transform our work; but it will also require new skills.
Indeed, the critical skills required have shifted in the past few years and will continue to do so, whatever your position is. This is not new, even before the crisis, disrupting technologies, such as artificial intelligence and new ways of working were already impacting jobs.
So it is high time to future proof your skills and enjoy a successful career in the new “distance-economy”.
What can you do?
At a personal level, you can take responsibility for your own career to ensure your future employability. Embrace continuous learning and actively seek opportunities to develop and grow. It could be through taking on an online learning course, reading blogs, joining forum discussions, reaching out to a colleague who already works in a role or has skills that you aspire to, or through bookclub style learning sessions with colleagues – there are plenty of opportunities to learn new skills.
Here are are a few tips to get started:
Build your network
People who are well connected are often more energetic and positive than those who are isolated. Your network – online and offline - is your key asset; who you know, in addition to what you know, will be instrumental to having a successful career.
Transformation does not occur in isolation, nor does it typically occur within the same group of friends. As you make new connections, you will inevitably let go of some from the past. This is important, because the people who know you best are the ones most likely to hinder transformation, rather than encourage it. Mixing with different peer groups and networks will enable you to experience new values, norms, attitudes and expectations.
Establish your personal brand
Following a linear career path was the tradition for the baby boomer generation, where employees tended to stick with one employer for the entirety of their working lives. However, this is very much a thing of the past. With organizations moving toward flatter structures and self-organizing teams, it will be your expertise and unique experiences that will drive career progression. What specific skills can you bring to a project or team that make you unique? Build your portfolio and regularly review, improve and add new skills and areas of expertise.
Encourage continuous education
With the ageing population, many of us will find ourselves working longer. Predictions are that we will be working well into our 70s to be able to afford to retire. Multiple careers will become the norm. Learning a skill and expecting to have a life-long job based on this one-off investment in training is a thing of the past – whether that’s an apprenticeship or a university degree. For many occupations, it has become essential to acquire new skills as established ones become obsolete. For example, coding skills are being required well beyond the tech sector. By continuously learning and upskilling yourself in new areas, you will ensure you remain current in the rapidly changing working environment.
Improve your social skills
Whilst having a deep knowledge of a particular topic or specific skills in a specialist area are still attractive qualities that employers look for, being able to demonstrate that you also possess the softer, social skills will be the key success. For instance, work on developing skills that show you can maintain a lively network, work in multicultural and diverse teams, engage and inspire others, mediate complex problems, lead, persuade and negotiate with others. These uniquely human skills will be in high demand as we will increasingly work alongside machines and artificial intelligence who will take over the number crunching and repetitive tasks.
Be open to questioning old habits, challenge stereotypes, and experiment with new ways to integrate work and life. This practice is called ‘routine-busting’. Daily routines provide essential structure and predictability, but by repeating set patterns, they can also lock us into thoughtless unproductive cycles. Change your workplace; get a new desk lamp or a chair. Add a plant to your workplace to raise happiness and wellbeing levels. Or get out of bed an hour earlier and block time for self-development. Changing fixed routines energizes and prepares your mind to try something new. Changing jobs and learning new skills isn’t necessarily going to be a comfortable experience – but that’s okay. It demands a change in mindset to be open to new possibilities and invest time in your own personal development. It’s part of the learning curve and helps you grow personally and professionally.
There’s no time like the present to start future proofing your career and open yourself up to change.
References: McKinsey report Future of Work