As managers continue to speculate about the challenges, opportunities, and uncertainties associated with the new millennium, thriving and surviving—even remaining relevant— will become a major concern for many. Maintaining your employability will continue to be an ongoing challenge—and it will be your responsibility. To prepare yourself for the uncertain times ahead, consider the following advice…
Try to understand what’s coming.
You’ll have more control over your future if you stay at the cutting edge. Read all you can. Speak with others. Reflect. But be aware of emerging trends—such as these:
- Managers are likely to change their jobs several times during their careers.
- Technology will eliminate old jobs and create new ones.
- Computers and machines will become smarter—and people will need to do the same.
- Staff will have more flexible working arrangements.
- Companies will become
- ‘virtual’ through outsourcing, telecommuting, and staff working at home.
- Those who cannot adapt to new technologies will find themselves working harder and achieving less.
- Lifelong learning will be essential.
- People who learn skills quickly will be highly valued in a fast-changing world.
- Training will be delivered ‘on demand’, whenever people need it, using a variety of technologies.
- Organizations won’t pay for the value of the job but for the value of the person.
- Employees will be more independent, moving from project to project within their organizations.
- We will continue to work well beyond the traditional age of retirement.
Become familiar with technology— now.
The three-step recipe for employability in the coming decades of rapid change is this—
1. Prepare; 2. Prepare; 3. Prepare.
The advance in technology in particular will be very dramatic. Indeed, unless we prepare ourselves by keeping up to date with technology—computers, the Internet, robotics, communications, etc.—we will ourselves become obsolete in the workplace.
Be prepared to be mobile.
In an increasingly global economy, supply and demand for managers will require that we adopt a mentality for mobility—a willingness to relocate as markets for our expertise shift. Be prepared for this—mentally, physically, and emotionally—for not only will such moves broaden your horizons, but in addition your expertise and experience will become more marketable.
Continue to develop your people skills.
Focus on the development of vital technology skills by all means, but not at the expense of people skills. Such skills will always be in demand. Learn to motivate staff, to deal with diverse groups, to get the most out of people, to communicate effectively, and so on.
The world will be shrunk by developments in transportation, technology, and communication. Worldwide merger mania will produce larger organisations employing fewer people. The global economy will become a reality. So think globally. Multiply your value to your employer by learning to understand cultural differences and etiquette. Become fluent in a foreign language or two—or at least embrace a few basics.
Develop an entrepreneurial streak.
Permanent employment cannot be guaranteed in the future, so try not to become too dependent on corporate employers. Be prepared to become a free agent, for employment in the future may mean employing yourself. So start planning for that possibility. Develop skills, contacts, and experience that will enable you to become a consultant, a freelance technical expert, or an independent operator. Nurture your network; survival may depend on your connections – peers, mentors, promising newcomers, retirees, clients and customers.
Build a reputation as one who embraces the future.
In coming decades, employers will be eager to find people who visibly prepare themselves for an exciting future and embrace change willingly and enthusiastically. Don’t be paralysed with fear or personal paranoia. Find ways to demonstrate your exuberance. Your attitude, more than your age, will determine your standing in the organisation. Remain marketable and employable as follows:
- Commit yourself to a program of lifelong learning.
- Develop a range of skills and competencies, for they will be valued more than depth of expertise in a single area.
- Demonstrate your versatility, which will become a key factor in determining employee value—with strategic planning, leadership, problem-solving, technology, and people skills close behind.
- Associate with winners and distance yourself from malcontents.
- Become active in trade and professional associations.
- Be visible—the more people know about you, the less likely that you’ll be lost in the shuffle or overlooked in times of transition.
- Develop your computer skills.
- Become known as a valuable team player, with strong problem-solving and decision-making skills.
- Make it happen—your future isn’t a matter of fate, circumstance, or good luck. It’s up to you. So start now!
There is no safe career
Not too long ago, there were a lot of blacksmiths who didn’t learn to work on cars and found fewer horses to shoe. There were letterpress printers, preparing metal type, who in vain fought the introduction of phototypesetting on the computer. And there were feather-bedding train workers who had ever-fewer trains to operate, coal miners who found the nation had turned to petroleum products for fuel, and factory workers who never thought they’d be replaced by automation…
The secrets to success and survival in the new century, writes Robert Ramsey in Supervision (February 1999), are simply to make friends with change, to build on existing strengths, to maximise options, and to become fanatic about continuous growth and development. This is exactly what good supervisors have always done. That’s why they always tend to land on their feet no matter what happens. A new millennium won’t change that.
Make change your ally, advises Eleanor Baldwin in 300 New Ways to Get a Better Job. Understand that nothing can remain static. Go with the change, she says, but prepare yourself for the future. We must take care of our own career needs and speak up for ourselves. There is no longer a single-company career track. Know there are some things you cannot change and work you cannot achieve. While you may never find your perfect career, you can be sure that you can find your right career for now at least.
Where the coming jobs will be
Eleanor Baldwin in 300 New Ways to Get a Better Job claims that eighty-five per cent of the new work force will be in the four Information Age areas: high tech, environmental organisations, healthcare industries, and the elder market, which serves older consumers. Those elders will be busy entrepreneurs, consultants, financial managers, and community service workers.
Create the future you want
Job security is a thing of the past. Whether it is a merger, acquisition, outsourcing, streamlining, restructuring, or some other management practice, companies can no longer guarantee job security. Only you can affect your employability. You need to be in the driver’s seat of your career. So how can you take control and create the future you want?
Ken Kneisel in Create the future you want recommends that you should ask six questions to ensure future career success. With minor adaptations, those questions are as follows:
Do you know where you are going and how to get there?
Having a career plan will give you greater control over your future. Most importantly, it enables you to position yourself to recognise and capitalise on the myriad opportunities that the changing world of work offers to those who choose to control their own destiny.