Let’s start with a quick reality check. If you are in your 20s now, you can expect a good 50 years of work ahead of you. That’s 50 years of change you need to be ready for.
To put it in context – if you were to look back 50 years, that takes us to 1967. Your parents were kids. Which means that your grandparents were in their 20s or 30s. (if my maths is correct). Ask them what work was like for them then; what their first job was; how they communicated without the internet or mobile phones. It was a completely different work life.
Now fast forward to 2017 and then to 2067. The pace of technology adoption is happening faster than ever so our capability to comprehend what work will be like in 50 years is close to impossible. Even our assumptions will probably be obsolete as all we need is one major disrupter to throw everything into chaos.
So, what’s a 20 something to do to future proof their career? Whilst 50 years in the future is a stretch, 5-10 isn’t. That’s what you should be aiming for.
One way to future proof your career is to develop a portfolio of skills & attitudes that focuses on solving problems/challenges.
Everyone loves a problem solver. Period. If you can get sh*t done and solve your boss’ problems then they are never going to let you go!!
Plus, a good problem solver is adaptable, so even when robots will take over your job, you will problem solve your way to a new role or to make yourself even more valuable. Sounds simple, right?
Let’s draw a picture of what a problem solver would be in your field. The required technical skills are a given and it’s what you are already working towards through your degree and any subsequent professional development opportunities. So, let’s assume that area is already taken care of.
Here is a list of other skills and attitudes you might need to become an effective problem solver:
>> Listening (to understand the problem)
>> Ability to leverage on your networks (to bring others in to help)
>> Resilience (to keep testing out solutions till something works)
>> Communication (to talk through the problem and relay your experiences)
>> Adaptability (to measure, correct and re-test)
>> Foresight (to see problems before they happen)
>> Negotiation (to get others to do what needs to be done)
>> Self-awareness (to know what you can do)
To put it in TV show terms – you should aim to be a fixer – just like Olivia Pope from Scandal – but without the messiness of US politics (or the affairs, murders & other questionable behaviour!)
When applying for new jobs or beefing out your experience focus on these soft skills and attitudes. Take on projects that enable you to develop them further and spell out (with examples) your successes in these areas. It will not only help you stand out of the crowd but also get ahead in your career. Remember, everyone wants to hire a problem solver!!