5 ways to future proof your career

I have been doing some interviews this week for a senior role and I have been reminded how important it is for many of us to have stability in our lives. In our home life and our work life. Many candidates when asked the question “What are you looking for in the next step of your career?” often answer with comments like:

 "I want my next role to be a long one"
"I’m looking for somewhere that I can really establish myself"
"I want some stability"
"I’m looking for a large organisation that is doing well that I can stay with for the long term"

 The overwhelming theme is long term stability and this is not unexpected, but perhaps somewhat unrealistic. Organisations that today are strong and successful, in time may not be. Blackberry anyone?

There are organisations in existence today they were not even thought of 5 or 10 years ago and in the years since the global financial crisis traditional Organisations have removed all “redundancy”  in order to remain competitive and profitable, or just to survive. This has meant doing more with less. Usually more work with less people. Other organisations have sprung up which challenge and disrupt the notion of traditional business models. Think online, think social media and social enterprises. We are also seeing the demise of traditional "blue collar" work such as manufacturing where only the support of government intervention is keeping jobs alive. Holden anyone?

Companies compete and operate across the world and leaders in organisations manage teams and business remotely. There is increased complexity and ambiguity and humans are not great at dealing with this kind of stuff. Not so long ago we lived simply, off the land.

 It’s no wonder that we are looking for some stability!! It’s also no wonder that it’s hard to find.

 So on the basis that stability and certainty are hard to come by here are 5 ways to future proof your career (and life)

1.    Plan to lose your job
OK. Not the most positive of plans but it's likely it could happen at some point. What would you do? How would you pay your bills? Redundancy benefits are not what they used to be and if you don't have much service with your current company you won't get much of a payout.  

Having a financial plan is a good idea. This might incorporate how you use any redundancy entitlements, salary continuance insurance, how you would pay your bills and what you would do if you ended up being out of work for more than a couple of months.

You don't have to do it on your own. Check out Curious, Interested who do financial coaching for independence. Just what we all need.

2.    Work on hard to develop skills 
These are things like dealing with ambiguity, courage skills, conversation skills, dealing with and implementing change. Soft skills that are really, really hard. We all struggle with these but we can get better at them. I have been working on my managerial courage and conversation skills for a few years now and I know I'm getting better. And I'm better at my job for it.

3.    Work on generalist skills
People who can turn their hand to a variety of situations and disciplines are very valuable.  My friend Molly is a person who has great generalist skills. She is a leader and a good people manager. She works hard and is smart. Any organisation would want her because she can turn her hand to most things. 

The challenge for Molly is really defining what she wants in a role and where she wants to take her career but having great generalist skills really does future proof your career.

4.    Work on specialist skills
OK. I know. I'm contradicting myself. On one hand I'm saying be a generalist. On the other, a specialist. WHAT?!! 

So here's the thing. There are always specialists needed. Some organisations will always have them because of the type of business they are in. Others will bring them in at different points to help with a project or specific customer need. If you are an expert in your field chances are you will be able to gain employment. It may not be permanent employment all the time but you may get to work for a variety of companies.

5.    Have other interests: exercise, hobbies….
I guess this falls into not having all your eggs in one basket. If your whole life is your job, and you lose your job, have your lost yourself? Not a great place to be. It's healthy to have a variety of interests. 

I have some friends who work as a Assistant Principal and Audit Manager. Outside work they are the most amazing cooks! Hatted restaurant quality cooks. My husband Arran is obsessed with Mountain Biking when he is not working for a major bank on their software implementation.  I blog, take photos and spend money at Sass&Bide. I girl has to have nice clothes! Exercise is also important in managing your mental health and keeping your mood in check.

Overall you need to take charge. Managing your career is also about doing some risk management and working out what to do when things go wrong. 

I'd love to hear about your experience managing your career when things didn't go as planned......