How to become future-work ready

May 1, 2012
Katherine O'Brien

In the new work world, adaptability is the name of the game. As Daniel Burrus notes in Flash Foresight, you can no longer "graduate from school, learn a trade or a skill, and milk it for the rest of your life." Likewise, in A Time Traveller's Journey into the Future of the Canadian Workplace, we learn that ongoing training is crucial as there is "no wiggle room these days for the employee who can't (or won't) adapt to change. It's just too easy to outsource jobs."

Career transition coach Tara Orchard, who worked with author Jay Block and others on the 12 Principles of the Protean Career that involve taking charge of your own career development and management on an ongoing basis, concurs. In her eyes, workers can future proof their career by avoiding planning a long-term career and instead being ready to adapt [to new circumstances]. Orchard also mentions Planned Happenstance, which requires one to be constantly prepared to recognize and seize opportunities as they arise.

Orchard believes that workers need to constantly build their network, "hearing and seeing what changes lie ahead and being prepared to move in new directions." She also recommends that people work on engaging with individuals in their network, "even if it is as simple as making professional comments in an industry blog, author[ing] a blog or offer[ing] to deliver a short presentation at an industry conference."

In the Bamboo Project blog post on the Internet of things, Michele Martin writes about the importance of paying attention to how technology and other trends are shaping the new world of work. "It allows us to see where old careers may be dead or dying and where new opportunities may await us. It can show us how our current jobs may change and what we need to do to take advantage of change, rather than letting it happen to us."

In another blog post, Future Proofing Your Career, Martin talks about the significance of being able to work virtually, using video chats, instant messaging and other social media tools "to fuel collaborative work across space and time." Martin also suggests finding people who have complementary skill sets "so you can work together to find opportunities."

Martin, who bases much of this post on Lynda Gratton's The 10 Ways to Future Proof Your Career, contends that the "key to career success in the future is going to be understanding the kinds of skills that will really be in demand and then becoming a master in those skills." She advises looking at the top 10 skills described in this blog post (skills include social intelligence and computational thinking), pinpointing which ones play to your core strengths. "I would then look at ways I can develop my skills in those areas, possibly for some specific high-growth industries, so that I become a hyperspecialist.”

Alexandra Levit in the Will You Be Marketable in 20 Years? blog post sees that the most critical quality for workers in 20 years time "will be the ability to problem solve and add value to every task they are assigned and for every customer and colleague with whom they interact." She also expounds on the importance of self-discipline and internal drive because fewer people will be working in traditional office environments. "You must be able to seamlessly multi-task, since most employees in 2021 will complete projects for a series of independent groups or organizations. Future workers will need to be comfortable with rapid change, will be expected to learn a wide array of skills from strategic planning and hiring to computer programming and design and will be expected to constantly upgrade those skills."

When it comes to constant upgrading Orchard is in agreement. "Ongoing learning, formal and informal is very important," she says. "This does not always mean returning to school for three or four years at a time, but it means professional upgrading, attending college courses, taking online webinars and professional development opportunities." She also adds that people should create their own education savings plans and "keep an eye out for flexible, virtual, online education and training programs offered at colleges or through professional associations in order to keep their skills not only up-to-date but ahead of the curve."

Oh, and one more thing: "I advise job seekers to never stop looking in this economy."

About is a free online magazine to help Toronto job seekers find work. An initiative of Findhelp Information Services, is an Employment Ontario project funded in part by the Government of Canada.

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