There is little predictability about career progression these days, but it’s still possible to steer yourself in the direction you desire, writes John Schwarz for Fast Company.
The founder and CEO of cloud-based analytics platform Visier, and former president of Symantec, Schwarz believes the secret to safeguarding your prospects is to keep well informed, well prepared, well supported and be willing to work at it – much as it was in times gone by.
Forty years ago he had aspirations to become a CEO and he achieved it by getting help to make a plan and following it through – not religiously, but with enough faith that it would happen.
Acknowledging that the gig economy and advances in technology are altering the face of the job market, Schwarz says change is nothing new – welcome the evolution, embrace new directions and be ready to learn.
He has four top tips to help you navigate the journey:
1) Make a career plan and ask for help. Take responsibility for your progression. Senior managers don’t have time for nurturing employees, so build your own team of trusted advisers – mentors, co-workers, family members and teachers – to help you shape your ambitions. Gain further guidance from TED talks and industry or social media groups. Keep revising your plan as you go along.
2) Work to your strengths but keep an open mind. Filling a skills gap doesn’t necessarily mean studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), unless you have a natural aptitude. Look for fringe areas that might use your existing skills and knowledge.
“A shifting economy doesn’t require people to bury their passions or unique interests. Leaning into those interests and keeping an open mind about where they might lead you is critical for self-innovation and career survival,” says Schwarz.
3) Recognise and accept trends that are disappointing. It’s tempting to ignore clear signs that there are problems coming but facing them is a more realistic – and ultimately more promising – course.
Be vigilant for indicators that it could be time for the organisation to change, or for you to move on as an individual. For instance, a declining economic climate for other businesses in your sector should ring alarm bells. Teach yourself to interpret and use data available to create evidence for change.
4) Robots will take over some of our jobs – believe there will be new ones. Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will inevitably reduce the workforce in certain sectors, including professional roles.
Schwarz says: “Algorithms are on pace to replace accountants, and even lawyers and general medical practitioners may soon succumb to the march of the machines.”
Human input will still be necessary to keep the machines rolling – it’s a case of keeping one eye on future potential and working alongside them rather than fighting them.
While it’s fair to predict that careers in the future will probably bear little resemblance to the ones we knew in the past, success can be yours if you resolve to plan carefully, be flexible and stay informed.