The nature of work as we know it is changing almost faster than we can master our current roles. The rapid advances in technology and its impact on both the job market and the economy have made it more difficult than ever before to confidently map out career advancement.
When you don’t know which jobs will even exist in five years, how can you strategize to get ahead? Despite the obstacles though, career planning is in no way dead. Instead, young professionals need to adopt a new method of career planning. The very components that make modern career planning possible are oftentimes those that are also invaluable within the current and future job market: flexibility and adaptability.
Don’t Rely on Experience Alone
Traditionally, experience has been the foundational piece of career planning. You put the time in on lower rungs of the career ladder, and that allows you to move up. But modern professionals would be remiss to simply rely on their level of experience. In a world where things are changing rapidly, roles have to be filled by individuals who don’t have direct experience.
Research has demonstrated that one’s propensity to career adaptability is a primary indicator of one’s likelihood of success not only professionally, but also in other areas of life. To ensure you’re doing all you can to remain competitive within you field make sure you are:
Stay informed: While you may not know exactly where you want to land down the road, you should still be making an effort to stay informed and up-to-date within your industry. Read publications, watch other companies, and ultimately, don’t lose the handle you have on the direction and priorities of your industry.
Unlearn the old: A recent survey found that the primary concern of employees is that their job will be obsolete in the near future, and half believe their specific skill set will be unneeded. The key to dealing with that reality is to be willing to let go of the former methods and processes that got you where you are when they become antiquated.
Refine your skills: The career planning master is also a skill refining master. Knowing what’s coming next for your industry and unlearning the old is only the beginning. There’s value in pairing experience in your field with insight and a clear understanding of where the future of your industry as a whole lies.
Remember Your Connections
In many fields, networking is a fundamental part of getting the job you want. In a pile of cover letters, having a connection can be the only thing that gives you a competitive edge. As you consider your networking connections there’s value in seeing two, distinct sets of relationships.
The Old: The pre-existing connections you have are likely to be swept up in the changes of the marketplace right along with you. In that case, there’s value in continuing to build the relationship, even if you shift directions.
As the president of the New York Stock Exchange told Fast Company, “It doesn’t matter if someone is inside or outside of your industry, if they are interesting and influential, be willing to commit time and/or resources to meet, connect or help that individual.”
The New: What is equally important in the rapidly evolving professional climate of today is that the connections you have are also evolving so that they continue to be a helpful component of your career planning. If your connections aren’t refreshed they will fail to accurately align with your interests and priorities.
Thus, there’s value in networking in the area you’re hoping to head. When doing so the business professionals at Rutgers University recommend, “If you don’t have experience in an area, expertise with a particular type of software or other qualification, don’t try to make it sound like you do. Being truthful about, both your weaknesses and strengths will prove that you are willing, to be honest, and humble and can communicate a host of attractive characteristics to a potential employer, partner, or contact.”
As we noted at the beginning, a key to success as we move into the future will be fostering adaptability and flexibility and leveraging them to move into new positions. There’s value in proactively making sure that your skills, experience, and connections all work together to give you the best possible chances of achieving the career goals you plan.
Additionally, it’s crucial to constantly reassess your progress and use that information to steer your career in the right direction. Are you doing what you can with the understanding that the things that have gotten you where you are, are unlikely to get you where you want to go?
If there are areas of your career development that are growing stale or lack any recent changes, brainstorm on ways to foster growth there.
Lastly, in the interest of a reassessing your competitiveness in relation to your plans, actually set goals. Make plans for the next quarter, year, and three years and reassess your progress and attitude towards those goals on a consistent basis.
Certainly, the day when seniority meant you were essentially a shoo-in for the corner office is gone. Today rapid changes in technology are impacting virtually every industry under the sun, and the jobs that make up those industries are evolving at rapid rates.
However, the key for young professionals seeking success is not to allow themselves to be drug along by the rapid advances, but to proactively participate in them. The new age of job creation and retention has provided new opportunities. Because there’s often a need for people who don’t have direct experience, the individuals who land the jobs are often those who worked hard on what may have traditionally seemed like secondary things like relationships, soft skills, and flexibility. The good news is that those things are there for the taking.