This article has been reproduced from a feature published by The Guardian. Credit to the original author, Rhymer Rigby.
Future proofing your career and being ahead of the curve are two sides of the same coin. If you’re doing one correctly, you should also be doing the other. But they’re not quite the same thing.
Future-proofing your career means ensuring you are as employable in the future as you are now. You need to stand back and think about your job strategically, rather than just letting it happen to you. Look at the bigger picture: what’s happening in your sector; where’s the growth; which jobs are vulnerable; how do you measure up?
Think about what you know
As the world speeds up, your technical skills will have an ever shorter lifespan and you need to learn constantly. Don’t just confine yourself to your field, either. Read up on fields adjacent to yours, the idea being that if your role disappears, you have other options. You don’t want to be the workplace equivalent of an animal that can live only in one species of tree. Rewrite your CV every year; if you can’t think of something new to put on it, you need to think about where you’re going.
Look at your sector and organisation
You should be working in an organisation that’s facing the future head on rather than one whose best years are behind it. The same is true of your sector. You want an industry which is driving change, rather than one that is being pummelled by it.
Work on your relationships
People often view building working relationships as a luxury when times are tough. But being liked and trusted can be more of a differentiator than being competent. Keep in touch with your network and ensure you’re visible and easy to find. A network that extends beyond your workplace and includes clients, headhunters and competitors is a good insurance policy if things go bad.
Aim to be agile and adaptable
Rather than having the mindset of someone who is happy to serve out their time, be psychologically ready to move and the kind of person who lands on their feet; a realistic idea of your abilities and what they’re worth will help. Focus on the positives be optimistic; when companies look at making redundancies, those who have an upbeat, can-do attitude are very rarely first in line.
If future proofing your career is dealing with bigger picture and long term, staying ahead of the curve is more immediate. It’s the kind of thing you can work on when you have 15 minutes to spare.
Broadly speaking there are two aspects to being ahead of the curve. One is informational. At its most basic, this is simply keeping up with the news that affects your industry. But those who truly want to be ahead will also keep abreast of areas that are either general or tangentially affect their industry. Being up to speed on general current affairs and areas beyond your immediate role is a good thing in itself, but is also likely to give you greater insights and vision.
The internet has made this far easier to do this. Look up TED talks that interest you, set up Google alerts for yourself and customers and follow influential people on Twitter. You do need to be selective, though.
The personal side involves identifying who and what can help you move forward in your career and working on these relationships; an example might be knowing what is important to not just your boss, but also your boss’s boss. Don’t forget office gossip either: it is often a better guide to what will be happening in three months time than the official channels.
Of course, there’s no point in being ahead of the curve, if you’re the only one who knows it. Demonstrate what you know, for example by emailing your boss interesting articles you’ve come cross across. Make yourself the go-to person in the office for your area and speak up in meetings. Put yourself forward, rather than hanging back. And spend some time around the watercooler immersing yourself in the organisation’s less formal sources of news.
Although all this might seem a lot, the trick is to make many of these actions habitual – and this is really where staying ahead of the curve segues seamlessly into future-proofing. On one hand, you read The Economist every week on the train and on the other, you do a gap-analysis on your career every six months. It’s about covering yourself in both the long and the short term and ensuring you’re the kind of person who looks forward to change, rather than fearing it.
Take a look at the origianl article over at the Guardian Careers Blog.