Career future-proofing is only part of the picture

Career future-proofing is only part of the picture

Being an excellent employee does not automatically result in you having a resilient career.

HAL: I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I CAN do that.

The human-like computer HAL portrayed in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey is now a reality. With the rapid evolution of the latest generation of powerful digital technologies including Big Data, expert systems and mobile devices, the computerisation of non-routine cognitive tasks can be the game changer for those whose jobs depend on specialised, knowledge intensive skills.

In a recent paper entitled The future of employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation?’, Oxford University researchers have recently suggested that in certain instances, the computerised results of complex non-routine cognitive tasks are superior to the human ‘expert’ as they do not have human biases.

If you have only one job or career option, that’s not being resilient.

In detailing the probabilities of technology disrupting over 700 occupation categories makes for interesting reading for those who take their career prospects seriously. They also suggest that given the rapid rate of technological evolution, sophisticated digital technologies supported by algorithms could substitute for approximately 140 million full-time knowledge workers worldwide.

Unlike people, technology is rapidly scalable at low marginal cost, and that can be the game changer for those whose careers are most at risk of disruption.

Read more: A lesson in disruptive innovation

The bottom line is that computers will increasingly be challenging human skill in a wide range of cognitive tasks.

The career resilience challenge

Amongst this high rate of technology driven innovation, the challenge facing skilled knowledge professionals is:

How to maintain a meaningful and financially rewarding career where the value of your knowledge, skills and expertise in the longer term is not diluted by being codified in technologies, outdated or outsourced?

The key is to ensure you are aware of the forces at play in environments that are likely to affect your current and future career options and chosen career direction. The challenge, however, is that many environments are interconnected to varying degrees, and a change in one may or may not have a profound impact on another.

The assumption, however, that your past and current skills are going to continue to be of equivalent value in the future, may or may not remain valid.

Can you make the conscious shift from regarding your career as an employee in a successive series of organisations, to being an employee as a business owner - with that business being your career, and your client being your employer?

By treating your career as your business, you will systematically and progressively equip yourself with the supplementary and complementary skills that extend far beyond just doing a great job where you are currently employed.

Being an excellent employee does not automatically result in you having a resilient career.

Career future-proofing should be an outcome, not the objective

Read more: Montessori at work

The phrase ‘future-proofing your career’ is being increasingly used to describe an approach to protecting your career (and hence your ability to earn a good income).

This concept is limiting in that it implies a protective, insulating approach to keeping a viable career. The sentiment implies a defensive posture.

In approaching your career as a business, and one which should ideally be rewarding, fulfilling and helps you reach your full potential, ‘future-proofing’ is a by-product of the process of actively managing your job and career options. By using a mental model that is practical, effective, empowering and inherently adaptive will ensure your ongoing relevance and resilience in our ever-changing environment.

If you have only one job or career option, that’s not being resilient.

Read more: Data science in the forest

In thinking of your career as your business, consider the following pointers:

• Continuously and deliberately assess your situation in line with your Career Business Plan;

• Retain some degree of control over your current situation. Remember – career resilience is the name of the game. Having a set of viable options is a key determinant in being able to control your response to change;

• Be able to retain your independence and professional objectivity necessary to mitigate the effects of seeing yourself primarily through the lens of your current working environment or employer; and

• Continually adjust your risk appetite for change in light of the prevailing environment and your personal life’s situation at the time.

Question is: Are you willing to make that deliberate investment in time and energy produce a real return? Now that’s probably a good business proposition!

Rob Livingstone ( is a mentor, consultant, and industry advisor. He is the author of <i>Direction through Disruption</i> and Navigating through the Cloud. He is a fellow of the University of Technology, Sydney’s Faculty of Engineering and IT, where he lectures to higher-degree students on leadership, strategy and innovation.

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