The path to future-proofing your career

by Jul 14, 2021

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” – Alvin Toffler

The times they are a changing. Even before the impacts of Covid, we found ourselves in a transient period, described by leading economists from around the world, such as Klaus Schwab, as The Fourth Industrial Revolution. We are moving from the creation of computer-based industries and the dot com boom/busts, into the age of robotics, AI and automation.

Schwab’s book of the same name (which is a great read if you’re interested, I highly recommend) not only offers up many of the problems that can arise from these transient times, but provides much hope and positivity for the future of industries.

You can go back to the industrial revolution and see textile workers put out of work by large-scale manufacture, automation of the industry leading to picketing and rioting in the streets. There was a lot of uncertainty and unemployment much like today. But out of it did come economic growth, new industries and higher standards of living. Arguably a win.

As the saying goes, “a rising tide lifts all ships”… well, most ships, depending on where you find yourself on the planet.

These new machines needed engineers to maintain them, operate them and develop new processes procedures. That means new career paths and more highly skilled labor, which leads us back to our friend Alvin who I mentioned at the beginning of this article: “learn, unlearn and relearn”. Take shipping as an example: as trucks are automated, we may not need drivers anymore, but we will need engineers to maintain them and software designers to guide them.

So in these uncertain, changing times what should you do?

Well luckily, although there may be new industries emerging, they will likely follow the patterns from the past. Find the patterns and find your path.

Obviously, passion should largely drive your career choices. If you love what you do you will never work a day in your life, they say. But there are also a lot of other personal and professional considerations to take in. At the forefront, ask yourself:

  • Where am I going?
  • What will that industry look like in 5-10 years?
  • How can I position myself to be at the front of innovation for that industry?
  • What may that innovation look like for my job?

In the past, the path to a career was fairly straightforward for many: high school, uni, career, house, family and retirement. All probably at the same location, all probably for the same company.

That simple line through life has not been the case for a while now, with 48% of Australians staying in one job for less than two years.

So, what else can you do looking down the road?

A major factor in deciding on a job these days, more so than it has been in the past, is lifestyle, including workplace flexibility. Flexibility in both work hours and location has been one of the biggest changes for both the individual and corporations, accelerated by the effects of Covid. Hopefully soon these changes will see the end of the traditional 9-5 hours and long commutes to work for many people; the CEO of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, has come out recently and said “employees are in charge, not companies”. This has even led to some people opting to take short leases on coastal properties to work remotely and swap the bumper-to-bumper commute for lunchtime swims.

Although the last 12 months have been filled with the doom and gloom of a transient period, like all things, in the darkest moments there is the greatest opportunity for growth, change and hope.

Look to the future, research where your chosen industry and career are headed. Maybe ride these waves of change straight onto the beach, out the front of your Airbnb remote working location. Think about not just what you can do for your company, but what your company and career can do for you and what you want your work life to look like. With these changes to industry and corporate operations comes great opportunities for an amazing work life balance.


Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

Chris Pierags

Chris Pierags

Director and Media Consultant

Chris is the director of One Minute Left Productions and a media consultant, located in Wollongong on the South coast of NSW. He has worked across theatre, film and television both locally and internationally for nearly 2 decades. His work has seen him creating dynamic content from the ice in Antarctica to the streets of London. If he doesn’t have a camera on his shoulder, you will find him with his family and a guitar in his hands.