As the buzz around the future of work intensifies, one can’t help but notice that the current discourse is almost-entirely focussed on what companies and industry leaders are doing to be future-ready. These conversations, while extremely critical, exclude one of the most pivotal stakeholders in the process – the workforce. To expand the scope of the discussion, let’s take a look at a few steps that employees can take to be better prepared for the future of work.
Learn new tech
There is no doubt that the future of work is digital, automated and highly AI-driven. Digital technology and solutions are disrupting nearly all industries, and the future belongs to those who are well-versed in such tools. This doesn’t mean that you need to learn how to develop software or design AI tools, but you need to be aware and willing to use the new technology that is disrupting your industry.
In practical terms, it means attempting to understand what sort of tools and technologies are being deployed in your domain and how they solve existing challenges. Keep a tab on new developments and solutions, even if they aren’t directly related to your role and stay proactive, even if your organization isn’t. Remember, even in a highly-automated world, there will be a requirement for people who work alongside technology, understand how it works, and know what it can deliver. Thus, if you start learning about these tools today, it will be easier to transition to a more suitable role in the future.
One of the most-repeated suggestions from experts and leaders on future-proofing careers is to hone innately human skills like creativity, communication, collaboration, problem-solving, conflict resolution, critical thinking, and curiosity. However, how does one go about it? Begin by introspecting and identifying your weaknesses and strengths; analyze your past successes to understand what unique skills you possess. Are you able to work well in a team or on your own? Do you often come up with out-of-the-box ideas? Do you follow instructions without question or make an attempt to understand the rationale behind them? Reflect on what drove you during your college and training period to recognize what you are naturally good at – is it managing a team, solving a problem or the ability to analyze alternative viewpoints critically?
Once you know what you are naturally good at, exercise more of those skills and work to build new ones. As mentioned above, the role of humans will be minimized, and not eliminated in the future; this means you need to identify the soft skills that complement with your role naturally in order to future-proof your career.
Build the right network
‘Network building’ has long been an integral part of a successful career, and this will become all the more true in the future. No matter if you’ve just started your professional life or if you already have decades of experience, look out for inspiring leaders and experts in your industry, both inside and outside your organization. Follow them on professional networking platforms and social media to learn new perspectives, contextualize industry developments and understand contemporary industry trends. There are several online forums and networking associations that bring together global members and organize events as well. Stay in touch with ex-managers and bosses who have taken on new roles or started their ventures to understand what challenges they have faced and learn from their experience. Being a part of a strong professional network will provide exposure to information and resources that you might have missed otherwise and help you plan your learning journey better.
It isn’t easy to achieve goals that do not have a set deadline or that lack answerability. Furthermore, there is no palpable sense of urgency, which can drive an individual to undertake an upskilling learning program dedicatedly. Thus, it becomes crucial to develop a sense of accountability for yourself. You may choose to involve colleagues, friends or mentors in the process and keep them apprised of your progress, but, at the end of the day, you will have to develop your own yardstick for success and push yourself to achieve them.
Create a time-bound structure for your learning by clearly identifying the competencies and skills you need to learn and keep track of your progress. Decide the source of your training – online courses, short-term accelerated training programs, or pursuing a specialized program in an academic institution. Develop short and long-term learning goals and track your progress periodically.
Remember, there are no guarantees for employees in the future of work as of yet. It is possible that your current job profile might become obsolete in the future, and you might require an entirely new set of skills. In other words, do not dismiss a scenario wherein you might have to take over a completely new role. However, to navigate this journey of change, you must begin today by asking the right questions, honing relevant skills and most importantly, staying up-to-date with the changes that are already underway.