When it comes to the future of work, none of us know with certainty what it will look like or what industries or skills will emerge as winners. However, we know that change is here and it remains ubiquitous.
For today’s graduates and employees, the future of work raises a critical question: How does one prepare to build a successful and meaningful career when the employment landscape keeps changing?
No one knows the answer to this question because no one knows what the future will bring. The reality is that the future is always unknown and change is always constant.
To this end, here are a few things to consider as you endeavour to build a thriving career.
1. Develop your soft skills
Necessary and relevant skills are what get you hired, while acquiring a unique skill differentiates you from the competition.
As the job market evolves with the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) and the rapid changes in technology, having critical thinking skills as well as cultural, emotional and social intelligence in your repertoire of skills can boost your career significantly.
Research shows that empathy is a construct that is fundamental to leadership. If you want to grow and be recognised as a leader, you will need to demonstrate to those in your team that you care.
Knowing how and when to respond in a given situation will set you apart. In essence, as Malcolm Gladwell says in his book, Outliers"… not knowledge for its own sake. It’s knowledge that helps you read situations correctly and get what you want".
2. Have a purpose
Knowing why you want what you want not only guides – it also helps you navigate the uncertainties of the daily grind, as well as motivates you to take on challenges that you may otherwise shun.
In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl says, “Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself.”
Simply put, a successful career is one that is based on bringing your best-value offering to serve others. Therefore, deciding early on how you want your career to end up – in fact, before it even starts – is key.
3. Know thyself
Would you like to feel alive no matter what’s going on in your life? If the answer is yes, these aspects need to be aligned: who you are, why you are (your purpose), what you are (the value you bring); you will also need to have clarity on what values guide you.
Our beliefs dictate our behaviour, and our behaviour influences how we act. For instance, if you believe you can, you are more likely to take actions toward a particular goal and thus act congruent to your beliefs.
While purpose inspires, values direct; and self-knowledge guarantees power – the unique and unassailable power that results in authenticity. And, as Oprah Winfrey encourages us to do: ‘own your power’.
Remarkably, we all like and are drawn to people who are grounded in being themselves because they come alive in being who and what they are – authentic!
4. Find a mentor and a sponsor
Humans intuitively know that emulating another is the easiest, quickest and best way to learn, and we begin doing so from our childhood days.
When it comes to growing in your career, learning through mentorship is still the best approach. It’s your responsibility to seek out and ask for help from those who are more senior than you, especially those who are in the role you aspire to fill one day.
However, some research studies by the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) have found that having more mentorship did not lead to career advancement, but having sponsorship did.
In short, “Mentors advise you and sponsors advocate for you. Sponsorship leads to a career advancement while mentorship is instrumental to learning in general.”
In her TED Talk, Morgan Stanley executive and Harvard MBA graduate Carla Harris elaborates on the need for a sponsor if one is to advance their career. She goes on to share how she got a boost in her career to become a top Wall Street banker – just by having a sponsor.
Unlike mentorship, sponsorship advances those involved. Sponsors open up doors to their protégés, who in return, support and drive a sponsor’s vision.
5. Be adaptable and agile
For some, the future of work and all its uncertainties presents a daunting challenge, yet for those equipped to manage change, this means opportunities are rife.
Have you read the classic book, Who Moved My Cheese by Dr Spencer Johnson?
If you have, you know that change didn’t just start now. It has always been with us; in fact, it’s what drives value and innovations.
Harvard Business Review states that adaptability is the new competitive advantage, therefore, boosting your adaptability quotient (AQ) is crucial, as how well you adapt to change will determine if you thrive or die.
Thus, we should embrace change by cultivating what psychologist Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset, for it’s your sure-proof way to building a meaningful and thriving career.
To conclude, no matter what the future of work brings, it is your responsibility to seek out a career that aligns with the core of who, why and what you are (your unique value offering) in skills and talents. For in the end, success, meaning and fulfilment ensues only in such an undertaking of purpose.