Soft Skills

15 minute read

How to Future Proof Your Career in 9 Easy Steps

Devan Ciccarelli

Devan Ciccarelli

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Are you concerned about automation quickly replacing the jobs in your industry?

Worried yours is next?

While no one really knows which positions will be around this time next year or even in five years, you can learn how to future proof your career so employers still see you as the best candidate.

How are you supposed to protect your livelihood in this changing reality?

In this guide, you’ll learn nine steps to help you better prepare for something called the “fourth Industrial Revolution” the easy way.

Why it’s time to prepare for the fourth Industrial Revolution

Without boring you with a deep history lesson, an industrial revolution is considered a period in history when great advancements are made in manufacturing or technology.

fourth-industrial-revolution-infographicSteam characterized the first Industrial Revolution as humans learned how to use water to generate power.

In the second Revolution, electricity and the assembly line were the hot inventions powering industry.

While you weren’t around for the first two Industrial Revolutions, you may have seen the third Industrial Revolution firsthand as computers, the internet, IT, and digital automations paved the way for our current advancements.

But that’s not the end of our story.

Experts now say a new, fourth Industrial Revolution is just around the corner, which they’re calling Industrial 4.0.

This time, both the physical world and the realm of technology will combine to form one.

What does that mean exactly?

You’ve probably already seen this action, maybe without even realizing it.

Products of the impending fourth Industrial Revolution include self-driving cars, virtual reality, 3D printing, tech devices and wearables to track everything from heart rates and fat mass to all your unread work emails and Instagram likes.

As Jacob Morgan, author and one of the country’s leading futurists, puts it perfectly 

Technology is fusing together with people to shape every aspect of life

The fourth Industrial Revolution is predicted to have a major impact on the work lives of Americans in entry-level jobs all the way up the ladder.

Estimates show as much as 47% of US jobs are in jeopardy of switching from human-powered to being completely automated by technology.

Now, you can become overwhelmed and stressed out by the idea of robots replacing your job, or you can take the smarter approach to make sure this doesn’t happen to you by future proofing your career.

This sure-fire way to protect your income isn’t something you can knock out in one step, or even overnight.

But it is something you can prepare for starting today -- and, good news, there are fewer than 10 steps to getting it right and gaining more peace of mind.

How to future proof your career in 9 steps

So what exactly does it mean to future proof your career?

Does that mean you lock in one job or position for the rest of your life?

Or does it mean that you create your own position so you never have to worry about losing your job to automation?

Neither of these are entirely true.

Future proofing your career is simply taking the extra steps to prepare yourself for a changing workforce, one that’s going to rely heavily on an increased use of technology.

So rather than waiting for tech to replace your labour, you’ll take a proactive approach to put yourself in a position where potential employers can’t afford not to work with you.

Follow these nine steps and you’ll secure your place in the workforce alongside technology instead of getting edged out:

future-proof-career-inevitable-change

1. Adopt a “Change is Inevitable” mindset

Technology is only going to keep evolving, and it’s always going to get better.

While you and I may not know exactly how, we do know this change is inevitable.

So as technology in the work environment evolves, so should the workforce.

People who are more adaptable and resilient will be the ones who’ll make it out on top. They’ll also be the employees who aren’t threatened by robots and automation stealing their jobs.

But how do you become more resilient and adaptable?

For one, you can prepare for the future like you’re doing today and be ready to change course at a moment’s notice.

And two, when your environment begins changing, have an open mind about what this transition may bring -- and be ready to take it head on -- instead of resisting it and sticking to your old habits.

One of the best ways to build the confidence necessary for this new technology-driven world is to level-up your digital skillset.

future-proof-career-tech-savvy

2. Become tech-savvy instead of tech-averse

Do you throw your hands up in defeat and find yourself saying “technology is not my thing” several times a day?

Take the extra time to learn more about the technology you’re struggling with, especially if using it makes up a majority of your job.

For basic office tasks such as Excel or Word, simply sign up for online courses to help understand these programs better.

Project management is another area where robots won’t be able to compete with the human touch still necessary, meaning it pays to brush up on your PM skills too.

Another way to look at this is by asking yourself how you can work with technology to improve your productivity.

If you’re a marketer, for example, this may include understanding important tools to help you analyze your efforts and track performances faster.

But it could also come from setting up automations to streamline your customer’s journey as well.

While the robotics of the automation can be set up and run through a machine, the strategy behind those processes is all human-powered.

These skills will need to be learned, honed, and improved on even if robots come into the picture.

Since many experts believe future proofing your career means being able to work with artificial intelligence, you’ll need to be fluent in technology instead of averse to it.

And the more you advance your knowledge, the stronger your resume also becomes.

future-proof-career-expand-skillset

3. Expand and hone your skillset

The fourth Industrial Revolution will also create a need for higher skill levels, and not just when it comes to technology.

You may have already witnessed the fact that having a college degree doesn’t make you stand out anymore. After all, 33.4% of Americans now have college degrees.

While that figure may seem low on its own, it’s the highest it’s ever been, and only continuing to grow.

Since having a college degree or formal education may not be enough to get you ahead in your career, the trick is to never stop learning.

You should continue to acquire new skills -- especially ones in demand like cyber security and web or app development -- and learn more on your own.

The best way professionals can do this is by enrolling in online courses.

You don’t have to squeeze in formal classes or take out a student loan because now online classes are not only affordable, but they’re also more accessible.

While you’re on lunch break you could be studying up on a new class to ensure your future is safe.

These new skills will help you get ahead in the eyes of employers and they’ll also ensure your career is set up for success in the future too.

While certain employers offer reimbursements for continuing education, you should take these courses even if your employer doesn’t offer that to you (but still ask anyway).

So as you keep your technical skills fresh and aim to add a few new ones to your digital toolkit, you can’t overlook your soft skills either.

future-proof-career-develop-soft-skills

4. Develop your soft skills too

You may be able to train a robot to automate the technical skills of your job, but soft skills such as leadership, communication, collaboration, and time management are still tasks only humans do well.

Since technology is not at the point where robots have the same emotional intelligence as humans, these soft skills are and will continue to be in high-demand.

Fortunately, you can also hone your soft skills with online classes so you can be more proactive in this department too.

With all these new skills you’ll be acquiring to round out your stellar resume, you’ll definitely need this next tip.

future-proof-career-track-accomplishments

5. Keep a diligent inventory of your accomplishments

Most people, including me at one point, wait until they’re ready to find a new job to create a portfolio of accomplishments.

But this is a huge mistake since you may forget what you’ve been up to, or worse, forget to mention a major milestone or achievement.

A better approach is to always record your projects and accomplishments as you work through them.

This guarantees that you never forget to highlight something and you’ll always have a list of your achievements on hand.

You should also jot down extras like volunteer work and professional development courses, as well as any other training you receive.

It’s also a great idea to keep your performance reviews here, both the good ones and the bad. You can always refer back to these anytime you need a pick-me-up or if you want to narrow down your specific areas needing improvement.

Where should you keep this list of accomplishments?

Not in a folder, but in a digital portfolio, which I’ll touch on next.

future-proof-career-digital-footprint

6. Consider your digital footprint

While most people don’t regularly Google themselves, you should get in the habit of doing so every so often to see what your digital footprint reveals.

If your Google search still returns some unfavorable links to your college days, it’s time to create a better digital portfolio to trump these older, less professional versions of yourself.

There are three steps to creating a healthier digital footprint when it comes to your career:

  1. Set up an online portfolio to showcase all your trophies from step 5.
  2. Contribute professionally on sites like LinkedIn and Twitter, or others popular in your industry/niche.
  3. Publish content that shows off your expertise in your profession.

Each of these steps will help future proof your career simultaneously.

And while you’re on LinkedIn, you can also tackle this next step:

future-proof-career-keep-networking

7. Continue to grow your network (the right way)

Adding contacts to your network via LinkedIn and Twitter is the easy way to grow your network. But it doesn’t tell you how healthy your connections actually are.

So if you’re only building your base to have a plethora of contacts to reach out to should you decide to leave your job, you’re going about it all wrong.

You should focus your networking efforts on building relationships with people.

With this in mind, try to offer your expert advice in LinkedIn groups instead of simply adding random contacts every day.

And anytime you do want to add someone, spend a few minutes writing them a personal message first.

These steps will allow you to grow your network in a natural way.

On the other hand, if you decide to do just the opposite, you’ll find yourself with 500+ followers and no one to talk to when the time comes.

Another benefit to growing your network is that you’ll be connected to professionals from all over the world, which can help you:

future-proof-career-expand-geographically

8. Expand beyond your geographic location

Couple the evolution of technology with the rise in telecommuting, remote work, and networking sites like LinkedIn, and you’ll quickly find connections outside of your local bubble.

To stay in touch with these global members of your team, you’ll want to become a pro at virtual project management tools like Trello and messaging platforms like Slack.

Become more familiar with the geographic regions that pertain to your job by reaching out to members in those countries too.

If there’s ever a time to relocate or take on an international project, establishing these branches will not only impress your boss and give you a leg up on your competition, it will go a long way to future proofing your career too.

As you do that, it’s also smart to pay attention to emerging trends both locally and abroad in your field.

future-proof-career-industry-trends

9. Know your industry trends

Understanding the future of your industry is a giant factor in how well you can truly future proof your career.

Essentially, there’s no point specializing in a career field that may be completely automated in a few years.

The jobs most at risk are those requiring low-skilled employees working on the same repetitive tasks each day.

So if that description matches your current position, it’s time to add more skills to your tool belt to prepare for the reality of your job not being around much longer.

But remember, an increased use of technology in the workplace doesn't always mean you’ll be replaced.

Rather, it could mean you’ll just need to know how to use this technology as a way to potentially do your job better or more efficiently.

If you’re unsure about the company you work for, ask yourself these questions:

  • How has the company changed since last year?
  • Are sales up or down as compared to this time last year?
  • What about staff? Is your company outsourcing more tasks each year?
  • Is technology becoming a bigger part of your work life?

Stay abreast with industry news to see if these answers are only specific to your company or your entire industry as a whole.

If you learn these answers reflect an industry-wide trend, that’s a good sign you should learn new skills and consider switching career paths.

Either way, follow these nine steps and you’ll ensure your career -- both now and in the future -- is set up for success, even as technology and automation move in.

Future proof your career today

Instead of worrying about the robot takeover of the workforce, it pays to take a proactive approach with your career.

So start adding more skills to your toolbelt and level up your resume by picking one new class to sign up for today.

After you do that, it’s time to show off what you’ve accomplished so far by creating a portfolio a robot can’t compete with.

Check off the other steps on this list as you work through them and you’ll be in good shape to embrace, not fight, the next revolution in your career.

Want to learn more?

Take your soft skills to the next level with our comprehensive (and free) ebook!

Devan Ciccarelli

Devan Ciccarelli

Crafting fluff-free content is Devan’s jam. When she’s not writing for GoSkills, you’ll find her outside reading, soaking up the sun, or hiking her next adventure.

1 comment

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  • Duncan

    All of these points were relevant a century ago. And every decade thereafter. Nothing new, the tune is just different and it still rhymes.