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How to Futureproof Your Career

Many tech commentators, influencers and researchers are predicting that the effects of artificial intelligence and automation are likely to have significant effects on many careers over the next few years. Some are predicting that AI and automation will have a whole host of positive effects on the world of work, from eliminating repetitive and time-consuming tasks through to creating brand new jobs. 

Huge change like this inevitably brings disruption. And, unfortunately, the disruption that’s most likely to take place when it comes to widespread implementation of automation and artificial intelligence is people losing their jobs. A study by McKinsey Global Institute suggests that between 400 to 800 million people could ultimately lose their jobs by 2030 directly due to AI and automation making particular skills and jobs roles obsolete. 

What is futureproofing?

This is where futureproofing comes in. 

To put the concept simply, futureproofing is all about making sure that your career is aligned with the skills that you’ll need to be a productive employee in the future – and to make sure that your job isn’t lost to the effects of technological development. It can potentially help you improve the resilience of your skillset and ensure that your career development doesn’t suffer as a result of a rapidly changing economy. 

In this blog, we’re going to explore some of the key elements behind futureproofing, giving you some of our top tips in making your career development as resilient as possible. 

How to futureproof your career: 6 tips

1. Cultivate adaptability

Adaptability is the ability to respond and adjust to the demands of new situations. When it comes to futureproofing your career, adaptability is a crucial skillset to refine because it defines whether or not you will succeed or fail in a given career over time. If you’re adaptable, and you have the capacity to make changes to your approach based on the demands of a particular situation, you’ll probably be able to maintain a successful career in a given field. If not, you’ll likely find that you won’t be able to adequately respond to changes and you’ll find yourself left behind. 

As a trait that has been fundamental to our evolution and success as a species, adaptability is one of those skills that are comprised of several others. This blog by Yale University has some great tips on how to cultivate adaptability when it comes to career development. Here are a few key points to bear in mind: 

  • Keep an open mind about your career development and where you see it progressing
  • Be open to new responsibilities, roles and industries
  • Be proactive: think to the future and take the initiative 
  • Anticipate potential changes to your work

Arguably, the key to building adaptability is being flexible: in being able to change long-held ideas, opinions or ways of doing things that you might have.

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2. Stay updated with news in your industry

Information is incredibly important when it comes to trying to predict what the future might hold for your career. We aren’t all psychic, so generally we will have to rely on our own interpretation of news and industry-specific developments to work out what could potentially happen to our careers, responding to threats and taking advantage of opportunities using our intuition and reasoning. 

Keeping in touch with the latest news, debates and developments in your industry can help you anticipate change and stay one step ahead of the process. 

Potential digital sources of information that can help you stay updated with the latest developments in your career area include:

  • Newspapers and legacy media
  • Industry-specific news blogs
  • Professional membership bodies
  • Professional forums

3. Learn. Learn. Learn.

Continuous learning is essential when it comes to realising your career development, safeguarding your career from the effects of automation and improving your overall earning potential. 

By focusing on learning, you’ll be improving your worth as an employee, learning new skills and developing the strength of existing ones. This can help make you an asset to the workplace, improving your chances of being kept on over the long term. 

Continuous learning can take many different forms. One of the most popular is studying a professional qualification. These types of courses are usually offered by industry bodies and they’re designed to equip you with the skills that employers currently demand, and that they will demand, in the future. 

In the past, most professional qualifications were offered in a face-to-face format in a classroom, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced many learning providers to adapt their approach and offer courses online. 

Studying a professional qualification online means that you can fit your learning around the demands of your life, learning in your spare time. This means that you don’t have to take time out of your career to improve your skills: an attractive prospect when most of us don’t have the funds to take a protracted leave of absence from work in order to develop our careers. 

At ICS Learn, we offer professional qualifications in a range of subjects including accountancy and bookkeeping, human resources, learning & development, project management, marketing and leadership and management. You can complete these courses 100% online, from anywhere. We’ve been offering distance-based learning for over 100 years, so we know what we’re doing!

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5. Develop transferable skills

The depth and complexity of your skillset will be essential to the long-term resilience of your career in the future. Developing ‘transferable skills’ – otherwise known as ‘soft skills’, those general skills that you can adapt to use across multiple roles in multiple industries – will be essential to helping you cope with the changes of the future. 

Skills can be divided into different categories depending on how specific and how general they are. If you search ‘skills categories’ on any search engine it’s likely that you’ll be confronted with a bewildering array of ways that people have tried to organise the various types of skills that we use as professionals. 

Whilst it’s clear that there’s a lot of different ways of thinking about the topic, the point that most researchers agree on is that skills can be generally be classed as hard or soft. Spoiler: We’ve written an extensive blog about the difference between hard and soft skills that you can read if you’re eager to find out more about the two and how they can help your career development. 

Hard skills are specific abilities that can be learned and, in turn, taught, to others in the workplace. Generally, they’re types of skills that can be demonstrated, quantified and measured.  For example, knowing how to maintain a specific piece of software at your workplace would be a hard skill, as would knowing how to manage a project from start to finish, or how to process payroll at your company. 

Soft skills, on the other hand, are skills that are more abstract than their hard skill counterparts. They are much more subtle and are harder to measure and quantify than hard skills. They are also notoriously hard to try and define. Think of things like having confidence, being able to lead a team, having a good work ethic etc. With traits like these, it’s harder to be able to definitively say that someone has that specific soft skill: instead, you have to use an element of intuition.

In fact, when it comes to futureproofing, soft skills could actually hold the key to safeguarding your career development. 

The only thing we can accurately predict about the future is the fact that life will change. The issue is, we don’t know for certain in what ways it will change. We can only make educated guesses.

Hard skills are often made obsolete by changes in the economy and in the development of technology and this obviously makes it risky to overly specialise in them when it comes to building a long-term career. The best approach to futureproofing your skillset is to develop a strong set of soft skills alongside specialised ones. This should help you to improve your overall resilience and adaptability. 

6. Target future-focused roles and industries

There’s widespread anxiety amongst professionals about the security of their roles in the face of rising challenges.

According to a ‘Future of Work’ study by MindEdge, cited in Forbes, 53% of managers surveyed reported that their employees were either ‘very’ or ‘fairly concerned’ about their job security, a figure that was notably up on previous years. In a survey by Pew Research, 65% of people who responded said that they that expected technology to ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ replace jobs that are currently performed by humans. 

If you’re currently working in a role, or an industry, that you think will probably become obsolete soon and you’re working on changing careers, it makes sense to do some research into likely future industries and roles.

Unsurprisingly, most academics, tech commentators and scientists are pointing to the growth of AI, machine learning and automation as one suggestion of a new industry in which a range of new roles could be created.

If you’re looking for specific industries/ roles to target right now, Euronews.next explores some of the some potential areas that are experiencing growth now and potentially will do so in the future in this fascinating article.  Cathay Hackl, a tech executive, also has some interesting thoughts on 7 jobs that will be created by technology in the future in this blog. 

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6. Invest in people skills

Try as developers and programmers might, there is one set of skills that they will never truly be able to automate or mechanise: those involving human to human interactions. In other words, people skills. 

Although certain processes and particular repetitive motions can be performed well by artificial intelligence, replicating the nuance and warmth of human interaction is something that technology is likely to struggle with for a while. This means that jobs and careers which focus on people skills and the value of human to human communication will likely resist the worst impacts of change better than most others.  Moving to a role focused on people skills in your industry could be a useful way to safeguard your role in the long-term. 

Futureproof your career today

We hope this blog has served as a good introduction to the concept of futureproofing and how it can be used to help guide your career development. Protecting your career in the face of widespread change can be challenge but by keeping a level head and keeping one eye on the future, you’ll be able to weather the toughest things that are thrown at you. 

Futureproof your career by studying a 100% online professional qualification. Download your free course guide here and start your journey today.