Nowadays it is hardly possible to imagine a with just one career anymore. The Future Workplace research predicts that the youngest workers will have 15–20 jobs in their lives. Dozens of experts suggest that it becomes a norm to go through many careers in a lifetime. The number is usually seven, though at times it is as low as three and sometimes as high as 10.
The babies born in 2017 can expect to live over the age of 100. Many countries at the moment consider connecting the retirement age to the life expectancy that by 2050 will be 95 years and higher in the developed countries. But even with the current trends, we can assume that current 20-year-olds will spend at least 55 years on a labour market. For most of us, that means many transitions, different jobs and careers to be a norm.
There is a lot of conversation about what skills do we need to do the Jobs of the Future. I think the other important question is what skills do we need to be able to GET THEM?
We don’t need to look decades ahead to see that development and management of our career are going to be important. It is clear that automatisation will continue disrupting industries and business models. Many of us will be forced to consider the change of job or career in the immediate future. While for others the need for professional transition is not going to be a necessity, but rather something they desire. A recent study found that 74% of millennials who like their jobs are planning to leave it within the next three years. Those are the people who at present satisfied with what they do. Needless to say, there is also the whole other group of people who are no longer happy with their professional choice.
Career Hacking as a skill
I call the ability to manage your professional development and transition towards personally desired future Career Hacking. It consists of 3 big challenges: finding the desired direction, making yourself professionally relevant on a crowded marketplace and developing the capacity for professional transition and growth.
Challenge 1: Figuring what you want
In my line of work, I meet lots of people who have years of experience in the desired field. They are successful, knowledgeable, well respected, but are no longer happy with their professional choice. They want something different. Many of them have this struggle for years. Some end up with burn out or total disengagement from their current workplace. What many of those people have in common is the struggle to define what is it what they want to do.
There is this old Italian joke about a poor man who goes to church every day and prays before the statue of a great saint, begging, “Dear saint-please, please, please…give me the grace to win the lottery.” This lament goes on for months. Finally, the exasperated statue comes to life, looks down at the begging man and says in weary disgust, “My son-please, please, please…buy a ticket.”
This joke reminds me of the biggest obstacles I see in finding our next professional calling: we are trying to approach the challenge cognitively. The truth very often is that if the answer to the career change would be in your head, you would have found it already.
I believe that the skill of discovering the desired direction is not in thinking more or thinking different. It is in taking steps forward exploring the options and making adjustments to your plans and ideas on the way. The key skill to develop to be able to do it is Action Mastery.
Action Mastery is the ability to take small consistent steps towards a chosen goal. The skill consists of many different components: from the simple ability to split big tasks into small actionable steps to the ability to ask question, work with feedback, to reflect, prioritise, identify and utilise resources, set the goals, deal with setbacks and rejections, think in ‘wants’, create support networks and successful professional alliances.
We feel comfortable in our heads. Thinking is safe. Acting implies vulnerability and exposure. Yet, there is no successful career transition or anything in life that matters can be achieved without it. So developing the Action Mastery is one of the core skills for having the life and the career you want.
Challenge 2: Being relevant
The other important challenge of Career Hacking is the ability to make yourself relevant on a crowded saturated marketplace. Some predictions say that in coming years up to 25% of professionals will be working on demand. Companies are increasingly moving towards reducing permanent employment and working with freelancers. Platforms like Fiverr and Peopleperhour that offer a variety of professional services from professionals around the world substitute the need for having people on the payroll. The further development of VR/AR and robotics will make it possible to work remotely even for professions that require physical presence at the moment (e.g. doctors, engineers). So being professionally relevant becomes more important than where you geographically are and even what experience you have.
Now the key to showing you are relevant is establishing and managing your Personal Brand. Many people don’t like to think of themselves as a brand. It is an overused business word. However, if we translate the business definition of it to the context of an individual: brand is a unique image of a professional that identifies an individual and differentiates it from its competitors. Over time, this image becomes associated with a level of credibility, quality and satisfaction with the job individual or a service the individual provides. The brand helps in the crowded and complex marketplace, by standing for certain benefits and value.
Personal Branding is the ability to define how you deliver value and to continuously communicate it to decision makers and influencers. The result of personal branding is how others, your colleagues, employers and clients experience who you are and what you do. It requires the ability to make your previous knowledge and experience relevant your current or the next role and communicate it consistently online and offline.
Challenge 3: Growing with your job
The last important challenge of Career Hacking is the ability to grow and evolve with your job. It is estimated that around 50% of current work activities are technically automatable by adapting currently demonstrated technologies. 6 out of 10 professions have more than 30% of work that can be automated by 2030. That means that in the coming decade many job descriptions will be changing significantly. The adaptation would require learning new skills, gaining new knowledge and developing the high level of cognitive capabilities that are hard to automate.
Learnability is the ability to develop in-demand skills and competencies quickly. It is an ability to learn fast. It is your capacity for learning. Developing Learnability requires the ability to actively think about your learning, having self-discipline and grit. High learnability is required to be able to excel in different roles. Learnability is one of the key requirements for flexibility, learning agility and adaptability. It defines the quality of your professional adaptation and growth.
I believe skills as Action Mastery, Personal Branding and Learnability will be defining our ability to have fulfilling careers and successful professional transitions in coming years. The good news is that it is possible to develop those skills. The challenge is that the responsibility very often lies with professionals. Many organisations still heavily focus on investing in the development of skills needed for improving job performance, but not the skills needed to advance the careers.
Accodring to PWC research, opportunities for career progression is the most important factor of the attractiveness of an employee. Somebody once said that we should measure the success of HR not by the number of people they train or retain, but by the number of people they promote and help to the new better career. It is the time the skills for Career Hacking becomes a big part of what we focus on in organisations.
For my book ‘Upskilling for the Future’ I am curious about is what skills are you developing today to have the job you want tomorrow?
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