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How to future proof your career

Rhian Morgan

The workplace is changing. It would be naïve to think you’ll be in the same role for life, especially with technology expanding exponentially. Rhian Morgan looks at how you can future-proof your career, with some advice from employability trainer and author Oni Bhattacharya

After a full day's work, you usually go home and recharge your batteries. Although in the future, some of your colleagues may actually be plugging themselves into the power mains. For anyone, like me, who has been watching the new drama Humans on a Sunday evening, you may have wondered if this is a glimpse into the future.

With the rise of the robots, according to an article in Wired, 70% of the careers that exist today will be redundant by the end of the century . However I’m betting, as a skilled manager, you’re not overly worried. People will always need leaders, right? But with no-one to manage, who needs a manager? Instead, companies will need a computer specialist. The geeks, after all, will inherit the world.

Already, top minds like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking are backing research to protect humanity from the threat of artificial intelligence. Google has also set up an ethics board to protect against, what one of its founders warns, is “the number one risk for this century”.

“Everything that humans can do, a machine can do,” says Moshe Vardi, a computer scientist at Rice University. “Things are happening that look like science fiction.”

And consider this. Austerity is still on the agenda for this government. Which means you might be like one of the thousands affected in the banking sector, and facing redundancy. (In June, HSBC announced that it will shed 8,000 jobs in the UK, while Lloyd’s will be axing 9,000 jobs by 2017. Technology has replaced the bank teller.)

There are other, more pressing concerns. Maybe your present career doesn’t challenge you enough or you don’t feel that you can keep up with the threat of Millennials. Or maybe you’re finding it hard to re-enter the workforce at the same level after taking time out to raise a family. Or you may just have a dream of turning a passion into a career, and turning a hobby into a profitable concern.

Whatever your reason, it is time to future-proof your career. “For most of my career, I worked in radio and television news. In 2009, I was made redundant,” says employability trainer Oni Bhattacharya, author of  The Job-Hunting Toolkit.

“I decided I wasn’t going to work in the media any more. It had become a young person’s game and, at 50, with 22 years in the business, I felt it was time to do something different. Luckily, I was prepared. I’d already studied Neuro-Linguistic Programming (I’m a master practitioner) and, from 2008, I also became a certified business and life coach.”

Since then, Oni has taken advantage of various opportunities to become a top employability trainer. I asked him what his advice would be for managers.

How can managers future-proof their careers?

The importance of keeping abreast of changes that are happening within their industry is paramount. This could be everything, from the advent of new technology and social media on business, to new ways of developing markets and how those changes impact on both sales and customer service. Forward-thinking managers need to constantly update their in-house skills and use their own time to develop CPD (Continuing Personal Development) to help their careers. It’s vital they take courses and training to enhance their understanding to make them better managers.

It’s also crucial to know those who do what they do in rival companies and have a good working relationship with them. This could be important should there be issues within their organisation and are looking to move.

Networking is a key factor in changing jobs or moving within their profession. They must also have good rapport with those above, on the same and below their level at work, as they may move around in the industry and might be asked to give an opinion of them before being considered for any position. If the industry is changing rapidly, and they are being left behind, they should speak to superiors about in-house training so they and their department are all included in it.

Business – yesterday, today and tomorrow – is built on relationships. Who you know and how you interact with them throughout your working life will ultimately determine longevity in any sector.”

What potential careers could professionals look into as a career change?

Many professionals who are looking to change careers need to think about what they want to do and skills they will need to do it. If they have been in a certain sector for some time, they may want to change completely as they may be disillusioned or fed up with what’s happening in their field. They should take some time to think about what they really want to do, go on courses in their own time and expense to build the skills needed and help move into that sector.

If managers want to stay in a given industry, they might prefer to help businesses by becoming a consultant, sharing expertise and knowledge with companies and their staff. Or they might like to train people how to get better results or improve their business using understanding and experience of a given sector.

Changing careers requires a lot of thought and a desire to want to do it. Sometimes it’s not about the money but how they feel about the job and the contribution they make to society. On a realistic level, they may have to take a reduced salary and need to be aware and prepared for this and make provision and changes to their financial affairs. In my own case, I took a 50 per cent pay cut and took steps to mitigate its effects when changing careers.

What will be the most sought-after careers in the future?

There are two areas that I think could provide careers of the future and they are at different ends of the technological scale. At one end, there is the growth of the e-commerce economy. This is already a multi-billion pound industry and is continuing to grow as more people buy online and businesses respond to this. Ten years ago, this sector hardly existed but now there are many new opportunities for those who understand it and can help develop it.

Added to this, there are associated jobs including social media, relationship building, viral and guerrilla marketing, and new ways for developing markets. There are other areas that are simply not there at the moment but will develop as new technology changes. There will also be training and teaching opportunities for those needing to learn how to use such methods in the future as this market grows.

At the other end of the scale, there’s a growth in artisan and products requiring traditional and specialist skills. There is demand for going back to niche services or one-off items, such as specialist shops selling delicatessen foods, handmade cakes and breads, one-off jewellery, and a whole host of other items.

Niche markets will continue to grow as people demand more items that are unique and not available on the mass market. These are just two sectors of an ever-growing and changing market that professionals and those seeking a change from the management or corporate world may gravitate to as they look to move away to a more creative and fulfilling future.

If not, of course, you could always move closer to the reality depicted in Humans and become the ultimate million-dollar man or woman: by having a chip implant and becoming transhuman. Writer Zoltan Istvan is already standing for the 2016 US Presidential election for the Transhumanist Party. With just a wave of your hand, doors could literally open for you. But that’s an article for the future, no doubt.

For more advice from Oni, visit www.thejobhuntingtoolkit.com. His recently released book is available from Amazon.

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