What’s your career ‘over the horizon radar’?

Over time, working within a mature organisation or industry may contribute to a feeling of predictability about your workplace and job. This workplace certainty may prove for the most part, illusory when faced with disruptive and significant change.

For those working in fast changing and volatile industries such as IT, this should come as no surprise. What is surprising to some, however, is that the rate of technology induced changes are rapidly increasing as is its magnitude.

Amongst our current high rate of technology driven innovation and change in the employment landscape, how can you develop a meaningful career where the value of your knowledge, skills and expertise (and hence your ability to earn a good income) is not diluted by:

  • Being embedded in a commoditised technology that almost anyone can use;
  • Becoming outdated. An example is a software programmer whose primary skills are based on a technology that has been superseded;
  • Outsourced to external organisations, be they down the road or overseas, thanks to the ability to communicate over the internet, or
  • Devalued through the opinions or perspectives of others.

A good starting point is to hone your skill in noticing and interpreting small changes in your working environment. These often contain the tell-tale signs of potentially disruptive changes.

Join the dots. Develop and refine the skill of attempting to identify and interpret the interactions between changes. It is often these interactions that magnify the impacts of disruptive change.

Once identified, you are then better placed to implement effective countermeasures to career risks as well as identifying excellent career opportunities that could be pursued.

How to fine-tune your ‘over the horizon radar’

There are number of activities that would be helpful in the quest for obtaining a clearer understanding of the forces at play in your environment, and those that could have a bearing on the course of your career. These may include:

  • Read widely: Read articles, respected trade and professional journals or other well researched, independent sources of information other than in your industry or areas relating to your core skills or expertise. This will help in obtaining a broader perspective of your environment.
  • Acquire complementary and supplementary skills: Developing complementary and supplementary skills in addition to those associated with your core discipline is an important contributor to career resilience.
  • Seek objectivity: On the one hand, distinguishing between well formed, evidence based perspectives and those driven by ulterior motives, undisclosed commercial, or other vested interests is not always simple. .
  • Stress-test your assumptions: In the face of uncertainty and complexity, assumptions lie at the core of all our decision making, whether they be job, career or business related. Decisions made on the basis of incorrect assumptions can profoundly and adversely affect your career’s outcomes. Distinguishing between correlation and causation.
  • Understand your risk profile and appetite: Whether you are debt free with no dependencies, and have a million dollars in the bank, or are the family breadwinner in a precarious financial and employment situation, may affect your decision making. Being able to clearly articulate the risk-reward trade-off in your specific situation could prove invaluable in clarifying an appropriate course of action.
  • Run through scenarios: Develop the skill of logically, objectively and systematically working through a range of likely or feasible scenarios. This will help you validate and stress-test any assumptions you make in your career plans.

At the end of the day, career certainty is a distant memory for most, and ensuring that you are aware of looming changes as early as possible could be invaluable in ensuring that your job and career remains resilient and fulfilling.