By Macky Weaver
COVID-19 has turned our nation upside-down. The pandemic threw millions thrown out of work and sent the U.S. unemployment rate to a record high 14.7 percent in April. In Florida, the unemployment rate was 14.5 in May 2020. Many economists question if and when a complete recovery will ever occur, although we remain hopeful that it will.
Regardless of how big the bounce back is or how fast it occurs, the time has never been better for anyone—employed, furloughed or seeking your next opportunity—to consider the best ways to future-proof your careers.
In days gone by, many workers relied on things like contracts and seniority to ensure their job security. But forces like artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and the rise of the remote workforce have made almost all jobs, less secure. With these things in mind, here are some suggestions for how to future-proof your career:
Embrace Change – Technology has changed everything. The further it advances, the faster it changes and the more change it enables. In that way, technological change is exponential. There’s no question, it’s easy to get left behind. But the surest way to ensure that you do is to resist that change. Don’t get stuck doing things “the old way”. Embrace change.
Develop Your Skill Set – Being a “life-long learner” used to be a notion reserved for academia. Today, it is a nearly universal job requirement for almost all white- and even blue-collar jobs.
Sharpen Your Soft Skills – Technology is increasingly reducing the importance of “hard skills”, whether it’s related to robots reducing the need for manual labor or software making things like writing, designing, calculating and everything else, easier for everyone. As a result companies today increasingly placing an emphasis on “soft skills”:
- Emotional Intelligence – Having a high degree of emotional intelligence and empathy helps you in many other areas such as communication, collaboration, problem-solving
- Communication – Employers value those who can listen, write, present, negotiate and persuade.
- Problem-Solving – Finding creative solutions to problems, small and large, ensure you’ll always be able to manage critical situations.
- Decision-Making – Good decision makers keep workflow moving with decisive actions, but more importantly they show an ideal combination of logical thinking and sound judgement.
- Experimentation – Having the courage to experiment can lead to breakthroughs and improvements that employers covet.
- Self-Motivation – The less time and energy your company needs to motivating you to perform your job, the more time they can devote to growing the business in other ways.
- Time-Management – Productivity has always been an indicator of success and that starts with effective time management. Stay focused. Stay productive. Stay in your job.
- Teamwork – With distributed teams and more remote workers, collaboration is more important than ever. There’s an entire segment of software dedicated exclusively to it. Specialization is another critical force driving the need for strong team players.
- Negotiation & Conflict Resolution – Being able to resolve issues in diplomatic ways means you’ll be able to perform your job more efficiently and effectively, regardless of circumstances.
Learn From Others – Diversity in the workforce continues to increase. No matter what stage of your career you are at or what role in your company you play, there is endless opportunity to learn from those around you. Older workers can learn from younger workers, and vice-versa. Building solid relationships with your co-workers in and across departments only strengthens your knowledge base, effectiveness and value to the company.
Showcase Initiative – Checking boxes won’t get you noticed. Perhaps in the past, laying low was a good thing. Today, companies value critical thinkers with the courage to contribute. Suggesting improvements and offering up ideas without stepping on the toes of others demonstrates creativity, problem-solving skills, diplomacy and teamwork.
Share Information – Generosity is always an appealing character trait and when your generosity helps lift the team, it is appreciated by all. Sharing information freely does this and sends the message to your employer and those around you that you are team-oriented, and a reliable source of material value.
Own Your Mistakes – Trying to dodge blame or worse- pointing it the direction of another team member, when the responsibility is yours is never a good look. We all make mistakes and most employers recognize this. What they want is an employee who will own up to their mistakes, learn from them and move forward. When this doesn’t happen, trust is broken and that’s one of the quickest ways out of a job.
Be Open, Honest & Authentic – Honesty and authenticity are highly valued in today’s workplace. Today, more than ever, people value those with the courage and conviction to be themselves, while also being adaptable to those around them.