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5 Ways to future proof your career

5 Ways to future proof your career

Whether you plan to stay in your current role or change your career, it's important to be ready for anything. Five experts share their top tips for future-proofing your career

With many of us still questioning our next career move in the wake of the Great Reshuffle, understanding which skills will be central to the future of work can help to super-charge your success.  

Here, five leading experts from business, technology and education provide their thoughts on the key competencies that will future-proof your career.

Critical thinking

Critical thinking

With the sheer volume of information that we’re bombarded with every day—and the pervasiveness of fake news and filtered images online—the ability to look at evidence, be objective and evaluate a situation without biases is more important than ever. Which is why, for me, critical thinking is one of the most important skills for future success.  

"Critical thinking is about having an open, inquisitive mind"

Critical thinking isn’t about being cynical or constantly negative. It’s about having an open, inquisitive mind which can analyse issues based on hard evidence—a desirable trait for roles in every industry across the world. Being able to fact-check and filter information to build a thorough understanding of a situation enables better decision-making and more efficient problem-solving. It’s a skill required by CEOs and graduates alike, and will always be valued in the world of work. 

Bernard Marr, world-renowned futurist & technologist, strategic advisor to companies and governments and award-winning author of new book Future Skills: The 20 Skills and Competencies Everyone Needs to Succeed in a Digital World (Wiley, out now). 

Self-awareness

Self awareness

Start with the assumption that there are areas in your life where you lack self-awareness—we all do. Develop a healthy curiosity about your blind spots and where you are getting in your own way. One simple question to ask yourself is, “Is there an area of your life where two people who don’t know each other have given you the same feedback?” If so, listen and take notice. Are there situations where you have a highly emotional response to a rational comment or question? 

Developing our self-awareness is a bit like walking into a dark room and shining a torch on how others experience us. As we walk around the room with our torch, we start to gain clarity of how we could be getting in our own way. A fast-track approach to becoming more self-aware is by working with a coach who can help you recognise your self-limiting behaviours and beliefs in a helpful and productive way. Self-awareness gives you the tools to be authentic and behave skilfully—the ability to read others and the room for success and satisfaction. 

Salma Shah is an Accredited Coach, the founder of coaching and leadership development platform Mastering Your Power, and author of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging in Coaching: A Practical Guide (Kogan Page).  

Problem solving

Problem solving

In simpler times, the problems that managers needed to solve were more uniform: should we enter this new market? Should we launch that new product? But today’s problems are increasingly exotic—what should be our work from home policy? How do we as an organization become more diverse, inclusive and equitable? And they keep piling up. So problem-solving skills often top the lists of most desirable skills for employees

"It’s useful to conceptualise problem solving as a process that answers three critical questions"

But it’s also a nontrivial skill to develop, in part because the little we learn in school about problem solving is answering questions ("what’s 2+2?"), not creating questions. We’re left to develop that skill on our own. How? Well, it’s useful to conceptualise problem solving as a process that answers three critical questions: Frame (answers “what’s my problem?”), Explore (answers, “how may I solve my problem?”), and Decide (answers, “how should I solve my problem?). Frame, Explore, Decide, or FrED. 

Arnaud Chevallier is Professor of Strategy at The International Institute for Management Development (IMD). His new book with co-author and IMD colleague Professor Albrecht Enders Solvable is out now. 

Empathy

Empathy

The era of the empathetic leader is now. Today, employees worldwide are demanding an organisation that champions employee wellbeing and centricity as a baseline for engagement. Businessolver's 2021 State of Workplace Empathy study revealed that whilst 91 per cent of CEOs saw their company as empathetic, only 68 per cent of their employees agree. Clearly, there is a significant journey ahead if businesses are to meet employee expectations in the future.  

Employees who feel seen, heard and recognised perform better, innovate more openly and stay in their roles longer. There is a very direct and overt ROI to this cultural shift. Empathy in leadership is no longer a "nice to have", but a fundamental principle for success and recovery in the years ahead. This is the future’s most powerful skillset. We all recognise that businesses need loyal, high-functioning, fast-thinking team members to face the never-ending volatility we work within. Empathy is the currency to get us there. 

Mimi Nicklin is a globally recognised empathy expert, CEO of inclusive creative agency Freedm, and author of Softening the Edge (out now). For more information go to www.empathyeverywhere.co.

Active learning

Active learning

We are no longer in an age where you select a career and stick with it until retirement. Things change fast and we need to be constantly learning in order to reinvent ourselves in critical moments, or recognise and capitalise on opportunities when they arise.  

In these transitional stages we are forced to reassess who we were, who we are and who we want to be, and we cannot do this without conscious and continuous learning, both technical and adaptive.  

"Life-long active learning is one of the best personal development tools we can possess"

Technical learning might be ticking off a half-day workshop or an online course, and of course we need to stay on top of this type of professional development. Adaptive learning is more personal. It involves reflection and dedication to re-evaluate ourselves, our relationships with others, our purpose and our impact, whilst establishing a renewed hunger for learning and personal development for the future.  

An essential strength in the face of uncertainty, life-long active learning is one of the best personal development tools we can possess to future-proof our careers and be successful, both at work and in life.   

Zana Goic Petricevic is an internationally certified leadership coach and consultant. She is the founder of Bold Leadership Culture, and the author of Bold Reinvented: Next level leading with Courage, Consciousness and Conviction

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