AFR: How to future-proof your career - Michelle Gibbings

In this article written by Natasha Boddy and published in the Australian Financial Review, Michelle was invited to contribute her thoughts about how you can future-proof your career in these very challenging times. Read Michelle’s comments below.

Australia is in its first recession in 29 years, unemployment is at a 22-year high and each week seems to unleash a new wave of job losses.

For young professionals, it all adds up to one of the choppiest job markets they have ever faced. But it’s not too late for workers to start thinking about future-proofing their careers, say experts.

Anthony Mitchell, chief potential officer of management consultancy Bendelta, said the COVID-19 storm had been especially challenging for younger workers.

“In the Australian context, for example, we really haven’t seen recessionary conditions since the very early 1990s so if you’ve joined the workforce in the last 30 years, you haven’t seen something like this,” he says.

“They haven’t experienced pronouncedly depressed economic conditions maybe ever in their career.”

Workers may not be able to future-proof their job, but they can future-proof their career, says workplace expert Michelle Gibbings.

“Be really conscious about where the world of work is going and making sure your skills are continuously being updated so that you’ve skills that are flexible and adaptable, so that means never being complacent about the position you currently find yourself in, in the workplace,” she says.

Recruitment expert Karalyn Brown, the founder of Interview IQ, says: “People that are doing better have embraced the idea that there is no security – they don’t just rely on one job, one employer, one career direction.”

Professionals need to take an entrepreneurial approach to their career.

I think the test is to say, ‘Would I be employable by an Atlassian or an Amazon?’ — Anthony Mitchell

“Have a few things you could actually do … so if one thing doesn’t work out, you have a back-up and a back-up,” Ms Brown says.

“People have been slow to realise that’s the future and COVID-19, I think, has really accelerated a lot of changes that were already happening in the economy.

“There really isn’t security, so you’re in charge of your career. It’s a mindset shift.”

Ms Gibbings concurs.

“The world we work in, we don’t have the same certainty that perhaps roles and careers had 20 years ago, so continue to always look at the skill set you’ve got and always be prepared to understand how you need to reshape that and adapt that so it’s always current,” she says.

COVID-19 has “put the foot on the accelerator” when it comes to the skills needed to succeed and digital literacy is top of the list, according to Mr Mitchell.

He says digital literacy isn’t necessarily a guaranteed passport to a job, but there is little doubt it is in high demand.

“I think the test is to say, ‘Would I be employable by an Atlassian or an Amazon?’ And if your answer is yes, it doesn’t mean you should go and work there but it’s a bit a litmus test as to how employable I am in the future workforce.

“If you say, ‘They would never hire me’, well, you need to think about what you might now need to work on.”

Executives also need to show how they approach their work from a digital aspect.

“For example, if you work in health, are you thinking about telehealth or virtual health? If you work in engineering, have you thought about how AI could be used to make work more productive?”

Ms Gibbings says adaptive, emotional intelligence will also continue to be in hot demand.

“All the things that we know robots can’t do but are the things that humans can do,” she says.

“So if you’re thinking on upskilling, focus on those things that used to be notionally called soft skills. They’re all the things that help us as humans adapt and evolve, build strong relationships, be able to negotiate, critical thinking, creative development. All of those things are still incredibly important.”

One of Ms Brown’s biggest pieces of advice is to think about upskilling.

Many organisations have made online course free or heavily discounted during the pandemic. Examples include edX and Coursera.

“There’s so much stuff you can learn that is just fantastic and it’s free,” says Ms Brown.

“Invest in yourself. Try and think about what industries are emerging: ‘What do I want to do? How can I position myself to be an authority or a problem solver in that industry?'”

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