Ethical Jobs: Five ways to keep your career on track in an automated world

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In this article that originally appeared on the EthicalJobs.com.au website, I discuss five ways you can keep your career on track in an automated world.

The rules of work have changed. The gig economy is making waves and the transition to an automated and flexible workforce is here.

As workers, no longer are we bound to rules fixed by big organisations and bureaucracies. The move towards flexibility in the workforce enables us much more freedom and choice about how and when we work.

Yet we are still encouraged to think of our career in a linear fashion. We enter the workforce, we explore a few roles, and midway through our career we land something that will keep us happy until we retire.

While this systematic approach might have worked in the past, the emergence of automation and flexibility require us to think differently about our careers if we are to stay relevant and keep growing at work.

1. Take charge of your career

Gone is the notion of working for one organisation and having a single role or function for life. Gone is the notion that someone will plan your career for you while you sit back and let it happen.

The person you most need to rely on for career success is YOU. You must become the leader of your own destiny, your own career.

Modern careers are fluid, organic and adaptive, which means they need a degree of reinvention.

Salim Ismail, the author of Exponential Organisations and an expert in helping organisations leverage technology and strategy to grow faster, suggests, “Today, if you’re not disrupting yourself, someone else is; your fate is to be either the disrupter or the disrupted. There is no middle ground.”

While his comments were directed at organisations, his advice equally applies to careers.

You need to be comfortable designing your own career path.

2. Ditch the ‘should do’ and take a risk

Being ready to embrace your future career path means you need to step beyond what’s familiar and comfortable.

It is common to have an internal debate between what you ‘could’ do and what you ‘should’ do. The ‘could’ being something that is unexpected, challenging, risky or slightly left of centre. While the ‘should’ being the job that people expect you to do, or the job that your beliefs limit you to.

Breaking away from the ‘should’ means you have to walk away from the expectations of others and shift your own expectations.

The first step in doing this is to ditch any unhelpful internal dialogue about your career that may be holding you back or hindering you.

Ask yourself:

  • What are the rules (both written and unwritten) I’ve been told about my career and career change?
  • Which rules have held me back?
  • Which rules have propelled me forward?
  • Which rules are no longer relevant?
  • Which rules am I prepared to ditch?
  • Are there new rules I can create to help me leap into a new career and stay professionally relevant?

3. Focus on the skills that will remain relevant

According to the McKinsey Global Institute Report, A Future that Works: Automation, Employment, and Productivity, people working in social services, technology or knowledge roles will be the least affected by artificial intelligence and automation, while technicians, processors and people doing predictable physical work will be most impacted.

While the predictable, routine and process elements of your role may eventually be fully automated, you can’t automate the relational skills you bring or the emotional support you provide to the people you work with.

It’s therefore critical to acquire a deep level of self-understanding and emotional intelligence – these are just as important as the technical skills you bring to your work, and will only be valued more by employers over time.

4. Take time out to review your goals

Set aside time each year to critically examine your career. Ask yourself: where you are now; where you want to be; and what you need to do to get there.

Review your goals and consider how much progress you have made towards them. This will help you determine what steps you take next, and what elements of your plan need to alter to accommodate changes in your profession.

Be clear on the value you offer and keep it current. Everyone brings certain skills and ways of operating to the work they do. It’s important to be able to articulate your value so that you can explain how you help an organisation or client achieve their objectives.

Remember, what people value can change over time, so make sure you keep your value offering current.

5. Find your learning edge

Continued success requires constant learning. It’s not enough to wait for someone to tell you what you need to learn, or for your organisation to develop you. You need to take charge of your own learning.

Effective ways to stay in the know include:

  • Staying abreast of the latest thinking and ideas from your profession, and from complementary professions;
  • Buying books on topics that are different to your day job, but provide useful knowledge;
  • Subscribing to online news on the topics that you’re passionate about so ensure you get up-to-date information and knowledge;
  • Enrolling in Mass Online Learning Courses (MOOCs) from sites such as edX, Coursera and Open2Study.
  • As one of the world’s greatest artists, Michaelangelo, is quoted as saying: “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that our aim is too low and we reach it.”

If you aim high you might just reach it, but if you aim low you are unlikely to go beyond your aim.