Four ways to future-proof your career in a gig economy

Robot at work

The changing world of work and the impact that digital disruption and the ‘gig economy’ will have on careers and job prospects was a common topic of conversation among the 100 plus career guidance professionals at the annual CDANZ symposium in Auckland recently. The inaugural Work in Progress conference held in Wellington a week later had a similar focus.

While there is a sense of excitement and optimism about the future, particularly for innovative and entrepreneurial people who appreciate freedom and flexibility, others are talking about the real risk of workers being exploited in an environment where short term contracting and freelancing becomes the norm. People are also talking about how little we understand about the impact of artificial intelligence on jobs.

The good news is, people across sectors and in government are talking about it and making preparations. The bad news is, not enough people are thinking about it – and what it means for them.

What will your future career look like?

There is no crystal ball that will provide the answer for what you will be doing to earn a living 10 years from now. But what is certain is that the world will be very different, and so will the world of work.

According to a recent report (New Work Smarts), there will be less routine, manual tasks and workers will spend more time focusing on people, solving strategic problems and thinking creatively. People are likely to have portfolio careers, potentially having 17 different jobs over five careers in their lifetime. “They might be self-employed, working for other people or doing both – whilst also collaborating with people on the other side of the world”.

Arguably it might be easier for people who are naturally adaptable, resilient to change and entrepreneurial, but we’re not all wired that way.

So, how do you prepare for jobs that don’t even exist yet, and for working in an environment that feels like a sci-fi movie set?

The answer to that question could fill a book, but here are just four tips to get you started.

1. Build your capability

Build your capability to manage your own career by increasing your self knowledge. Identify and understand your unique strengths, motivating skills, interests, values and preferences so that you will be better placed to spot opportunities to which you are best suited. You will also be in a better position to identify the skills you may need to develop.

2. Be curious

Be curious and keep up with what is happening in the world of work – especially in your industry and sectors you are interested in. If you keep looking for traditional jobs and using traditional job search techniques, you might miss the best opportunities. Expand your networks and stay informed.

3. Be mindful

Be aware of modern day Luddites. Not everyone will see the positive opportunities that come with change. If you find yourself getting caught up in dooms day predictions and telling yourself unhelpful stories about your lack of employability in the new world of work, practice mindfulness techniques to reframe your thoughts and, if necessary, get professional career guidance to help.

4. Be brave

Be brave enough to give something new a try – and be prepared to try more than once. When the environment is changing rapidly there might not be the predictability or amount of information available as there was with traditional career paths, and that can be hard if you are a naturally cautious person. You may need support to take some risks, and give yourself permission to fail and start again if at first you don’t succeed.

You could take comfort in the thought that, just as traditional jobs change, so too will CVs and recruitment mindsets. It will be more common to see a variety of jobs listed on CVs and candidates with a less traditional career story to tell.

Related blog post: How future-proofed is your career?

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About the author: Lucy Sanderson-Gammon, MBA, is a Wellington-based career coach helping mid-career professionals who have fallen out of love with their jobs to find meaningful work. She also provides career development for those who want to get ahead at work or make a transition after redundancy. Find out more about Lucy's coaching services here.