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5 Ways to Future-Proof Your Career

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Demographic changes, the onset of digital transformation and rapid advances in technology have changed how consumers shop, businesses operate and people work.

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From news reporters to flight attendants, jobs are evolving faster than ever before, while thousands of new professions get listed on LinkedIn every day. Whatever your occupation, your job description won’t be exactly the same in two, five, ten years. And that’s okay. But you need to be prepared, to make sure you don’t get left behind. Read on for five ways to future-proof your career.

 

1. Choose a growing sector

Keep your eyes fixed on the bigger picture, to ensure you will still have a part to play in your industry and the wider world in the years to come. Is your industry responding to modern issues? Is it driving meaningful change? What are some of the biggest challenges it faces, and is your organization headed in the right direction?

According to a survey conducted last year by Canadian jobs website Workopolis.com, the sectors with the biggest increase in hiring include high tech, healthcare and data analytics. Among the most in-demand CV boosters, Workopolis lists IT skills such as software and app development; customer relationship management (CRM); knowledge of HTML, Unix and JavaScript; and User Experience (UX) Design.

Meanwhile, according to US jobs website Monster.com, emerging professions set for continued growth include cyber security managers, data specialists in healthcare, video game designers, social media executives, and green-collar jobs in wind farm or solar thermal engineering.

2. Be a digital native

From GP consultations to ordering a coffee, more interactions and transactions are being completed online and on-demand, thanks to the onward march of digital technologies. To future-proof your career it’s important to stay up to date with the latest digital strategies and tools. The mobile web, social media, sponsored content, social monitoring – these are just some of the (fairly) new digital media trends you need to know back to front.

Many ongoing workplace and industry changes will be caused by the impact of high tech on companies’ operations and processes, as they seek to become leaner, more efficient and global. Mastery of Microsoft Office is old hat – you need to know how to build a social following, analyze big data, code and program. There are many courses, online and/or part-time, that can help you grow those in-demand tech skills. Ask your HR department or manager to sponsor you in a tech training course, or if this is something you’re really keen to invest in, consider a full postgraduate qualification. 

3. Consider going solo

As workplaces and industries continue to evolve towards more agile and flexible operations, being able and willing to go freelance is another way to future-proof your career. Freelance work has experienced a significant growth in popularity over the past few years, and self-employed professionals are expected to continue to grow in number. This pathway is especially appealing to many in the current generation, who are often used to working outside of the ‘9 to 5’ norm, and who like the idea of setting up for themselves, with greater control over their schedule and work-life balance.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, one in three workers in the US were already earning income from work outside of the ‘9 to 5’ model in 2014, with as many as 15 million workers self-employed. According to the same report, the professions with the highest levels of expected growth in freelance work included personal care aides, management analysts, accountants, auditors and childcare workers.

4. Embrace change

The new generation of workers is largely rejecting the idea of settling into a job, punching a time card and expecting to be rewarded for the years put in – instead embracing change and job-hopping their way into new challenges and more fulfilling roles.

A 2014 study published by the Harvard Business Review confirmed that today’s typical executive profile has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. Leaders in the top 10 roles of all the Fortune 100 companies in 1980 were for the most part ‘lifers’ – executives who had spent 20, 30 years working for the same company. The number of lifers in top executive roles today has steeply declined. The road to the top, as the Economist puts it, is ‘bumpy’, but the single biggest differentiator remains your higher education level. According to the same 2014 study, in fact, more than a third of the top 10 executives in Fortune 100 companies had an Ivy League MBA.

Outside of formal education, those with a readiness to continue learning and developing new skills are most likely to stay ahead in today’s change-driven workplaces. Never stop asking questions or seeking out new knowledge, and be wary of your comfort zone!

5. Level-up

A specialized master’s degree (in the right sector) could boost your career prospects for years to come, giving you access to roles at the companies you’d really love to work for. Depending on your field, investing in up-skilling in a growing field could help you gain job security, future-proof your career and increase your earning potential.  

According to the latest figures from the US’s National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), engineering graduates are forecast to be the highest earners at master’s degree level, followed by those specializing in computer science and business.  

Master’s degree

2016 average salary (US$)

2015 average salary (US$)

Engineering

$73,871

$69,698

Computer Science

$72,080

$71,140

Business

$71,663

$67,890

Math & Sciences

$67,891

$64,465

Communications

$55,727

$59,130

Social Sciences

$52,333

$54,816

 

Future-proof your career with a postgraduate degree

Ready to up-skill? Join fellow students and professionals at an upcoming QS World Grad School Tour event in a city near you. This is your opportunity to meet representatives of leading universities and graduate schools from around the world, discuss emerging specializations and career paths, and get answers to all your questions about further study. You’ll also have the chance to attend free seminars, get a complimentary copy of the QS Top Grad School Guide, and apply for exclusive scholarships.

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Written by Mathilde Frot
I'm originally French but I mostly grew up in Casablanca, Kuala Lumpur and Geneva. When I'm not writing sponsored content for QS, you'll probably find me sipping espresso(s) with a good book.

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