On Point | Future Proofing your Career – Preparing for the future of work

by Directioneering

It seems that we have been hearing about the ‘future of work’ for so long now, that we could reasonably argue it has already arrived.

The media abounds with stories of robots taking our jobs and the need for a universal basic income as technology displaces millions of workers. While there is much evidence to show that the exponential impacts of technological, social, demographic and geopolitical change have significantly changed the landscape over the past decade, there are also strong indications that these changes are bringing about tremendous growth opportunities. In fact, in the recent World Economic Forum’s report on the future of work, it is estimated that the growth of  jobs in emerging professions will outstrip the loss of jobs in declining professions by around 40% over coming years.

So, what can we do to take advantage of these opportunities and future proof our careers? This edition of On Point outlines some of the strategies that will be central to not only maintaining relevance in this new world of work, but also positioning ourselves to engage in the kind of work that we want to be doing now and into the future.

Before we examine these strategies, it’s worth having a closer look at how the changing landscape has affected the way we think about careers. 


The job market has been changing in very significant ways over the past 15 years and particularly since the Global Financial Crisis.  Complexity and uncertainty in response to globalisation, demographic and social change, and the impact of technology, is radically altering the way we think about careers.

In this new lattice model, the focus is on greater career diversity contingent on broadening skills and increasing flexibility rather than promotional steps linked to seniority or tenure. According to research by the Institute for the Future, a not-for-profit think-tank based in Silicon Valley, workers of the future will have 17 different jobs over 5 different careers in their lifetime.

The diagram below shows how the paradigm has shifted in the ecosystem of career progression:

So, what are the implications of this new paradigm for the way we manage our careers and prepare for the new world of work?

We’ve come up with 4 key strategies that will help you future-proof your career and stay ahead of the curve.

Strategy 1: Learn how to learn

According to data published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), at least one-third of the skills that are currently regarded as indispensable for the workers of today, will have changed by 2023. Add to this the fact that the half-life of a skill has dropped from around 30 years to an average of just 6 years, and the case for the imperative of lifelong career learning is easily made.

Education and training will become even more important and workers will need to adopt a mindset of ‘agile learning’ to re-purpose their skills for the jobs of the future. There are likely to be very few jobs in the knowledge and service economies for which skills and qualifications will not be required, so access to high quality education and training will be critical for employment growth. Further to this, we will also be engaging in much more experiential learning. In fact, by 2030, it is estimated that we’ll spend 30% more time learning on the job.

Of all the strategies designed to future-proof our careers, the need for lifelong learning is arguably the most important. Keeping up with the changing nature of work will require much greater levels of learning agility than has been needed in the past. How ‘learning agile’ are you? To read more about how to develop greater learning agility, check out this great article from the Centre for Creative Leadership.

Strategy 2: Continue to develop your digital literacy

Our ability to live and work in the modern world already relies heavily on our capacity to maintain a sufficient level of digital literacy. Communication and access to information is increasingly through digital technologies. In its broadest sense, digital literacy is defined as the ability to identify and use technology confidently, creatively and critically, to meet the demands and challenges of life, learning and work in a digital society.

Interestingly, the current COVID-19 environment has fast-tracked the digital skills of many of us, as we have been forced to transition to working remotely. Personally, I’ve had to learn to not only influence, collaborate and delegate virtually, but also create digital content, trouble-shoot technology fails and onboard new starters in absentia! And this isn’t a static thing. Technology is evolving at such a rapid rate and pervading every aspect of our daily lives, that we will all need to take personal responsibility for keeping our digital literacy up-to-date.

In the context of work, this means being proactive about seeking out digital learning opportunities that go beyond just being able to do our current jobs, but also set us up for the jobs of the future. Thinking about how we can leverage our digital skills to increase productivity and enhance the quality of our work will be key to maintaining our employability.

Strategy 3: Develop skills that can’t be automated and learn to leverage technology

As we have already seen, despite the impact of disruptive technology on the future of work, we are expecting to see more jobs created than lost. In its recent Future of Work Report, the WEF has identified 7 growth professions, many of which rely on distinctly human skills. It is clear that the jobs of the future will be both human and tech centric.

Our experience to date has shown that the jobs at most risk of automation from technological innovations, such as AI and robotics, are those that are routine, repetitive, highly structured and rules-driven.

On the other hand, jobs and components of jobs that require intrinsically human capabilities, will be harder to automate. Success will depend on our capacity to use these uniquely human skills to augment technology to achieve better outcomes. The most important of these skills are shown in the table to the right.

Our ability to cultivate these skills and learn to apply them creatively will be crucial in ensuring that we can access the growth areas that emerge. Our Chief Digital Officer has curated a list of 12 Skills Amplifier courses that can be undertaken through learning platform, Coursera, with some of the world’s leading higher education institutions. These courses connect directly to many of the most in-demand skills of the future:

Strategy 4: Proactively manage your career

One of the critical future of work skills that is often overlooked, is proactive career management. Of the two key forces that are shaping the fourth industrial revolution, namely, the type of work that will be done and the way that work will be done, it is the second that workers will need to pay particular attention to in order to structure a career that is both rewarding and successful.
Increasingly, the performance of work will be transient, distributed and virtual. This is leading to significantly changed labour markets and very different workforces. Add to this the new normal of multiple jobs over multiple careers and multiple employers in a typical career lifecycle, and the need for a more considered approach to career planning is self-evident.

Flexibility, resilience and a more entrepreneurial mindset, will become increasingly important for navigating this new and more complex landscape. Carving out a niche, keeping it current and being able to market it to prospective employers as part of a more dynamic career portfolio, will be an important skill to develop. We will also need to become adept at pivoting our careers more frequently as the landscape of work changes. The learning agility that we spoke of earlier is central to this and will ensure that you maintain relevance and keep your career path on track.

In addition to having a well thought out career plan, we will also need to take greater ownership for driving our own careers. Our Driving Your Career Model shown below, highlights the fundamentals for sustained career success.