How to future-proof your career: 5 tips

At the SAP SAPPHIRE 2019 conference in Orlando, Kerry Brown discussed how to remain valuable in your job position.

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The rise of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) has brought a bevy of concerns for many US workers, who remain fearful that these technological movements could take their jobs. While many believe humans will work with robots instead of being replaced by them, the reality is that robots will kill 36 million American jobs in the next decade, according to a Brookings Institution report.

SEE: How to build a successful CIO career (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Some 40% of US employees said their greatest concern for the future is their job positions becoming obsolete, said Kerry Brown, SAP vice president of workforce adoption, in a recent session at SAP SAPPHIRE 2019 in Orlando.

Other fears about the future include wage stagnation (27%), economic uncertainty (19%), lack of opportunities for advancement (35%), and inadequate staffing levels (31%), Brown added, citing research from the book The 2020 Workplace.

No industry or job is safe from AI, according to Brown. Between manufacturing, aerospace, automotive, healthcare, insurance, finance, law, security, retail, entertainment, education, and journalism, AI has the capability to impact and replace jobs in any enterprise.

The concern surrounding obsolescence isn't new for professionals, Brown said. But there are steps employees can take to ensure their profession doesn't meet a sell-by date.

"To be ready for tomorrow, we need to stretch," said Brown. Stretching involves going beyond your capabilities and pursuing future career goals through preparation and forward-thinking.

To help employees confidently "stretch," Brown outlined the following five ways employees can future-proof their careers.

1. Learn on the fly

"Learning on the fly is what keeps you agile," said Brown. Whether you fall into the working category of novice, competent, professional, or expert, there is always more learning to do.

Use experience as a way of constant learning, because some of the most valuable information is obtained outside of the classroom, she noted.

"Do something in your workplace that helps yous stretch and grow," Brown said. This can even occur through simple tasks or projects. Approach each project with a development stance, rather than just a completion mindset, she recommended. Every project can be an opportunity for the employee to develop in some way, if they approach it in that manner.

2. Be open

"Successful people are open to change, opportunities, ideas, and understanding," said Brown. Professionals will never grow if the close themselves off to new experiences.

While technical skills are integral to succeeding in tech jobs, soft skills are just as valuable, Brown said, and professionals must be open to them. Research backs this claim up: The majority of HR professionals (67%) said they have withheld job offers from qualified IT candidates because they lack soft skills.

These skills include critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, communication, collaboration, and more. Demand for these higher cognitive skills will continue to grow, Brown said, so professionals need to start practicing those tools if they want to become more marketable.

3. Build a diverse network

With online networking sites like LinkedIn, working professionals are making connections quicker and easier than ever before. Some 15% of job seekers now land jobs via social media accounts including Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

While it's extremely easy to network online, a solid network should only consist of about 150 connections, Brown said. Some of those connections should be close friends or business partners, but not all.

Most times, the connections that get you a job or make a recommendation on your behalf are those you have weaker ties with, she said. You don't have to be best friends with every connection; just keep the connections diverse, well-rounded, and left with a good impression.

4. Be greedy about experiences

Take every assignment and project as an opportunity to better yourself, Brown said. There is a big difference between confidence and competence, she cautioned, and professionals should have a comfortable level of self-assurance that helps them tackle projects head-on.

Don't be afraid to be an overachiever, Brown said. Experts oftentimes underestimate their performance as a way to stay on their game and take advantage of every experience.

5. Bounce forward

Use failures as a springboard to a new place, Brown said. Recognize setbacks and learn from them, rather than letting those failures push you backward.

When facing adversity, Brown recommended reframing the problem in a way that turns the failure into a lesson. Perseverance is a key mental strategy in a successful professional, she said. If you want a long lasting career, you have to be able to last through the hardships.

For more, check out TechRepublic's article on five components your business needs to last long-term.

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