Is your career ready for the future?

As a result of global trends, in the next few years many smart organizations and smart careerists will fail. In this blog business life John M McKee shares several important forecasts and recommendations.

Recently I was in Orlando, Florida, working with a client company that's decided to dramatically raise existing levels of customer service and, with those changes, improve overall client satisfaction.

This organization is a habitual winner of JD Powers Awards. Consequently, given the current economy, it would not be surprising if it chose to "stand pat" and do nothing more than it's now doing. After all, "business is tough," and many leaders across many industries have decided that it makes more sense to bank money than to invest in an uncertain future.

Wisely, this leadership team doesn't share that approach (which is clearly short term). They recognize that quality improvements must become more ingrained culturally if the company wants to continue as the industry leader over the long haul.

Over the three-day period we reviewed their current performance, the outlook, and anticipated action from competition. Their financial results were quite strong -- despite a tough economy they had solid performance year-over-year. Consequently, I was even more impressed by the company leadership's genuine sense of urgency to make improvement.

During the meetings, I was asked several times for my thoughts regarding the long-term outlook for business. The senior players know that I have clients around the world and wanted to plug in to anything that could help guide them.

Here are two that I spoke about. You may be able to use them personally or professionally as you look ahead five years in the future:

1. The world is titling toward the East. That may not be news, but what's most important to understand is that the rate of change is happening at a speed that's far faster with each passing year. Take, for example, the fact that China and India are becoming more urbanized (last year alone China "built" 50 cities the size of Philadelphia) and many of their organizations are becoming worldwide leaders in various sectors.
  • Their urbanization means more consumerism, more demand for products and services, and more discretionary spending. That's both good news and bad news for those in Western countries, but I believe one of the key end results is that more companies will employ more people oversees, leaving more people here out of a job.
  • Big Asian companies will grow bigger, often dwarfing existing Western leaders in terms of scope and clout. And as another client in Hong Kong told me, "In the East, we think in terms of decades, not years. We are patient and confident that we will be the world leaders when we set our minds to it.
  • Consequently, many Western organizations that are currently the big shots will fail or get bought out by overseas organizations. This is not a good prospect for one's career.
2. The best way to successfully compete over the long haul -- for both organizations and individuals -- will be through being more advanced, more forward-thinking, and, most of all, more creative.

Western organizations, for the most part, will not be able to compete based on doing greater volume alone. Anything that can be automated or done at lower costs will be more likely to succeed in an Eastern country.

Whatever level you are at, whether it's in IT specifically or in another activity within an IT company, be conscious of this:

  • Big companies generally buy out competitors and then downsize them. 
  • Small companies that cannot compete with big organizations generally fail at some point because of efficiencies and market dynamics.
My advice?
  • Learn to speak another language, ideally one that may be very important in just a few years.
  • Start watching and following trends, both those affecting your industry and any that could impact your own employer.
  • Try to keep up to date in your skill set.
  • Understand that you are likely going to have to change jobs in the future, so be ready and able to compete.
  • Consider setting up your own business on the side now, so you have a ready-made career option.

Here's to your future!