How to ‘future-proof’ your career

Earlier this month, students from Red River College received expert advice on how to “future-proof” their careers, in order to protect themselves against technological advances that could disrupt the workforce and threaten jobs.

The advice came courtesy of Sean Mullin, executive director at Toronto’s Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship, who spoke at the inaugural DisruptED: Future of Work conference in Winnipeg on Feb. 1 and 2.

During his presentation, Mullin quoted a recent report from the Brookfield Institute, which found that 42 per cent of Canadian jobs are now susceptible to automation. The same report found that youths aged 15 to 24 are among those most vulnerable to the effects of automation, accounting for nearly 20 per cent of high-risk occupations.

That may sound disheartening to someone entering the work force and attempting to find meaningful work for the first time. Has job security really become a thing of the past? Well, yes and no.

In some ways, ‘yes’ — job security is increasingly a thing of the past due to outsourcing, globalization, the sharing economy and accelerated changes brought about by technology in general, and automation in particular.

But also ‘no,’ because job security is still possible if you prepare for the future of work by developing the skills that will future-proof your career, as Mullin explains.

“Canada’s youth will require a diverse set of technical and soft skills, including creativity, problem solving and social intelligence — as well as entrepreneurial abilities, such as managing uncertainty and taking risks — in order to compete in the workplaces of the future,” he says.

Mullin’s advice for students, workers and job-seekers?

  • Don’t plan for a specific job. Instead, accumulate bundles of skills that will make you resilient to changing jobs. Broaden your work-related practical skills or competences.
  • Adopt lifelong, active learning.
  • Don’t neglect so-called soft skills. Increasingly, employers require skills such as empathy and relationship-building as integral to working successfully as part of a team.
  • Consciously refine your personal brand. Distinguish yourself and stand out from the crowd. Embrace your originality.
  • Build digital skills — your ability to use technology in the marketplace is increasingly important.
  • Gain valuable experience — academic learning needs to be augmented by work-integrated learning. Pursue internships and co-op positions.
  • Be adaptable. Many of the jobs students will be working in over the next decade have not even been created yet.

If Canadian workers take responsibility for proactively managing their careers, and take to heart some of the advice that forward-thinking researchers have compiled, then they are very likely to have long, varied and ultimately rewarding careers.

Submitted by Lori Wheeler, Chief Marketing Officer, Information & Communication Technologies Association of Manitoba (ICTAM)