Future-proofing Careers: How to Help Clients Stay Vigilant, Relevant, and Marketable
By Donna Gaspar Jarvis
The rapid acceleration of technology, economic uncertainty, and the global pandemic has led to an unpredictable world of work, which can cause anxiety in clients as they choose or change careers or strive for job security and stability. A Hopes and Fears survey (PwC, 2021) found that nearly 40% of 32,500 workers in 19 countries think their job will be obsolete within five years. A recent Harris Poll (NCDA, 2021) found that 70% of more than 1,500 working adults believe the effects of technological automation will impact their work either personally or within the job market in general. LinkedIn has more than 100,000 people following the hashtag #futureofwork. Given these concerns, how can career practitioners best support clients in future-proofing careers?
Something is defined as “future-proof” when it continues to be useful or successful in the future, even if a situation changes (Collins, 2022). From a career development perspective, future-proofing is the process of anticipating the future world of work and developing ways to minimize the impact of unforeseeable events. Helping clients take concrete measures now to research and prepare may quell fears. This process can start with assessing clients’ level of readiness for future work, then supporting them in future-proofing by helping them stay abreast of employment trends, embrace lifelong learning, and build a supportive community.
Assessing Readiness for the Future
Career practitioners can help clients assess their readiness using the Future Career Readiness Index, based on the work of John Fitzgerald (2018). This free, online tool measures five categories of a future-ready mindset and readiness: personal development; professional development; understanding the internal market; awareness of the external environment; and taking advantage of chance opportunities.
Using results from this assessment as a springboard, career practitioners can move to enhancing clients’ knowledge of employment trends and develop strategies to strengthen skills and networks for future employability.
Cutting through the Noise of Employment Trends
There is no shortage of surveys and media reports touting the latest “hot jobs” or specific skills employers most want. Discerning which information is most relevant for career decisions can be challenging. A reliable source for employment trends is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS, 2021) projections for the fastest growing and most in-demand career fields from 2020-2030, such as computer and mathematical occupations, healthcare, counselors and therapists, marketing professionals, and more. While this data is a useful starting point, projections that span a decade may not reflect the impact of more immediate factors, such as a pandemic or economic fluctuations. With Deloitte’s industry outlook data (Deloitte, n.d.), clients can learn about trends, challenges, and opportunities in specific industries they currently work in or are considering moving into.
In-demand skills can also provide helpful clues to growing career fields. For example, LinkedIn data (Anderson, 2020) from more than 660 million professionals and 20 million jobs revealed that the most in-demand hard skills are blockchain, cloud computing, analytical reasoning, artificial intelligence, UX design, business analysis, affiliate marketing, sales, scientific computing, and video production. The most in-demand “soft” skills from the same analysis were creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and emotional intelligence. Skills data may be easier for clients to grasp because it is actionable as it informs upskilling and continuing education.
Embrace Lifelong Learning
The World Economic Forum (2020) has predicted that 50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025, and 40% of current workers’ core skills will change. Staying proactive in developing new skills and competencies most desired in a particular field or industry is important. This includes knowledge and technical abilities to perform certain tasks (hard skills) as well as personal traits and behaviors of how people go about doing their work (soft skills).
According to Monster (2021), skills factor heavily into future of work hiring trends, potentially mattering even more than measures valued in the past, such as advanced degrees or number of years of experience. Career practitioners can encourage clients to take advantage of free or low-cost online courses and certification programs, such as those offered by LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, Coursera, and more. Clients can also build tech skills through platforms such as Codeacademy, Alison, Udacity, or Skillshare, as well as at community colleges or by investing in degree programs.
In LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends report (2022), 92% of recruiters said soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills. Four of the five most popular classes on LinkedIn Learning from July 2020 to July 2021 were soft skills-related (Lewis, 2021): Unconscious Bias, Strategic Thinking, Communicating with Confidence, and Speaking Confidently and Effectively. Another way clients can retool skills is to seek professional development opportunities, either on-the-job or through volunteer, community-based, or leadership activities outside of work.
Build Community and Connections
Job seekers have long been encouraged to develop networking skills and maintain online professional branding efforts through platforms such as LinkedIn. Future-proofing careers requires individuals to go beyond traditional networking methods for job-seeking efforts and to be more proactive in building ongoing relationships and support communities.
Building a professional tribe, a collaborative network of peers with similar professional interests, goals, or values, provides individuals with a place to seek solutions to professional issues and share resources and best practices. In a professional tribe there are no stars or leaders; rather it is a place to make connections, be authentic, build trust, and credibility. Leveraging the value and impact of this community is an empowering strategy for clients in exploring, developing, or shifting careers and for remaining on top of trends that can enhance their career security.
Encourage clients to be active participants and connectors, to post information, and to share resources in groups to be recognized as a valuable contributor. Clients can cultivate and nurture professional relationships through constituency groups at conferences, LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, alumni associations, and other personal and professional affiliations. They can also join professional networking associations such as YEC for entrepreneurs, subscribe to free memberships on business networking sites such as Ryze, or join professional networking groups such as those found on Meetup. Encouraging clients to build and nurture a strong professional network outside of their current employer and coworkers provides security for the future.
It All Comes Back to a Mindset
Staying on top of employment trends, keeping skills sharp, and building an active professional network can position clients for future-proofed careers. Career practitioners owe it to those they serve to facilitate the development of a proactive, vigilant mindset that will enable clients to use those strategies. Clients who work consistently to future-proof their careers stay nimble, adaptive, and employable in times of change.
Anderson, B. M. (2020, January 9). The most in-demand hard and soft skills of 2020. LinkedIn Talent Blog. https://www.linkedin.com/business/talent/blog/talent-strategy/linkedin-most-in-demand-hard-and-soft-skills
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021, September 8). Employment projections: 2020–2030. Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ecopro.pdf
Collins. (n.d.). Future-proof. Collins dictionary. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/future-proof
Deloitte. (n.d.). Industry outlooks. Deloitte. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/outlooks/industry-outlooks.html
Fitzgerald, J. (2018). Future proof your career: From the inside out. Rethink Press.
Lewis, G. (2021, October 6). LinkedIn report: What candidates want, what companies need, and what’s changing. https://www.linkedin.com/business/talent/blog/talent-strategy/talent-market-drivers-since-start-of-covid
LinkedIn Talent Solutions. (2022). 2022 Global talent trends. LinkedIn. https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/global-talent-trends
Monster. (2021, December 22). Top 5 hiring trends for 2022. Monster. https://hiring.monster.com/resources/blog/hiring-trends/?md_src=linkedin&md_med=social_organic&md_cpn=0&md_key=0&md_cnt=0
National Career Development Association. (2021). 2021 Harris poll: Perceptions of career development from working America. National Career Development Association. https://www.careerconvergence.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sp/statements_harris_2021
PwC. (2021). Hopes and fears 2021. PwC. https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/issues/upskilling/hopes-and-fears.html
World Economic Forum. (2021, October 20). Future of jobs report. World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs-report-2020
Donna Gaspar Jarvis, MS, is an NCDA Certified Career Services Provider (CCSP) and Maine Career Development Association (MCDA) board member. She currently works as a career advisor at the University of New England, teaches a career planning management course at the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), and serves as a volunteer career coach for new immigrant women. An avid lifelong learner, she recently enrolled in the MFA Creative Writing low-res program at Naropa University. She can be reached at https://www.linkedin.com/in/donnagasparjarvis/