Redesigning Your Career
to help you thrive professionally until retirement….and beyond
You’ve worked hard to get where you are professionally. You’ve put in the hours, made sacrifices, and done what it takes to be successful. Now that you’re in the prime of your career, you want to make sure that you’re doing everything possible to stay on track — and even thrive — until retirement. And beyond!
There’s no reason to feel that as we get older, we can’t learn new things and have career goals that stimulate us, no matter what the future might hold.
For the past year, we’ve uncovered valuable insights facilitating Career Extensions workshops that will help you flourish.
Here’s the top 5:
#1: Keep learning
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You’ve heard this before but…. all of us are at risk of being disrupted. It used to be that only certain types of jobs — software development, doctors, or legal careers — needed continual development and upskilling. Now your expertise has a much shorter shelf life. It’s time to look at learning as an opportunity to develop multidisciplinary skills rather than an exercise in keeping up.
Put your experience to use. Seek out different opportunities that will make you more well-rounded and in doing so, flex your resilience muscle. Start with small steps, attend a conference outside of your expertise, take a class on Coursera, LinkedIn or edX, join a professional network, or shadow someone in a role that interests you. Or a big step — be an intern. Before you think it’s too late….it’s not. “Paul Critchlow, former Head of Communications at Merrill Lynch, decided to take an internship at Pfizer aged 70, ….exceeding his expectations.” Navigating disruption requires a commitment to lifelong learning — no matter what the future of work looks like.
#2: Look beyond the ‘job for life’
Once routinely offered, a job for life, is truly a relic of the past. Reshape your thinking on career models, test assumptions about retirement and prevailing myths about work. Research from Deloitte suggests that only 19 percent of companies still have traditional functional career models where you train for a role, stay in your chosen lane, and move up the ladder with time and experience. Someone in midlife, for instance, will typically have worked between one and four jobs in their career so far. And college graduates may have a dozen different jobs by the time they reach the midway point!
Looking for what’s next doesn’t mean jumping ship at the first sign of boredom or trouble — far from it. But it does mean that you should be open and flexible to the idea of changing careers, or at least making a significant pivot, at some point in your life. That means intentionally checking in with yourself and figuring out if the role you’re in is right for you, both professionally and personally, at each stage in your life. You don’t have to have a specific goal in mind. There’s value in recognizing and deciding, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” We’ve all had those moments. This is your pivot point — to ask, what do you really want to do?”
#3: Plan for a long horizon
There’s another reason to stay open minded and keep those skills up to date: people are living longer than ever. In most developed nations, the average life expectancy is between 78 and 82 — and research suggests that Millennials will reach an average age of 90. And, the 200 year life might be your next milestone.
Governments, no doubt concerned about the rise in pension costs, are responding by pushing back the retirement age, suggesting people to work longer. At the same time, there’s plenty of evidence that people want to work longer and have stimulating careers in their 60s, 70s and beyond. A career represents our competence, our value, and our identity. Doing what you enjoy leads to a meaningful life, making it very difficult to give up at some arbitrary age.
The bottom line here is: you may not want your career to end at retirement. But you may not want it to look exactly the same as it did pre-retirement either. If so, get comfortable with doubt, take a few risks, learn new things, and pivot to a different career path if necessary. With a little foresight, you can set yourself up for the next chapter in your professional life — no matter how long you decide to work for.
#4: Hone your human skills
Today, anyone who wants to have a long career on their own terms must think about developing their soft skills. Or what I like to call, human skills. With the rise of automation, artificial intelligence, and other advancements, ‘hard’ skills are becoming increasingly easy to replace. What machines can’t do (yet) is replicate the human ability to interact with others in a way that builds trust, rapport, empathy and relationships.
IFTF (Institute for the Future) highlights ‘human machine collaboration, sense-making and resilience as critical skill sets for the future. Which makes sense given our globally, interconnected world. Looking at IFTF’s future skills, two skills are critical: 1) mastering the art of communication and 2) enhancing emotional intelligence. Both will put you in good stead for any type of collaboration.
Put your experience to work. You’ll be well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that will arise as ‘hybrid jobs’ emerge and traditional jobs disappear.
What do I mean by hybrid jobs? These are the jobs that straddle disciplines and have a renaissance quality. For example a marketing manager still has to guide the team to market the product or service that the organization is offering — that has not changed. But a closer look shows that many separate skillsets have now converged in this role — strategy, partnerships, customer experience, creative thinking, copywriting, data analysis, systems and marketing software are all joined up.
A fundamental element resting at the core of future skills is, empathy. Pointedly the ability to understand, appreciate, and share the feelings of others — clients, stakeholders, community, employees.
#5: Smooth the path to change
We are creatures of habit. Research suggest that only one of nine people will make lifestyle changes. Many find change difficult, whether that’s changing jobs, ending a relationship, or moving to a new city. And some of our brains are wired to resist change. John Kotter Emeritus at Harvard Business School, suggests, “behavior change happens mostly by speaking to people’s feelings.” If so, get clear on your plan, check in with your feelings, and build a solid support network to help you navigate the stages of change in your professional evolution.
The best way to predict the future is to create it. So, think about what you want to achieve and then come up with an adaptable plan to get there. It doesn’t have to be complicated — a simple ‘if/then’ statement can work wonders. For example, “If I feel frustrated in my career, then I will research other options, connect with others doing that role, and craft an exit strategy.”
You can’t do this alone. It’s also important to have a solid network of advisors to help you with the tough decisions. Your network can be an invaluable sounding board as you make choices about the road ahead. Instead of network, network, network.
Connect and Reconnect!
Start by evaluating your network, find an informal advisor someone who will challenge your thinking. And, look for connectors to create connections across multiple disciplines and professional communities. Make a plan to meet on a regular basis, and give back! Remember networks are a balancing act of give and take. Share what you know and offer to help. If you’d like to refresh your current network, start by attending industry events, rejoining professional organizations, or volunteering with different community projects. You never know who you’ll meet — or what advice these groups will have for you over the course of a very long and potentially very diverse career.
So, what did we uncover in our Career Extension workshops — alot!
First, remain curious, be open to new ways of doing things and continue learning throughout your career.
Second, look beyond your current role and towards a longer and more varied career horizon.
Third, take risks and know when to pivot — your career does not end until you say it does, and it needs to be on your terms.
Fourth, keep honing your human skills; this is the gateway to the hybrid jobs of the future.
Fifth, smooth your path with planning and support. Check in with your network of advisors, reconnect with an old boss or colleague, or find a coach to be a sounding board as you navigate the transitions, helping you stay relevant and thrive professionally for many years to come.