Change, when it comes gradually, is easy to navigate. Change, when sudden, can be much more difficult to cope with.
So is change that seems catastrophic — like career disruption.
Career disruption will cause many people to panic. It can be especially stressful when it happens later in life because it can interrupt retirement plans and income.
The current pandemic has disrupted careers and sent many people into career and financial panic. It can be hard to prepare yourself for change when you do not see it coming.
In a rapidly changing world, your skill can be either an asset or a liability.
Since change is inevitable, though, you can make some preparations now that will help safeguard your personal career, sanity, and finances to prepare for a career disruption later in life.
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Take 100% responsibility for your career growth
“I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as ‘making a life’” Maya Angelou once said.
The best way to future-proof your career is to create it yourself. When you create your own career, you become its architect and designer.
That can mean diversifying your skills and interests.
“Beyond having a single marketable skill, you should have a range of skills and interests that can provide a base for your work. Make a list of the things people say you are good at or that you enjoy doing. Diversifying provides security: you aren’t pinning your future to one industry, or one kind of work,” writes Kevin Granville of The New York Times.
It can also mean you might have to give up some of today’s safety nets to create a more secure tomorrow. Keep in mind, too, that creating a career can mean different things to different people.
It can mean learning new and better skills, selling your services to multiple clients, upgrading your skills at work to make you indispensable.
“Opportunities don’t happen, you create them,” says Chris Grosser.
Creating your own career can also mean starting a business of your own or turning that passion project into something that can earn you income.
Did you know Geico, Home Depot, and The Huffington Post were all started by people over the age of 50? The key is to realize that it is never too late to start over or to try something new. Especially when a career disruption leaves you with only one other choice– stagnancy.
Take control of your career and be proactive and entrepreneurial in how you spend or invest your time and energy.
Upgrade or acquire skills in response to new technology
“We can create the ultimate job security by becoming less dependent on the organisation for which we work and more dependent on our own resources.” — Bo Bennett
The key to making tech knowledge work for you is in knowing where technology is headed and getting there a step or two ahead of it.
Some of the best technology today is helping people find amazing opportunities, work smarter and more efficiently.
They also allow us to better remote connectivity and access to real-time information to make informed decisions.
Learning new and better career tools can open more doors for you now and in the future than you think. Don’t limit yourself, discover new areas of expertise that make you stand out and do more of what makes you come alive.
If you have ever seen the movie, Hidden Figures, you saw how Dorothy Vaughan (played by Octavia Butler) taught herself and her staff Fortran language in preparation for NASA’s use of machine computers in the early 1960s.
By doing so, she ensured that her team would remain relevant in their jobs and industries. In the face of massive disruption in the near future,
Dorothy Vaughn ensured that they stayed a step ahead of the tech curve while still keeping their incredible math skills relevant.
Keeping up with changes and learning new skills is key to your professional growth. Even if you’ve chosen to work for yourself, you can still benefit from smarter tools that can help you earn more in the future.
There are dozens of ways to upgrade or acquire skills in response to new technology — subscribe to newsletters by thought leaders, read industry blogs, follow industry experts and publications and signing up to online courses, read relevant books, listen to niche podcasts, etc — become a lifelong learner.
If you care enough about your career, find a way to stay relevant. That means finding quality and trusted information sources — that’s a better use of your time than trying to read everything.
“Everything is changing all the time. The only way to keep up — or even better, stay ahead — is to keep learning. You learn continuously by reading blog posts and books, and listening to podcasts and audiobooks, created by people who can help illuminate your path forward,” writes Jeff Gothelf, author of Forever Employable.
Every minute you spend improving yourself and your skills is a foundation for your future. Your career growth is your business.
Build a winning network
“Everything you want in life is a relationship away.”― Idowu Koyenikan
Your network has a huge impact on the trajectory of your career.
A solid support network of smart people, colleagues, well-connected family and friends means you can fall without catastrophic suffering.
A solid professional network means you can keep your finger on the pulse of your industry while looking at other career options.
“You deserve a circle of inclusion and influence, but it’s up to you to create it,” says Richie Norton. A solid peer network means you know you are not the only one in your position and it gives you the opportunity to lift as you climb.
“It’s the people we hardly know, and not our closest friends, who will improve our lives most dramatically”, says Meg Jay, author of The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter — And How to Make the Most of Them Now.
As the world around us continues to change and industries all over the world are being transformed. And careers that once felt secure are heading toward obsoletion, interference, or other forms of change that make specific careers and whole industries archaic and outdated.
You can’t afford the complacency that often feeds disruption and causes change — even industry-wide change — to come as such a surprise.
Think about how you can make influential connections both inside and outside your industry.
Save/invest like your future depends on it, because it does
Your financial future depends on your ability to save and the long-term investment products you choose to grow your income.
“You are one person in a game with seven billion other people and infinite moving parts. The accidental impact of actions outside of your control can be more consequential than the ones you consciously take,” writes Morgan Housel in his personal finance book, The Psychology of Money: Timeless lessons on wealth, greed, and happiness.
No one can guarantee what their future will be. But you can manage the risks by creating a roadmap for building wealth in the next 5, 10 or 15 years.
Building wealth has less to do with your income and more to do with your savings rate and lifestyle.
If you have a few months to a year of savings in the bank to cushion a career disruption, you can plan a career growth better and smarter.
Significant savings can mean you avoid personal and emotional panic and have time to make a career move based on choice, not on financial panic.
If you don’t allow yourself ample time to grow your wealth for your future, you may need to adjust your lifestyle at retirement. Set yourself savings and investment goals and put away enough to secure your future.
A financial cushion can let you take a career disruption in stride and plan carefully for the earning years between disruption and retirement.
An emergency fund you can live on might also mean making time to learn new and better skills to stay ahead of uncertainty.
It can also mean you might consider a career change or simply take a break from working to get back in touch with yourself and your life goals.
Creating a career you cannot be fired from, staying on top of — or a step ahead of — current technology, learning to upgrade your current skills, building a financial safety net, and creating a healthy, vibrant support system can help you create a present that safeguards and supports your future.
Don’t wait until everything is just right — there will always be challenges, obstacles and less-than-perfect conditions. So what? Get started now. With each step you take, you will improve your skills and build the life you want.
This article first appeared on Medium.