Management professionals now operate in a world of exponential change, whose skyrocketing pace of growth and evolution is increasingly being driven by accelerating advancements in technology, communications, and connectivity. As a result, for business leaders, more so than ever, today is all about tomorrow and the need for forward thinking – especially when it comes to your career and how to keep pace with all these changes. As discovered while researching my new book, Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty, an increasingly uncertain business world requires all-new modes of business thinking and strategies to navigate. Following are five strategies to follow that can help you achieve professional success in such an increasingly unpredictable business world – and five ways to leverage them to continually excel in your career, and innovate your way to the top.
1. Become Essential – Good enough is no longer good enough. If the talents or job skills you bring to the table can be easily substituted or outsourced, or be performed faster or cheaper, rest assured they will in a world of infinite competition, where rivals are just a click or call away. Today’s leader should therefore strive to be essential – a crucial lynchpin in the company whose skills are so singular, beneficial, or difficult to assign elsewhere that you become near impossible to replace. You must see opportunities others haven’t. You must solve problems most don’t realize exist. And you must continually strive to gain experience and insight that rivals simply don’t possess. Look for crucial links in the professional chain that hold your business together – ones that are fundamentally difficult and expensive to replicate. Then make it your mission to transform yourself into one of these links.
2. Create Value – Constantly strive to create value, both for yourself and for others you interact with. A good question to ask yourself: What have I done for them lately? Whatever you’re doing, you could be doing it better. Whatever you’re not doing, you can learn to do. Look for ways to constantly self-improve, grow your learning and contacts, and extend your experience, not only in your current specialty but also in adjacent skills. Make a point to partner and learn from those around you, and find ways to give something back to them as well. Doing so will prove crucial to establishing your worth and remaining competitive. Just as financial advisors will advise you to pay yourself first, mentors will also advise you to put personal and professional development first. Investing in yourself is the best investment you can ever make, and key to constant growth and evolution.
3. Be Proactive – Get the capabilities, skills, and insights today that will be in-demand tomorrow. Take steps to acquire the talents, tools, and resources you’ll need to succeed in the future, so you can be in a more advantageous position to greet it when it arrives. Know where you want to go in your career, have a plan for getting there, and voluntarily push yourself to learn, grow, and take on more leadership and responsibility – even if this means taking small steps in different directions until bigger ones become more comfortable. Remember: The more you do the same things over time, the less value they hold in a rapidly-changing world. Faced with change, you’ve got to take smart risks that can help you stay relevant and on-track, and vault you farther towards achieving your goals.
4. Create Opportunity – Don’t wait for it to come to you. Everyone is expected to innovate in the modern era, including you. But innovation on a sustained basis is what will truly separate the great from the average. You must be willing to regularly place yourself in situations that are outside of your comfort zone, including taking on unfamiliar tasks with new people. Teach yourself to be more open-minded, more flexible, and more of a sponge. You will find innovation is a habit you can master. If luck is a function of playing the odds, stack them in your favor, and put yourself in fortune’s sights by steadily seeking out new opportunities, growing your talents and training, and expanding your horizons and thinking in new directions. As above, the more intelligent risks you take, and the more consistently you take them, the more you put yourself in a position to capitalize on good luck events.
5. Never Stop Learning – It’s great to master a given topic or skill, but what happens when that subject or skill becomes irrelevant due to changing business environments or technological innovations? Have a career escape path – or several – and build them by making yourself an eternal student. Build your chances for sustained success by embracing the unknown and gaining the knowledge and experience to make the right adaptations when necessary. Have a sense of what tomorrow’s business market will look for from leaders, how to go about acquiring these skills, and which skills are applicable to multiple scenarios (so you can acquire these versatile talents). Then constantly look for ways to extend your education and insights, so you can get the learning you need to be adaptable to myriad professional situations and contexts. The more resources you’ve got in your professional toolkit, and ways you can use them, the more future-proof you’ll be.
Learning new skills can help ensure future professional success. Learn more with these AMA resources and seminars.