Does anyone know what a good job will look like in the future? What career should a young person prepare for? Tough questions, but there are some thoughts.
Until the past decade or so Japan was the home of the idea of employment for life. If you started as an engineer at Toyota in 1965, you likely retired from Toyota decades later. That is unlikely now. I recently had contact with a young Japanese person who started at Toyota five years ago. He is on his third job since. Like stock buying, there is no such thing as a one-decision situation that will work.
For career jobs, as opposed to “General Help Wanted” the requirements are quite different than they were twenty years ago. In fact, many of the jobs did not exist twenty years ago. Specialization is becoming a requirement. Specific experience can matter.
How do you prepare for a job that may not exist yet?
It is not as hard as you might think. There are certain predictive things that will work.
Learn how to be a good employee. Reliable, decisive when appropriate, growing, helping others grow, curious, personable.
Learn how to learn and especially learn how to do research. If your future jobs don’t exist yet, learning how to acquire and process new information is beyond a side benefit.
Learn how to communicate. Written, spoken and with assistance like the internet and PowerPoint (or whatever replaces it)
Learn how to lead. Catch on to the idea that commander and leader are rarely the same thing. Leaders get their results by helping others get their own results.
Learn how people work. There is no owner’s manual but you can derive one. People work better for people who share their goals. People will follow people who are trying to improve them. People follow those who communicate. People work better for those who are trustworthy.
Be curious. There is no chance that you know everything that might be useful. Be on the lookout for the peculiar fact or process that can give you an edge or tie the things you know together.
Be humble. A cruel paradox of life is that the more you know, the more you discover that you don’t know.
Build a network. Not just professional associates. People who can energize you matter too. Family and partner make good cheerleaders and you will need cheerleaders. That one I am sure about.
Hold a can do attitude. Most of the time people are wrong when they say something cannot be done. Most of the time they are right when they say it can. If you think you can you might. If you think you can’t you’re right.
Know that mistakes are your friends. You learn little by being right.
Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.