5 Steps to Stay Flexible on Your Career Path

By CSU Global - May 11th, 2020

young executives in a meeting

In recent years, the job market has been evolving fast. The gig economy has exploded in popularity — as of 2018, 150 million people in North America and Western Europe had traded in a regular job for life as an independent contractor. Automation and AI have changed the job market as well, making some jobs obsolete and others even more important.

You don’t know what the future of the workplace holds, but luckily, neither does anyone else! The fact is, it’s in your hands. If you take steps to make yourself as valuable as possible, you’ll be ready for anything the world throws at you. We’ve put together five tips to help you stay relevant and flexible on your career path and in the evolving job market.

1. Keep Up With Tech

Even if your current job is still running Windows XP, it’s in your best interest to keep abreast of the latest technological developments in your field and in the world at large. All jobs, even the more practical ones, are coming to rely more and more on technology and software. If you ever want to head off in a new direction, you’ll want to minimize the amount of catching up you have to do.

2. Learn Transferable Skills

There are some skills that will be specific to your line of work and your industry, while others will be useful no matter where you end up. Both are important, so take any opportunity you can to expand your knowledge base. Besides, it’s never too late to learn something new!

In addition to their Emerging Jobs Report, LinkedIn publishes a list of “Most In-Demand Skills” every year. The list is divided into “soft skills” like creativity and persuasion and “hard skills” like cloud computing and analytical reasoning, so take a look and see where you can improve. If you want to stay focused on a particular industry, look for similar lists that will tell you what your peers (and potential employers) value the most.

3. Keep a Journal of Your Successes

If you spearhead a big project and nail the assignment, make a note of it. If you receive a particularly good performance review, save a copy. If you get a new set of job responsibilities and rise to the occasion, write it down. Both your current and future employers will want to know what you’re good at, and you don’t want to be stuck racking your brain for career high points when you’re put on the spot.

Keep track of your duties and responsibilities, professional development activities, training you’ve completed, certificates you’ve earned, volunteer work, and appraisals in an organized journal that clearly shows the way you’ve developed over time. If you can come into your next interview with a clear timeline of your accomplishments, a lot of doors will open for you.

4. Keep Up Your Network

The old adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” can ruffle some feathers — it implies that you can skate by with no real skills as long as you know which hands to shake. In reality, it’s both. Almost every job is going to require some specific abilities and experience, and faking it (or lying about it) isn’t a good idea. But it never hurts to know someone at the company who can give you a leg up in the interview.

Use LinkedIn to connect with the people you work with, the people you went to school with, the people you meet at conferences or trade shows, and anyone else you interact with on a professional level. You never know when a job opportunity might open up at a competitor’s company or even with a vendor or client, and having an inside track can be invaluable.

5. Stay Flexible

The future is unpredictable — no one really knows what the major industries of the future will look like, and no one knows which ones will suddenly crash. Take the internet, for example. On February 27, 1995, Newsweek delivered some bleak news to its readers

“It’s not that I haven’t had a gas of a good time on the Internet. I’ve met great people and even caught a hacker or two. But today, I’m uneasy about this most trendy and oversold community.… The truth is, no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.”

Amazon made its first million less than a year later. Google.com left beta testing in 1999. And even though the dot-com bubble once cast doubts on the commercial viability of the internet, today, it’s the hub of every business in the world.

Whether your industry is the next big thing or the next RadioShack can be hard to predict, but it’s a good idea to stay on top of it. Read the news sites that cover your field. Pay attention to emerging technology that your company and your competitors use. And most importantly, don’t get tied down. If there comes a time when your skills are more valuable elsewhere, don’t be afraid to change lanes.

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