In a world of work that’s uncertain and constantly changing, can you ever really future proof yourself?
Sadly, not against everything.
Job security is never guaranteed. And as we saw in 2020, we can’t ever fully predict what’s coming.
This time last year, as the first person tested positive to COVID-19 in Australia, it still would have been hard to imagine domestic and international border closures of the scale we’ve experienced, and the run-on impacts on everything from aviation to tourism and education.
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Of course you can always explore career changes and the industries and areas of work that are expected to expand significantly over the next five years (and an important reminder, it’s not all about tech).
Career changes can create great future job outcomes. But they come with a price – both money and time-wise – that you may not want or be able to invest in just now.
So how about some of the skills you can work on, for free? And that you can work on everyday, at work, at home and regardless of your role or industry?
These three skills will help future-proof your career, and support your health and well-being in the process.
Practice creativity. Get comfortable with the discomfort that comes from asking yourself to make and come up with things.
Creativity can be fun, but it’s also hard. It saps your energy and it asks you to tap into areas of vulnerability we often aim to avoid.
But it’s also like a muscle. The more practice you put in, the more you can get out. The more comfortable you’ll be sharing your ideas, understanding the creative process that led to such ideas, and being able to separate bad from good and great ideas.
Creative skills will become increasingly necessary in the future of work, across all industries. It’s a skill that can’t be automated, and one that’s essential to business strategy. As Scott Belsky, the chief product officer at Adobe, recently put it: “Creativity is the new productivity”. Indeed, creatives will drive much of the future.
A daily, timed creative practice is a great way to get started on developing your creativity skills.
Even aiming for five minutes, sitting with a blank page, is an excellent first step: and one that can be applied to whatever it is you enjoy doing, like writing, art, music, or simply developing strategic ideas relevant to your work. You’ll be surprised at what that small amount of space enables you to do.
A creative habit can also be great for your mental health. It creates a space that exists seperate to everything else you have going on: an opportunity to focus on one task and experience the joy it can bring, without it needing to lead to a set outcome.
Self awareness is critical to almost every soft skill at work -- and yet it’s something that’s rarely practiced or even considered.
Self awareness is the ability to see and understand yourself objectively, and to somewhat separate yourself from the thoughts you have and the perceptions you believe others have of you.
It’s also the ability to self-evaluate, constantly. To explore the daily failures that occur and to have the resilience and fortitude to take in the lessons within them.
We all have strengths and weaknesses. We need to know what they are and when to use them, especially so we can exploit the best from our strengths, and get to ask the questions and acquire the help we need to make up for our weaknesses. Self awareness gives you this knowledge.
And it’s critical to your decision-making. With self awareness you will understand your biases. You can see how and when to seek help and input.
So how do you practice self-awareness? There are numerous tools available online, particularly on determining your strengths and weaknesses. But ultimately it starts with taking the time to analyse and connect with yourself: to consider your values, where you excel and where you fall behind. Listening and observing others is also critical, as is making learning and developing a lifestyle choice, rather than something you do once.
3. Energy management
Good employers now and in the future of work will focus on rewarding outcomes over time spent in the office. Especially given the massive shifts to remote work that occurred as a result of the pandemic.
That means time management will be critical -- as it’s no longer a matter of logging in the hours.
But more important than time management -- given time is finite and there’s only so much we can do with it -- is energy management.
Energy management is about understanding your rhythms and how you work, so you can maximise your potential to get the tasks done during your most productive and/or creative times.
It’s about prioritising sleep in order to better optimise your day. It’s about recognising the personal practices you can do to manage your emotional and physical energy, whether that’s in meditation, exercise, diet or something else.
It’s about getting your work done efficiently -- so you can manage other responsibilities and enjoy a life outside of work.
And, like the other two skills listed above, energy management supports your ability to make fast, effective and transformative decisions.
A fatigued decision maker may either put off making the needed decision, thus slowing everything else down, or they could make a poor choice. Learning to optimise your energy — including where and how to limit the decisions you need to make — will improve your decision making abilities.
Creativity. Self awareness. Time management. These are three skills that will help you excel in times of uncertainty and across almost any field.
They’re skills you can practice without spending money and that you can harness the benefits of immediately.
They will support and help protect you for whatever it is that’s coming, including the unexpected opportunities.
Angela Priestley is a Yahoo Finance contributor, writing on family finances and juggling work with kids. She is the founding editor of Women’s Agenda, co-founder of Agenda Media and a mum of three young boys.
This is part 14 of our Jobs 2021 series, where Yahoo Finance is exploring how to succeed in the next decade: earn more, lead better and win in the next decade of work.