The world economies stand at a crossroads. Industries that once were dominant are long in decline. Spurred by tectonic technological shifts, nascent sectors (think digital, data and everything automated) are ascendant and will likely shape everything that lies ahead, including your career and opportunities.
With every career move, I have been positioned in new geographies or industries that were primed for growth. This has taken me around the globe and the digital world. When I’m feeling omniscient, I like to believe that can be chalked up to more than just sheer luck: Perhaps there’s something within that gives me the foresight to anticipate where the future may take us. Back down in reality, I realize that I have simply followed some basic advice that anyone can use to stay ahead of the curve.
The following are some simple rules for winning your future:
1. Take risks — big ones
In 2001, I was in New York helping advise technology and internet companies on marketing and communications strategy. Some of you may be old enough to recall this thing called the “dot.com crash” that began in the U.S. around that time. I read the writing on the wall and leapt at the chance to run consulting projects in Asia for a global company. Countless reports projected that China (and Asia) were primed to take off as the hot new markets, and I was correct in anticipating that it would take quite a while for any crash-related effects to be felt in the region. Through good decision-making and a stomach for risks (and a varied diet), I gained invaluable experience that continues to pay off.
2. Take all opportunities
Wherever in the world I have worked, I rarely shied away from any event, trip, assignment, project or initiative related (even indirectly) to work. This provided incredible experiences, such as leading the regional change-management program for a Fortune 50 company, being seconded to work in the headquarters of one of Korea’s largest conglomerates, and running a country for the world’s largest PR firm. None of these opportunities were actively pursued, and none were gigs I initially thought were an ideal fit. However, when given the chance I considered that there must have been something that made me right for the job. These all helped form the “evolving me” in my career, focused my direction and led to incredible opportunities further down the road.
3. Go where the future is
Just because this should be obvious to many doesn’t mean it doesn’t bear repeating: Make a smart bet on a career path and reassess at waypoints. One look at the fastest-growing jobs tells you where the future lies: tech and healthcare. Advancements in digital media, technology and data optimization (something I write about often); life-extension and an aging population; skyrocketing healthcare, infrastructure and resource costs – these all point to a techno-medical future. Like many, I wasn’t always a digital guy and I worked in industries that were fundamentally disrupted. However, through following the very rules described here, I pivoted my early career as a traditional journalist and PR guy and have kept pace with digital transformations.
4. Think beyond
In the digital, tech, media sandbox I play in, everyone loves to talk about the “era” we’re in. Depending on who you ask, we could be in the internet era, the social era or the mobile era. Don’t listen to them anyway. When radio was first popularized, you can imagine that many people thought: “This is the bee’s knees. How wonderful it is to live in the future!” Now, look at the technology you currently use. If you think you’ll still be using anything resembling a desktop computer or an iPhone in 10 years, you’re in for a big surprise. I’m getting ready for the innovations that are beyond the immediately available and doing what I can to be poised for success in a post-internet, post-mobile era. In a world that is constantly innovating, you had better always be innovating in your career plan for the future.
Jonathan Gardner is director of communications at Turn, the cloud marketing platform. He has spent his career as an innovator at the nexus of media and technology, having worked in communications and as a journalist.