The career MOT – future proofing your career

Written by Beate Oera, Head of Operations

If you google ‘Career MOT’, you will find a range of questionnaires and tools to help you work out what your ideal career might be. I think most of us remember doing something similar at school, often with amusing results (I have missed my calling as a gardener or zoo keeper, apparently). The adult versions exist too. Assuming you are not in need of a full-on soul search for the perfect job, however, most of us could nevertheless benefit from a regular stocktake.

AgeUK commissioned YouGov to conduct polling to explore the idea of a ‘Career MOT at 50’. The idea here was to offer professional advice about future working options, and how best to plan towards retirement. Amongst other questions, 44 % responded that they would welcome a discussion about what job(s) they might want to do for the rest of their working life, and how their skills might be transferrable.

It’s an excellent idea, and not just for 50-year-olds. Many of us end of up on a career path somewhat by accident, or at least it was not what we originally set out to do. What happens next is that life sweeps us along, and suddenly it’s a decade later. Pausing for a moment to take stock and evaluate where you are and where you want to go is important. Here’s how:

1. Take a long-term view

Remember all the interviews where you were asked ‘where do you see yourself in one, five and ten years’? Start by asking yourself that very question. Answer honestly and think about where you want your career to head, what you want to achieve, and what your priorities are.

There are many factors to take into consideration; what time frames are you working to? How important is work-life balance, are you willing to relocate, do you want to travel? Where does retirement-planning, however far away that is, fit into this? If you need further training or qualifications, where does this fit from a budget and time perspective? Bearing all this in mind, are you on the right path, in the right job, do you even have the right career?

If you have the sort of employer who encourages self improvement and career progression, you might already be in the right place. Start by having a chat with your manager about how they can help you achieve your aims.

2. Update your CV

Complete your CV, not because should jump on the first job ad you see, but because it is useful to try to see your CV from a hiring manager’s perspective. Be brutally honest – are you attractive to a prospective employer? If not, why?

Perhaps you have moved around a bit too much? There might be good reasons for this, but if none of them are obvious, you should try to add a longer spell with your next employer. Conversely, it is possible to stay too long – do you need to take the plunge soon?

Take a good look at your qualifications too. The further into your career you get, the less your original, formal education will matter, but industry qualifications will, as will updating your skills with training and new learning.

3. Predict the future

Career MOTIf only we could! However, we can look at trends, developments and proposed policy changes to assess what the potential impact on our jobs might be. How will new technology affect your industry? Are there new regulations and legislation that might impact your role? What are the latest market trends, and what new challenges might they bring? Some jobs are likely to disappear altogether, which will have ripple effects, even if you aren’t directly affected.

Having done your best with the crystal ball, it’s time to consider what you might need to do to make yourself attractive in a future job market. Changes bring new opportunities, but also risks, and it’s important to consider this in relation to your own future goals. Perhaps developments will open up new exciting career paths, or perhaps new qualifications are needed.

Skills gaps aren’t just about formal training and qualifications either. When was the last time you learnt something new? Shadowing a colleague, working on a project that requires new skills or becoming your firm’s expert on a trending topic can prove valuable.

4. Get connected

Whether we like it or not, today’s world is one of connectivity, but from a career perspective, that is a good thing. People can offer everything from opportunities and ideas, to news on market trends and developments, and feedback and advice (and, yes, LinkedIn is a great place for this!).

Ask for advice and help as you go along, talk to people and make connections.

5. Go extra-curricular

This won’t be relevant to everyone, perhaps, but going the extra mile outside of working hours can yield results down the line. If you are looking to be seen as a thought leader, or want to establish expertise in an area, consider contributing to professional bodies or networks, or publish articles on your chosen field. Likewise, volunteering for extra jobs might be a good way to develop new skills.

New Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon touched on this in recent interviews, talking of the value of the human side in the work environment. Aside from the potential for personal growth, he also pointed to the importance of finding and exploring a passion outside of work, and said that doing so is key to longevity in a career, particularly when dealing with long hours, travel and the potential for burnout.

6. Wholesale change?

If you’ve decided that you’re on the wrong path altogether, you have some serious thinking to do. Changing careers can be costly, especially if you need to retrain, and there is a danger of thinking the grass is so very much greener somewhere else.

All jobs have their downsides and their difficulties, and the idea that you should love your job all day, every day, is pretty unrealistic. On the other hand, we only live once, and much of our time is spent at work, and so finding a career you enjoy is important.

If you want to change careers, consider your options carefully. Would it be possible to achieve what you want by shifting your career in a different direction, or do you need to make a complete change? If it is the former, what is required? If it’s the latter, what are the costs and risks involved? Do you need to retrain? What is the job market like in the career you are drawn to? Could you afford to take a pay cut if necessary?

7. Can’t see the wood for the trees?

If you are feeling completely lost by all this, a complete break might be in order. Perhaps a sabbatical is an option, or just taking a longer holiday where you clear your head to work out what you really want.

8. Give yourself a pat on the back

To finish off, think about what you’ve achieved so far. Amid all this critical appraisement, make sure to feel good about the things you’ve achieved too!

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