How to Build a Sustainable Career in an Uncertain World

Over the past decade, virtually every industry has been disrupted. From technology to travel, finance to food, insurance to investing, major industry stalwarts have been upended by nimble startups with new approaches to old problems.

 And once-stable career paths have followed suit.

The rules of the career game have changed. In fact, the game itself has changed. More than ever, agility and adaptability to a rapidly changing environment--both business and planetary-- will be crucial skills for crafting a successful career and thriving over the long term.

“The future is already here--it’s just not evenly distributed.” William Gibson, Author

The short-term, iterative thinking that has prevailed in the past is being pushed aside by agile, solution-oriented leaders taking the long view.

Here are three ways to adapt and thrive in an uncertain world:

1.   Understand what the underlying problem is that you solve through your work, but be agnostic in how you solve it.

Airbnb didn’t set out to build a cheaper hotel. They realized the need they were solving for was a clean, safe bed to sleep in.... and they cut real estate ownership, operational infrastructure, and a majority of costs out of the equation entirely.  Suddenly a person who was working their way up the hotel management ranks may need to apply their operational, guest experience, and leadership skills to a different or adjacent industry, such as restaurant management or healthcare.

2.   Get clear on what you’re great at, constantly hone those skills and strengths, and look for growth opportunities where they can be applied.

This will be the key to your success.  If you are in a declining or consolidating industry, even if you love your company or job, it’s a smart move to proactively identify what growing problems or industries you can apply your skills toward, rather than have that exercise be forced upon you by a pink slip.     

3.   Cultivate your distance vision.

To be able to spot developing trends and gain awareness beyond your current job and industry, it’s important for you to get out of your usual environment.  Attending conferences, visiting a new city on your next vacation, or simply watching a TED talk instead of Game of Thrones, it’s useful to mix it up on a regular basis.

Interact with new people; have interesting conversations. The more you’re exposed to new and different things outside your normal routine, the more you develop a broader perspective and potentially spot new opportunities. The more you plan for the unexpected, the more prepared you will be to embrace the change that is happening all around us.

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