Your career beyond VUCA
What is the point of having a purpose for your career when coronavirus, AI, climate chaos or isolationism may forcibly steer you away from it at any moment? How can a purpose be relevant for more than a few days or weeks when such cataclysmic change threatens us all the time? What Is a career, anyway, when even the securest of big companies may redund you at a moment’s notice, regardless of your good and loyal service? Does such a thing as a career even exist now?
People entering the workforce age today will live, accidents and dread disease apart, until they are 110 or older. To be viable in society at all they will have to work until they are 80. Advanced societies like Singapore already realise that encouraging people to continue working is a way to keep them healthy and engaged with others. It also makes economic sense because they earn their old age and sustain themselves rather than depending on society. It also reduces medical costs because working keeps you physically as well as mentally healthy.
Plan for a long working life but not for a consistent, ‘one-company’ or ‘one-skill’ future. Survival alone in VUCA conditions requires flexibility the jobs market has never seen before. And you want to do better than survive. You want to flourish. Anyone who tells you that you can do so without forecasting is nuts. But the very existence of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) makes forecasting as close to a lottery as most people ever want to come.
And yet, without a view about the impact of new discoveries, new problems and new solutions, how can we hope to have any say over our lives? A life without our having some control over what we do and who we are is like a rudderless ship, an aircraft without its navigational aids, a slave in the hottest plantation who sees nothing but the sweat of tomorrow and the pain of growing old. Life is for more than that sort of situation. We may not want to become Army Ants but we are certainly going to have to learn their organisational techniques.
And as humans we have a star to follow, a purpose that, when fulfilled, will bring us a glow of satisfaction, an ethic that continues to raise us above other creatures and a style that allows us to express ourselves in all possible ways. For life to be decent it must be at least partly planned. What should we do to enable us to have an intelligent view of the future, to give us an opportunity to create fruitfully as impressively as we have been created?
Here are four things I recommend you do to equip yourself for VUCA and beyond; Make it a daily routine to scan the headlines of the world and to study more deeply those items that interest us. It is more than just listening to the headlines of the tv news. They are too superficial; you need more depth than they will provide. Scanning the world’s headlines in each of its areas of work is the fastest way to update yourself. A wide view is a good view.  Choose one technology to study in depth by extra-mural / internet classes. Your choice should be based on the inherent skills you have and your facility with words or numbers or music or arts or whatever. What you enjoy is a good guide to what you will do well.  Create for yourself an image of the sort of person you would like to be remembered as, when you have gone. Legacy won’t be something uppermost in your mind when you are young but it is going to exist anyway. You don’t want to be remembered as greedy, selfish and wicked. The Image you would like to have is earned by every glance you make, every word you utter, every act you do. As with an Old Age Fund, the earlier you start creating it the better the outcome.  Develop one hobby or craft that allows you to create something unique. What is going to collect the money in the future is uniqueness. In a world approaching nine billion something that stands out will be prized. It may be you or something you have created. It will be appreciated by people – perhaps many, perhaps few. In the end it will be appreciated by the one who matters – you.
Now see the things I have put in bold above. They are the basis of a career plan for today’s chaotic world. They are practical and will equip you with what will constitute your career.
They require a Tree on the other side of the Field, a medium-term purpose which can be reset anytime but which is always there in one or form or another. When you have that you will steer through the tough times with purpose and flexibility.
What is more, you will have a lot of fun as you ride the stormy sea.
May you enjoy succeeding.
Written during a pause in the proceedings.