Careers advice

6 steps to future proof your career

Competing with robots doesn't call for any Jedi mind tricks, just some forward thinking.

Job security matters to Kiwis. In fact, in our 2020 Job Hunter Survey, this factor came out top in the ‘very important’ things we look for in an ideal role.

So, if you’re terrified the robots are coming for your job, you’re not alone. The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation has added to standard concerns around employment security in New Zealand, and around the world.

But what can you do to hold onto your position in the face of this cyborg surge? While your first thought might be ‘lightsaber’, we’re here to suggest a more peaceful alternative – gaining future proof employment skills.

Let’s explore.

There are a range of hard and soft skills you should develop to future proof your career.

Keeping your job: what are the best future proof skills?

1. Be tech-savvy

From farming to finance, technology is everywhere – and you can’t afford to be left behind. Depending on your industry, this could be as simple as getting better with tools like Word, while those in more tech centric roles will be looking at more complex apps and packages.

If your organisation is already off the pace, do some research and suggest some tools that will improve productivity. Marketers, for example, have heaps of options for managing workflows and tracking campaign results.

The good news? You can easily find online courses, or evening classes, that can help you increase your proficiency in many tech tools.

2. Be adaptable

Technology is always evolving and improving, and the most successful employees won’t just welcome this, they’ll thrive off of it.

In fact, our Head of Jobs, Jeremy Wade, identified this mindset as one of the most important attributes contemporary Kiwi job hunters need to have.

It’s a natural reaction to resist change, especially if you’re comfortable with the way things are – but try to notice yourself doing this, and think about how to turn the situation to your advantage. One of the best ways to do this goes back to our first point, becoming tech savvy and learning new skills.

3. Be soft skilled

While machines can already do a lot of repetitive tasks, they’re a long way from having the human touch. In particular, they lack soft skills that are key to a smooth running and cohesive workplace.

Among the most future proof soft skills to develop are:

  • Communication.
  • Problem solving.
  • Emotional intelligence.
  • Creativity.
  • Cultural awareness.
  • Persuasion.
  • Leadership.

A great way to improve your soft skills is to try and put them to use in your current workplace. Talk to your manager, as they’ll probably have suggestions on how you can do this – for example, leading a workshop on an area you’re expert in can help you improve your communication.

Employers are increasingly interested in candidates with strong soft skills.

4. Be visible online (professionally)

We put so much of our lives online, and it’s worth regularly checking your digital footprint to make sure it’s telling the right story. After all, this is where most Kiwi employers go to find staff.

The easiest way to do this is Google your name. If all you see are less than ideal Facebook images, it’s time for action. We’d recommend:

  • Cleaning up your social media: delete and untag anything you wouldn’t be happy for a potential employer to see, or make your accounts private.
  • Create a Trade Me Jobs Profile: these allow employers and recruiters to check out your work experience, and approach you with relevant roles.
  • Set up an online portfolio: there are free sites you can use to showcase your work in one place.

5. Be network minded

With a constantly changing work environment, your contacts are more important than ever. They can help you with everything from learning new skills to preparing for the latest technology.

However, there's a big difference between simply following someone on Twitter, and building valuable professional connections – so be sure to choose yours wisely.

6. Be industry aware

Keeping your finger on the pulse in your industry will keep you relevant to NZ’s job market. You can do this by joining online forums with like minded professionals, reading reputable sector news sources and engaging with your network.

For example, if you know that a number of rival firms have cut roles similar to yours, you might want to start thinking about changing jobs, and where you could go next. Going out and seeking this knowledge for yourself means you can be proactive, rather than waiting until it’s too late, and missing a big opportunity.

Keeping up to date with industry news can help you see change coming, and adapt.

What are the most future proof jobs in NZ?

Don’t panic if your chosen profession isn’t on this list. No one can say for sure what the future holds, and Trade Me is still working on its time travelling abilities.

  • I.T. staff – these are the folks implementing technology in the workplace, so they’re going nowhere fast.
  • Health care professionals – with humans living so long, we need our doctors and nurses more than ever.
  • Marketing – robots are good at following instructions, but lose out where creativity is required.
  • Financial analysts – we’re not yet at the point of trusting robots to give financial advice to people or businesses.
  • Data scientists – this is a relatively recent sector, and one on the grow as businesses recognise the importance of facts and figures for making important decisions
  • Chefs – ever seen a robot eat a three course dinner? We thought not, so would you trust one to make yours?
  • Green jobs – NZ has a green reputation to uphold, and this is only going to get more important as humanity faces the very real threat from climate change.