One thing I know is that the only constant in this world is change, and it's a fact we must embrace in all aspects of our lives, both personal and professional.
Recently, I saw a play called Sweat. It was all about a community of people who had a very decent standard of living by working in factory jobs, but after trade agreements caused the factories to close, the entire community spiraled into terrible decline. They lost their quality of life with their jobs, and it caused me to think about how technology has the potential to remove or change many jobs as well. The challenges presented by workplace evolutions are even more striking today, and in this rapidly evolving world, none of us can afford to get complacent in our careers.
As an entrepreneur in the constantly-changing Silicon Valley, I understand the need to shift with the landscape, to stay fresh and stay relevant with each new evolution-and that takes work. But the change isn't just in Silicon Valley, all industries are seeing the effects of this shift in the workplace. Traditional full-time, lifelong employment is quickly becoming a thing of the past as the roles of workers and the needs of businesses change-and it's up to you to future-proof your career. Development experts Karie Willyerd and Barbara Mistick outline five practices to stay professionally relevant in their new book, Stretch: How to Future-Proof Yourself for Tomorrow's Workplace, and complacency is not among them:
1. Learn on the fly. Most career learning takes place while on the job itself. There is only so much that can be experienced in a classroom, and the experiential learning opportunities that appear at work will be directly beneficial to your professional skill set. Determine what your learning style is so you can best take advantage of these opportunities and improve how you learn at work.
2. Be open. Heads-down focus is useful in many situations, but don't silo yourself away from coworkers, or you might miss out on potential opportunities to grow your skill set. Be open to participating in various projects and you might find an opportunity to learn something new.
3. Build a diverse network. Be strategic in your network. One of the #1 habits of successful people is that they hang out with other smart and inspirational people. A well-curated network can be invaluable in learning new skills, building knowledge, finding mentors, and securing new opportunities.
4. Be greedy about experiences. Don't seek out the same experiences year after year-change it up! Seek out new experiences and opportunities to do something different, that way you can apply and hone current proficiencies as well as learn new, complementary skills. Allowing yourself to stagnate will do nothing to extend your professional "sell-by-date," and may even push it forward.
5. Bounce forward. We've all heard of "bouncing back" from setbacks, and while it's healthy to let go and accept that mistakes happen, we shouldn't just focus on recovering only to end up where we were before. We also need to "bounce forward" toward our career aspirations, learning from our failures and grittily persevering through barriers and blunders with the motivation to achieve our future goals.
It's up to you to continue your professional development and prepare yourself for the workplace of tomorrow. The professional landscape is shifting dramatically and almost every role in every industry will be affected. Following practices like the ones in Stretch will help you ensure your continued professional relevancy-as long as you're willing to put in the work.
Heather Hiles is the founder and CEO of Pathbrite, the world's leading Portfolio learning software platform. Heather recently sold Pathbrite to Cengage Learning, a $2B ed tech and publishing company. Pathbrite is used by over five million K-12, college and university students all over the world. Heather has accepted a position as Chairwoman and CEO of Sanverbos, a medical device startup, and is also serving as a Senior Education Advisor to Cengage Learning.
Before founding Pathbrite, Heather built a career in education, workforce development and finance spanning more than 20 years. She has been named among the Top 100 coolest people in Silicon Valley by Business Insider. Heather has been featured in CIO Review, FastCompany Magazine, Wall Street Journal, EdWeek, Black Enterprise and more.
Heather received her BA from UC Berkeley in Economic Development and holds an MBA from Yale University, with a concentration in Finance and Strategic Planning.