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Summary:

The future, as any science fiction fan can tell you, can be as scary as it can be exciting. Is there anything we can do, when it comes to work, to reduce the anxiety of the future and prepare ourselves to weather economic and technological change?

careers of the future

The future, as any science fiction fan can tell you, can be as scary as it can be exciting. The flipside of possibility is uncertainty, and dreams of creative change can pretty quickly turn into nightmares of destruction. Is there anything we can do, when it comes to work, to reduce the anxiety of the future and prepare ourselves to gracefully weather economic and technological change?

If you’re not the type to go in for bunker building, there are alternatives, according to a new book by London Business School professor Lynda Gratton out this week in the U.S. The Shift tackles the broad forces impacting the way we work, including globalization, demography, technology and energy, and offers advice on how to keep your career going in a time of great change.

Gratton took to her blog recently to give American readers a sneak peak (the book is already out in the U.K.) offering ten ways to future proof your career. The lengthy post is worth a read in full, but some of her suggestions are particularly resonant for web workers (or cubicle warriors plotting their escape to the web worker lifestyle), including:

Learn to be virtual. We are entering a period of hyper technological advancements — avatars, holographs and telepresence are all just around the corner. If you are a young ‘digital native’ you are already connected to this – but if you are over 30 the chances are you are already behind on your understanding. Work will become more global and that means that increasingly you will be working with people in a virtual way — it’s crucial that you learn to embrace these developments and don’t let yourself become obsolete through lack of technical savvy.

Be prepared to strike out on your own. There will always be work with big companies — but increasingly the real fun will come from setting up your own company. We are entering the age of the ‘micro-entrepreneur’ whenever decreasing costs of technology will significantly reduce the barriers to getting off the ground, and when talented people across the world will be connected and keen to work with each other.

Build the Big Ideas Crowd. The future is about innovation, and sometime your best, most innovative ideas will come as you talk and work with people who are completely different from you — perhaps they have a different mindset, or come from a different country — or are younger. It is this wide network, the ‘big ideas crowd’ that will be a crucial source of inspiration. Make sure that you don’t limit yourself to working only with those who are just like you.

Become a producer rather than a simple consumer. The old deal at work:  ‘I work, to earn money, to buy stuff, that makes me happy’ is rapidly becoming obsolete. Engaging in meaningful work where you can rapidly learn will become a priority (although fair pay will always be important). So think hard about sharing and great experiences rather than simply building your working life around consuming.

A future of work that stresses location independence, an array of advanced tech tools to keep connected, engagement in meaningful work and creative collaboration? Sounds like it’s right up WebWorkerDaily’s alley.

Do you think Gratton’s prescriptions for the future are solid?

Photo courtesy of Flickr user krupp

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  1. Tweed Editing Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    As an academic, I find the final suggestion particularly resonates with me—and I’m eager to hear more.

    One might assume that being a student—or learning, more broadly—is primarily a consumer activity. But what’s important in this world is finding ways to can give back, to build something, to be a producer. I’m curious to read more about Gratton’s implication that learning is an important part of producing. (Or maybe that’s just what I’m inferring from the paragraph.)

    Thanks for the heads up about this new book.

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