Updated: Jan 22, 2020
How to thrive at work and embrace change
Plus, 10 powerful ways to stay relevant in the workplace
The workforce is changing. Experts predict a third of New Zealand jobs could be automated by 2036. Internationally, around half of jobs might be replaced by robots or algorithms in the next 30 years!
I’m not sharing these statistics to scare you. Quite the opposite! I want to inspire you to embrace change so you can stay relevant at work and thrive, not stagnate.
Whether you’re a high-school graduate, entrepreneur, Millennial, chief executive or baby boomer, here are some powerful ways to stay on top of your game and be prepared for change.
1. Be open to ALL possibilities (even not-so-good ones)
If you’re settled in your role and happy, that’s great. However, it’s easy to get complacent and think you won’t be faced with the job search or cold calling process again. While you do have some control over your work performance and business opportunities, you can’t predict economies, new players in the job market or unexpected challenges in your personal life.
Just think of the taxi operators who are struggling since Uber entered the market or the plastic bag manufacturing company that is likely to go under after the NZ government banned the use of single-use plastic bags. Consider the Canterbury earthquakes that forced many businesses to close, and the rise of virtual assistants who are replacing office support workers.
I recently worked with an organisation that employed highly experienced project managers, most of whom had been there for 10+ years. The organisation decided to make these roles redundant and employ the project managers as contractors, instead.
The project managers had assured contracting work for the next 6-12 months, but there were no guarantees after that. I stepped in to help them prepare for the job market and explore the options available. The move to contracting threw them all and put these very skilled people into stressful situations because the prospect of looking for work was something they hadn’t considered. And they weren’t prepared.
Even if you’re confident your job will be relevant for a long time yet, try to stay open to the possibility of change so you can be quick to respond if things start to shift.
2. Diversify your income streams
In the last 12 months, I have had to rethink my work goals and adapt to changing circumstances. My husband is dealing with a serious illness and has reduced his work commitments significantly. I have a growing business that’s not yet a full-time gig, so I’m supplementing my income by doing more HR consulting work. I realised it was important to stay in the corporate job market and remove the pressure of having to expand my business too fast.
Now I contract to organisations in New Zealand, Australia, and Dubai. I’m enjoying the diversity of the work and seeing what challenges other employees are facing in staying current. On the personal front, it has removed the stress of finding sufficient work and I hope it is role modelling to my children that when you are faced with a serious challenge, you can adapt.
Consider how you could diversify your income streams. Could you start a small side business on the side? Are there opportunities for professional development at your workplace? What else can you do to make yourself more employable if you need to change careers?
3. Be aware of common changes in the workplace
Here are some common changes to be aware of in the workplace. For each of these changes, ask yourself: could this have an impact on me? And if so, is it a threat or an opportunity?
Companies are more likely to select an employee for culture fit, rather than skillset.
An increasing percentage of the workforce is freelancers (consultants, contractors, or ‘gig workers’).
“Intrapreneurship” is on the rise – these are people employed by organisations but embarking on an entrepreneurial endeavour or side hustle (inside or outside the organisation) at the same time.
Organisations are moving away from more hierarchical structures to flatter or circular systems.
More generational diversity is being seen across organisations, partly due to Baby Boomers staying in work past retirement age and the increasing percentage of Millennials in the workforce.
Employees want more empowerment from their employers (autonomy, responsibility and recognition), so there is more focus on genuine long-term career goal creation and planning.
Traditional gender roles are breaking down in the workplace, and women are seeking more decision making responsibility.
Systems such as 9-5 working, clocking in and tallying hours worked are being replaced with more flexible working arrangements and greater focus on outputs.
New roles and career sectors are being created at a faster pace – it is estimated that up to 60% of roles in 10 years’ time will be new – that is, they don’t exist now.
There may be other trends or factors that apply to you, your region, your industry type or your organisation. And while each factor could be exciting for you OR threatening – it’s up to YOU how you decide to respond to it.
“Who you are tomorrow begins with what you do today.” Tim Fargo
4. Don’t be a negative buzzkill
Rather than complain about how things used to be and become a drag on the conversation, focus your energy on the opportunities that you can leverage to make yourself valuable in the workplace.
Avoid phrases that label you as being in the ‘used-by’ category or out of touch, such as: “it’s not my job”, “that’s not how we did it in the past”, “that’s not my problem”, and “I’m going to stick to MY way.”
5. Keep learning – especially about your industry
I live by the mantra “be a learn-it-all, not a know-it-all” and it’s helped me keep my skills in demand. Podcasts, online learning, getting a mentor, following influencers, networking – these are all ways to keep learning. It’s not all about doing another degree or diploma.
Keep up with trends in your industry – although I’m not looking for another role, I still get job alerts for HR roles, as I want to see where the demand is, what companies are hiring and what terminology they use for various skills. I follow companies I admire on LinkedIn, so if they announce a new business venture or project that I want to be part of, I am informed and can decide whether to try and get involved.
Recently, I worked with an administrative professional who had been made redundant, and she wanted to explore how to balance her next potential corporate role with her young family. It wasn’t until I encouraged her to explore contracting or virtual assistant work that she realised there could be another way to design her work to fit her life (rather than the other way around).
6. Thrive through your connections
Networking is fun for only a small percentage of us, but the adage of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” has never been more relevant. So get to know the people in your orbit, not just those at work, but your local community, professional groups, your children’s friends and their parents, businesses you interact with often, online networking groups.
I’ve been amazed how asking for help in these networks has been so useful to me – it’s led to contracting projects for me, a connection for an internship for my university son and some fabulous introductions for business collaborations. People love to show how well connected they are, so just ask (what’s the worst they can say?) We would rather work with people we already know than a random face on a website, amirite?
On a similar note, don’t underestimate the power of social media – LinkedIn is NOT Facebook for professionals and you are sending a specific message if you ignore this medium. Expect that most employers will check out your social media pages, so review your privacy settings if your scathing criticisms of, for example, the local council or sectors of society could label you as ‘difficult’.
7. Record your achievements
Record the projects or challenges that you are proud of, so you can leverage these with your next employer. Keep a file on your desktop of anything you are proud of – some self-learning you mastered, a new relationship you nurtured, a process you improved, a team-member you trained, a complex project you managed. You might not use all your examples in your CV or job interview, but how hard it is to remember what you had for lunch yesterday, let alone what you did well in your job over the last two years?
8. Learn to play nice
You might be a solopreneur who now has to work in a team, so place some focus on ensuring your teamwork skills are kept up to date and strong. You might be a Baby Boomer having to teach Millennials, so understand their workstyle and motivators (they might be different from yours, but that doesn’t mean they are wrong!)
9. Be clear about YOUR super-powers
To succeed at work, you don’t have to be everything to everybody. Just be REALLY clear what you are good and where you can do your best work. For me, I’m not an innovator or a risk taker, so I’m not likely to apply for roles with start-ups or controversial new-ideas organisations. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge what YOU are good at, and stay in your lane.
10. Stay hopeful
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the changing workplace and think there is no hope for you to adapt. But if you stay hopeful, open and come from a perspective of abundance (i.e. there is enough work for everyone) then you will remain an employee that employers want, or that others want to do business with. A positive attitude is ALWAYS in demand.
“The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.” Mary Schmich, Columnist
So, you ask, what do I do now?
Well this video might help you answer that...
Hi, I’m Tracey Beard, a career strategist and executive coach.
I use psychometric tools, personalised coaching strategies, and genuine concern to help young adults - high schoolers, tertiary students - across New Zealand to get excited about their career potential.
I also help graduates get their personal branding sorted so they can show employers how talented and valuable they are.
Call me if you’re ready to embrace change and get excited about your career opportunities.