By Joni Lindquist

I’ve been reading a book by Joshua Cooper Ramo, entitled The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us And What We Can Do About It.   It’s an interesting read, where the author posits that we now live in an age in which constant surprise–for good or bad –has become a fact of life and how we used to handle these surprises don’t work. Our old ways of thinking and old models are no longer relevant. The old models stem from the Cold War era, in which we knew our enemy and the world was fairly predictable. Now, the world is interconnected, with enemies small and nearly invisible and our old models to deal with everything from national security to world markets to ecology to health are no longer viable. In this new, ever dynamic world, Ramo argues that a new model for our world – for peace, for economic stability – is to “incorporate the inevitable dynamism and newness – a way of living that resembles nothing so much as a global immune system. . . always ready, capable of dealing with the unexpected”.

If his model can be applied to financial markets, ecological systems and world politics; why shouldn’t it also apply to our careers? How can we build a global immune system for our careers?

1. Resiliency. Ramo argues that resiliency is the key skill we must all develop in this new world. Clearly this is critical for our careers as well. Companies get bought and sold, entire industries die, levels of management disappear and certain skills and jobs are no longer demanded. For example, there are over 75% fewer administrative jobs than ten years ago.   “Middle management” has been steadily eliminated. We must have career resilience to survive and thrive in this world. Career resiliency is the ability to persist when the unexpected happens (who expected AIG to crumble over a weekend?) and to be able to navigate through uncertainty and chaos (how many different bosses/re-organizations have you survived?). Resiliency keeps us steady and moving forward, not letting the distractions interrupt our career progress.

2. Be vigilant. We can’t afford to get complacent and think “we’ve made it”. We must be aware of the dynamics that could impact our income, while recognizing that we can’t foresee all the change that will occur.  But what skills do we need to build as the world changes? As technology changes everything, what does that mean for our career? How does global competition impact us directly? Other authors argue that we must build skills that can’t easily be outsourced due to our globally interconnected world. What skills will be in demand – what skills do you want to continue to develop? How marketable are YOU? Don’t let your skills become obsolete.

3. Creative problem solving. Since we can’t foresee all the changes that will happen that will impact our career, we must build the ability to solve problems as they arise.   Creative problem solving combines both the left and the right side of our brains. For those of us who grew up in the business world where the use of Excel dominated decision making, we must also learn to tap into the left side that allows for creative and innovative thinking. It is likely we will face career challenges we haven’t faced before – so there is no prior model to use. We’ll have to be able to think both analytically and creatively to solve that new challenge. Get used to tapping into your intuition and your “gut” when making decisions.

4. Master the Art of Questioning. Because we will face new challenges and situations, the more effective we are at asking the right questions, the more effective our decision making will be. Even if you stay in the same functional area or industry for your career, the constant changes occurring will require you to continually adapt. The old questions may lead to the same old answers, whereas new questions may lead to providing you the appropriate context and information for better decision making. Rapid and surprising change can come out of nowhere – who foresaw the success of Google or Facebook originally? Can you ask the right questions as to how new developments will impact your business and your role?

Consider managing your career as a global immune system. Your goal is to be adaptable and be positioned for success despite the many unknown and constant changes that will lie in your path. Hone your skills such as resiliency, vigilance, probing questioning and creative problem solving. Building this strong immune system will help keep your career healthy and thriving; rather than facing situations such as career obsolescence or underemployment.  I’ve been working with clients to help them build these critical skills sets, call us if we can help you.

For more information, schedule a meeting by clicking below, contact Joni Lindquist –, or call (913) 345-1881.