I recently read a book by Thomas Friedman (The World is Flat) titled Thank You for Being Late1.  In it, he argues that the rate of change in technology, globalization and climate is profoundly re-shaping our world, including our workplaces and jobs.

For example, in the early 1900’s it typically took 20-30 years before a new technology would take hold.  In the last two decades, however, technology platforms change at a rate of every 5-7 years.  Its Moore’s law extended to all these domains – Moore’s law being that the number of transistors on a single chip doubles every two years.  Think how quickly cell phone capabilities change!

What does this mean for one’s career?

The traditional model is to get educated in your early 20s, then work for 40+ years in that profession.  We may change jobs but stick close to our occupation – whether teacher, lawyer, marketer or accountant.  That model is already showing signs of cracking.  Think of people you know who may have been an attorney, and now run a small business.  Or a former corporate executive now teaching. We all know some of these folks.  Consider professions, like journalism, that have been rocked due to technological changes.

In the future, it is far more likely that you will have multiple careers, as the forces of technology make some jobs disappear or diminish the value of a profession.  With AI lurking, how many professions will become extinct?

To prepare for this accelerating pace of change that disrupts how work gets done; career planning will become increasingly important.


Four things to consider to proactively manage your career:


1) Trend Spotting:

Become proficient in understanding how technology and globalization will impact your profession, your industry and your company. Read, listen, attend conferences, pay attention to similar industries and the changes occurring within them.


2) Build Key Skills for New Workplace – Per the Institute for the Future2, the top five skills after trend spotting needed in future are:

a. Social Intelligence – the ability to build deep relationships

b. Novel & Adaptive Thinking – what AI likely won’t be able to do… to come up with non-linear, non-rules-based ideas, to be innovative and creative in solving customer problems

c. Cross Cultural Competency – globalization. Enough said.

d. Computational Thinking – that ability to take large amounts of data and turn into MEANINGFUL information

e. New Media Literacy – the last 10 years has shown how quickly new media forms explode on the scene. Ability to adapt and use the new will be valuable.


How would you rate yourself on these skills?  What can you do to develop and hone these skills?


3) Multiple Careers:

Maintain a mindset that you will likely have multiple careers that may be significantly different. Having the skills above will help you transfer into new roles. While building the transferable skills above, you may also need to build knowledge in a new functional area.


4) Funding Your Ongoing Learning:

Invest in yourself. Continually assess what skills you need to build and if your company won’t pay for it, pay for it yourself.  In time, I think adults will have 529 or education savings plans for themselves so that they can afford to get the training required to take on a new profession.

Challenging time ahead.  Yet it also is exciting.  If you need to work for 40-50 years, isn’t it more appealing to do several different things?  Start in 2020 to begin to plan, identify and build new skills.  Never too soon to start!


  1. Thank You for Being Late. An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Acceleration. Thomas Friedman
  2. Future Work Skills 2020. Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute.