Ten-year career plans became passé as the pace of change in business increased. It’s hard to predict what the technological and economic environment will be in the coming year, much less a decade. But there are still many things you can and should plan for as this new decade approaches, especially if you hope to protect your marketability and increase your earning potential.
Positioning yourself to ride the wave of economic and cultural volatility that lies ahead will require a prolonged and sustained effort. That might be daunting to hear, but as you will spend the next decade working anyways, why not work smarter?
Even if you don’t write out a full ten-year plan, try not to lose sight of these three goals when the 20s get into full swing. Use them as guideposts to help you grow more resilient and to keep your skill set in demand no matter what the next decade holds.
1. Become less dependent on your primary employer
Gone are the days when you could trust an employer to protect you during a downturn. No matter how valued you are right now, growing industry consolidation, pressure to cut expenses or changing business needs may result in a disruption in your employment.
Instead of hoping you’ll be lucky enough to be spared such periods of instability, work to reduce your dependence on one company. Make this goal a priority for the next decade.
For some people, that may mean launching a new business. However, startups typically require a significant investment of money and time, and you may not have either readily available.
Other alternatives include side hustles, freelance projects and volunteer work that has the potential to become paid work down the road. There are more options to generate side income than ever before. Plan to do research, test out and integrate an additional source of income into your life.
Your side hustle may never become your main source of income, but it can be personally fulfilling while also fortifying your livelihood and career prospects.
2. Get serious about marketing yourself
Almost any business idea or new career path you hope to launch in the next decade will be dependent on leveraging your brand and social network.
Good marketing plans are executed well before you actually need them. If you spent the last decade building knowledge and skills that few people know about, it’s time to focus on marketing yourself better in the 20s.
Many people mistakenly believe that defining your brand and sharing your knowledge publicly is an act of vanity, but in today’s ever-connected world doing so is simply a career imperative. You will not be recognized for your talents if you don’t build a significant online footprint.
You can certainly start with the basics such as getting a great headshot and updating your LinkedIn profile, but plan to go beyond that.
Find social media outlets that fit with your personality and become more regularly active on at least one platform. Then, commit to producing one to two quality online articles or videos a year in your area of expertise. A decade from now, you’ll have a significant amount of content to leverage and reference, not to mention the new connections you will make because of these posts.
Your online credibility will become an even larger predictor over the next decade of how often you receive job inquiries and whether you ultimately land the best jobs. Don’t neglect this important area of career development; you will regret it a decade from now.
3. Age proof your skills
No matter how old you are today, you’ll be ten years older at the turn of the next decade. Start planning now to position this older version of yourself to remain marketable.
Workplace dynamics in the last decade were shaken up with the influx of millennial leaders and an ever-increasing requirement for digital skills.
Furthermore, Generation-Z will also soon be firmly established in the workplace while artificial intelligence has already begun to reshape the way we work. It’s a certainty: more change is coming.
The key to adapting successfully is to have a mechanism in place to actively monitor workplace shifts and to challenge yourself to stay in step. At least once a year you should assess how your industry is changing and how to further align your skills. Identify networking groups or key mentors that are on the cutting edge of your industry’s trends and stay connected.
Your ability to constantly refresh your skill set and adjust to new cultural norms will help you maintain market value. Don’t let this next decade come and go with you still listing the same skills on your résumé or stuck in old management practices. Make sure your skill set and career story are evolving.
Protecting your livelihood in the 20s will require focus and active participation, but if you’re up to the challenge, this could be your best and most fulfilling decade yet.