How to Future-Proof Your Career, with Jane Barrett

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Transcript

Find Your Dream Job, Episode 125:

How to Future Proof Your Career, with Jane Barrett

Airdate: February 7, 2018

Mac Prichard:

Hi, this is Mac, of Mac’s List. Find Your Dream Job is presented by Mac’s List, an online community where you can find free resources for your job search, plus online courses and books that help you advance your career. My latest book is called Land Your Dream Job Anywhere. It’s a reference guide for your career that covers all aspects of the job search, including expert advice in every chapter. You can get the first chapter for free by visiting macslist.org/anywhere.

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Mac Prichard, your host, and publisher of Mac’s List.

I’m joined by my co-hosts, Ben Forstag, Becky Thomas, and Jessica Black, from the Mac’s List team.

This week we’re talking about how to future proof your career.

None of us expect to do one job alone in the 40-plus years most of us will spend in the workplace.  But how do we make sure we don’t get left behind by the changing needs of employers? This week’s guest expert is Jane Barrett. She says to future proof your career you need to play to your strengths and you always need to be learning. Jane and I talk later in the show.

Each of us chooses the career we want. But our parents’ professions can help shape our decision in a profound way. Ben has found research data that shows how our parents occupations can make a big difference in the jobs we pick. He tells us more in a moment.

You have a job that pays less than you want. And it leaves you unfulfilled but your paycheck covers your expenses and you have a flexible work schedule that lets you spend more time with your children. Should you look for a new job that pays more but might offer less family time? That’s our question of the week. It comes from listener Leonard Coyer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Becky offer her advice in a moment.

As always, let’s check in with the Mac’s List team.

First up is Ben, who is out there every week searching the nooks and crannies of the Internet looking for books, tools, websites, and other resources you can use in your job search and your career. Ben, what have you uncovered for our listeners this week?

Ben Forstag:

Before I start talking about the resource this week, I want to ask a question of everyone in the studio here, which is, when you think back to when you were a kid, what was the first job that you really felt like, “I want to do this when I grow up”?

Jessica Black:

I wanted to be a veterinarian until I learned that you had to put the animals to sleep. Then I didn’t want to do that anymore.

Mac Prichard:

Oh my gosh.

Jessica Black:

I changed my career path from an early age, because of that.

Mac Prichard:

What was your second choice, Jessica?

Jessica Black:

I don’t remember. There were multiple options but that was the one I remember the first.

Ben Forstag:

What about you, Becky?

Becky Thomas:

I think I wanted to be a veterinarian for a while too but I think my very first ideal dream career was when I was probably five or six. It was the summer olympics and I wanted to be a gymnast. We were doing gymnastics out in the yard. I was like, “UGH, my dream! I’ll have the leotard and all the glitter.” I didn’t quite make it but that’s okay.

Jessica Black:

It’s not too late.

Mac Prichard:

No.

Becky Thomas:

Yes it is.

Mac Prichard:

For me, it was astronaut, because I was in grade school in the late sixties and grew up watching Moon Shots when I was in fifth and sixth grade. I thought that was about as cool as it could get.

Ben Forstag:

Those are all interesting choices here, but you guys are totally ruining the theme of my resource this week. I thought you were going to say something else.

Jessica Black:

Feed us the answers, Ben.

Ben Forstag:

I will tell you, and this is the truth, what I wanted to do. The first job, that for some reason got stuck in my mind that I wanted to do. I wanted to be a stockbroker.

Mac Prichard:

Wow, that’s my father’s profession.

Ben Forstag:

There you go. I feel like when I was in fourth grade we had to draw a picture of our future selves and I drew myself in a three piece suit with a briefcase and a hat. I guess I thought stockbrokers wore hats back then.

Jessica Black:

They might have.

Ben Forstag:

The reason I asked about the jobs you wanted as a kid was because I unearthed this really interesting article about the jobs that we choose as adults and how our parents influence those jobs.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, Ben, I’ve got to ask, knowing that your parents met in a commune… I’m waiting to hear about the connection between stock brokers and your parents occupations.

Ben Forstag:

I must have been the Alex P. Keaton of the family.

Yeah, this comes from The New York Times, and it’s called The Jobs You’re Most Likely To Inherit From Your Mother and Father.

The idea behind this article is that for better or worse, parents have a huge impact on their children. We know this is the case for everything… our political beliefs, our religious beliefs, but this also comes into play when we talk about the kinds of careers we choose as adults.

The New York Times looked at generational employment data from 1996 to 2016 and found some about interesting trends about this stickiness of your parent’s career as it influences yours.

Things like, working sons of working fathers, on average, are 2.7 times as likely as the rest of the population to have the same job and 2 times as likely to have the same job as their mothers. Basically, if your father was a stockbroker, it’s 2.7 times more likely that you’ll be a stockbroker compared to anyone who is making a choice to enter stockbroking.

The same effect is true for daughters, although it’s a little less strong. Daughters are 1.8 times as likely to have the same job as their mother and 1.7 times as likely to to have the same job as their fathers.

The influence of your parents really depends a lot on what exactly they did for a living. Some careers seem to have a lot more “stickiness” with successive generations. I think the jobs that are most sticky are things like legislator, banker, lawyer, entertainer, doctor, also steel worker was listed there as one of the ones.

This article includes a lot of interesting information, especially if you’re a data person like me, but it also has a little widget where you can enter your career and see how common it is for successive generations in a family to have that career. You could go and type in veterinarian and it will tell you, “Oh it’s really common for children of veterinarians to go into veterinary medicine.”

Quick question, Jessica, were either of your parents veterinarians?

Jessica Black:

No.

Ben Forstag:

Becky, either of your parents gymnasts?

Becky Thomas:

Unfortunately not.

Mac Prichard:

No astronauts in the Prichard family.

Ben Forstag:

Okay, just checking. I think one thing you can take away from this article is that some careers that are the most sticky, things like legislators or entertainers, there’s a strong lifestyle element to that. Whereas a legislator, especially at the national level, is kind of living in their career all the time so that passes down. The power of name recognition is huge there too. You’re passing your name on to your children and they’re kind of riding on your coattails.

Jessica Black:

Right.

Ben Forstag:

They actually talk about this a little bit, they say one of the big factors in passing down occupations, and the advantage and disadvantage of that, is the connections parents offer their  children. Children who pursue the same job as their parents often start well ahead of the competition when it comes to having the wherewithal, the connections, the background knowledge, it takes in that career.

Children often pursue their parents’ jobs because of  what they call the breakfast-table effect: Family conversations when dad or mom come home from the day and start talking about their jobs and the stresses, or the great things that happen, the kids internalize that. It fuels their interest to learn more about it, or gives them that leg up in the process.

Mac Prichard:

This is great data, but how does this help job seekers, Ben? For our listeners, what difference can this make in a search or in managing their career?

Ben Forstag:

I guess the most important one is that if you want your child to be an astronaut, you better go and apply for NASA right now. Just kidding.

I think there’s a couple takeaways here that are important for job seekers. One is that this provides a framework to think about careers choices that we’ve already made. We tend to think that we have a clean slate when we make career choices, but so many of the choices that we make are defined by things that happened in our past, specifically our parents. I know a lot of people who are like, “I have to be a lawyer because my father was a lawyer and my grandfather was a lawyer.” They don’t realize that they’re being pushed into that, whether they want to be a lawyer or not.

Jessica Black:

Right.

Ben Forstag:

I guess that one lesson would be to know that there’s a strong effect there and be conscious of it so that you have the space to break away from that if you don’t want it.

The other thing here, and this is not going to be a surprise for anyone who listens to our show, is I think this data really underlines the importance of networking. One of the strong reasons why a child of a politician enters politics themselves is that they already have that network built in, like the donor class, the friends, the other influences are all like family friends. It makes it very easy for them to enter into the career. Same thing if you’re talking about veterinary medicine, other vets are already built into your network as family friends and acquaintances. It makes it much easier to slide into that career.

We talk so much about networking on this show, the importance of networking, building up your networks. I think that’s where all this generational stickiness comes from. People have networks so it makes it easy for them to enter into that field. We can’t all be the children of astronauts, or politicians, or entertainers, but we can take those lessons, that idea that if you build a strong network, it makes it easier to enter some careers and apply that in our own job search practices.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, well, interesting stuff and food for thought. As you talked, the other thought that went through my head, Ben, was the powerful example that is set by people in our families, whether it’s our parents, aunts and uncles, or grandparents, who may be in occupations that show by example that we could do those things as well. I think if we all reflect on our family tree, particularly going back a generation or two, there are likely examples of jobs where we might not be doing exactly that occupation but there are parts and pieces of it that we are doing. I think those examples probably make us comfortable taking on challenges that might seem unfamiliar at first.

Ben Forstag:

Exactly, we always talk about going out and talking to people that do this. You may well already know someone who does what you’re “dream job” is. It might be your uncle, or your uncle’s daughter, I guess that’s your cousin. But getting to know what the folks in your family do and talking to them about their careers can be a really powerful tool in figuring out what you want to do yourself, then figuring out how you’re going to get it as well. Again, this article is called  The Jobs You’re Most Likely To Inherit From Your Mother and Father and it’s from The New York Times.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, great stuff. Thank you, Ben, and if you’ve got an idea for Ben, he would love to hear from you. His address is ben@macslist.org. We’d love to share your idea on the show.

Now let’s turn to you, our listeners, and  Becky joins us to answer one of your questions. Becky, what’s in the Mac’s List mailbag this week?

Becky Thomas:

This week we’ve got a question that came in via email,  from Leonard Coyer. He’s from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He writes:

“I am in a job that underpays me and does not utilize my skills in a way that leaves me feeling fulfilled or productive. However, I have two young children, my earnings are sufficient, and the lifestyle and flexibility is better than I can imagine. Do I search for something else, knowing that I am likely to work harder and have less time and flexibility for my family? Or do I stick it out while my children are young? If I stick it out, what do you recommend I do to make sure my skills don’t get rusty and I can credibly say that I have them in the future?

“Also, for a little more context. Business is my general area of expertise but I have always been more interested in making money by helping others than in simply making money. That’s why customer service roles have worked for me and why sales and marketing only works for me if I can convince myself that there is a group of people that need the product or service I offer. The work I currently do leverages none of my skills or interests.”

I feel like the last line of Leonard’s email really hit me hard.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, me too.

Becky Thomas:

The fact that he says none of the skills or interests that he has are being utilized in the job that he has. While there is no perfect job for anybody, there’s always going to be a downside to some job, I think that it doesn’t sound like Leonard is in the right place in his current role.

He mentions a few things about flexibility and work-life balance. I think that the ability to be flexible in your schedule and having enough time outside of work is important, especially when you have young kids to care for.

But the other thing to keep in mind is that the job that you have isn’t the only one that offers flexibility. It sounds like you’re not feeling great about your current role, and while that flexibility is important, it shouldn’t be the thing that keeps you in a job that you’re miserable in.

I think that something that would help at this point in thinking about your career search, Leonard, is to do some research, get some perspective about what else might be out there for you. You obviously want your work to mean something to you, you want to be a positive influence in people’s lives. When you think about your values, are there organizations you see lining up with those values? Go research those organizations, check out their careers pages, see what kinds of benefits they have for their employees, because a lot of great organizations also have great work-life balance, great flexibility in their cultures. I think that will give you some inspiration for what types of avenues for your job search if you do decide to leave.

That would be something I recommend you do right now. Then another thing that I really like and I’m recommending people do a lot is to do this exercise. It might seem a little silly but I think it’s good. Write down all the details of your ideal work day. All the details that you can put into it, what time you wake up in the morning, where you have breakfast, if you’re spending time with your children in the morning or if you’re going to work early. What are you doing in a work day, details, are you in meetings? Are you working alone? What are you working on? What type of environment are you in? Are you working from home, are you in a big office? Are you working in teams? Write all of those details down and you’ll have a much clearer idea of what you want so that you can use it to measure against the job opportunities that you’re researching. Seeing, “Is this really matching you with what I want to do?”

I think those two things will help you just get some context about your situation and give you some inspiration for what you might be able to do to retain that flexibility…the benefits you have in your current job while finding some value in your day-to-day operations at work.

Do you guys have any other thoughts on that?

Jessica Black:

Yeah, I do. That last line, about the skills and interests are not being there, really hit a concrete nerve. In that, I think that there’s a lot of suggestions that can be given, and I’m going to give a couple of those in a second, but that right there pinpoints that he’s very unhappy at his job. It’s not just a “fix the current job”, it’s, you don’t want to be miserable everyday even if it gives you all of the flexibility that you want. I think flexibility in your job is really important and that can often be one of the tradeoffs of you don’t make much money in your salary, but you have a great flexibility. It sounds like that’s a really important component to Leonard, is having that flexibility and being home for his family.

But if you have more flexibility but you’re miserable in your job, that’s also not going to be good in the long term.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah, it’s going to bleed into your personal life too.

Jessica Black:

Absolutely. I like what you were saying about how you don’t have to be stuck in this job. That this is not the only job that gives you flexibility because I think that’s a really important mindset shift to have. You don’t have to settle for something you dislike or makes you really unhappy just because you think that’s the only thing that’s ever going to be out there. I would also suggest just casually looking around at what else is out there in the industry that you want.

I like that idea of writing down where your priorities are and what you’re looking for so that you have that clear sense and have a lot of focus.

I would also say that if you don’t want to… I think that that could be very low risk situation, where you’re just looking, it doesn’t mean you have to leave, you’re just seeing what’s out there, seeing if there’s a match…

But if that also feels too stressful or too risky and you don’t want to do that and you want to stay in your current job, talk to your supervisor or your manager or your boss, whoever it is, about how to incorporate what you want to do into your current role. Just express that you want to stay in this organization, but #1- you feel that you should be paid more, and get some concrete data, look at the market rate of what you should be paid or what other people in the same titles are being paid and bring that to your boss. Also, talk about how to incorporate new things that are going to leverage your skills and your interests into something that could be potentially something that you enjoy and that will grow into a future job opportunity.

Those are my couple of thoughts.

Ben Forstag:

This gets to the question of what is meaningful work? We always talk about meaningful work but we don’t really define what meaningful means. That’s because it’s really subjective. What creates meaning in my life can be very different from what creates meaning in yours, Mac’s, or Jessica’s. I’ll say for some people, meaningful work might just be the ability to take care of my family, to make enough money to provide for them. There’s nothing wrong with that, but at the end of day, you need to decide for yourself what would make work meaningful. There could be multiple levels of meaning there, monetary, responsibility, social impact, things like that.

At the end of the day, I really think that Leonard needs to reflect on his own needs and what would be important to him. He needs to know that there’s probably no absolutely perfect job where you get everything you want and all the flexibility you want, but there’s probably a lot of opportunities there where there’s overlapping and meaning of all the different definitions for it, and gets you a lot closer to what you’re looking for than what you’re at now.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah.

Mac Prichard:

I liked your advice, Becky, about envisioning other possibilities because I was struck by his question saying in the first part, that what he has now, he can’t imagine anything better. I think that your advice is spot on because I think we should all step back and try to envision something better and describe it and put it down on paper.

Then, to Jessica’s point, see what it would take to make that vision happen and look at the practical steps that would be involved.

Great question, Leonard. Great advice, Becky. Thanks everybody on the team and Leonard, let us know how it goes. We’d love to hear what you decide to do next.

If you’ve got a question for Becky, we’d love to hear from you, too. Just send her an email, her email address is: becky@macslist.org. Or call the listener line, that’s area-code  716-JOB-TALK, or post a message on our Facebook page.

However you reach out to us, if we use your question on the show, we’ll send you a copy of Land Your Dream Job Anywhere.

We’ll be back in a moment. When we return, I’ll talk with this week’s guest expert, Jane Barrett, about how to future proof your career.

We’ve been making Find Your Dream Job for more than two years now and it’s about time that we get to know you, our listeners, even better. I really want to know, what do you like about our show, what do you think we should change, and what’s the one topic you wish we’d cover? Our first ever listener’s survey is live now through February 28th, 2018. You can take it at macslist.org/podcastsurvey. It’ll take you less than five minutes to complete and you’ll be entered to win one of three $50 Amazon gift cards. Take a few minutes, right now, to complete our survey. Go to macslist.org/podcastsurvey. Thank you.

Now let’s turn to this week’s guest expert, Jane Barrett.

Jane Barrett is a guest lecturer at leading business schools in Europe and an executive recruiter. Her clients include banks, blue chip companies, and startups.

She is also the co-author of How to Take Charge of Your Career and the host of the podcast Grow Your Own Career.

Jane joins us today from Harrogate in the United Kingdom.

Jane, thanks for being on the show.

Jane Barrett:

Thank you, I’m delighted to be here.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, well it’s a pleasure to have you. Our topic is one that will, I think, interest anyone no matter what point they may be in in their careers, and that’s how to future proof your career. Jane, I know you’ve written a lot about this, can you tell us what you mean by that, when you’re talking about how to future proof your career?

Jane Barrett:

I think what I mean by that is to have an idea or have some idea of where you want to go in the future. I mean, no one knows for sure what’s going to happen but I think it’s very easy to just carry on doing what you’ve always done and sometimes then what happens is your skills become obsolete.

What I try and do with clients, in the work that I do, is to help people think about the future, where is that moving? Help them to think about what they can do to skill themselves, so upskill, to learn more things that might help them in their future career, make more connections so that they can call on their connections if they’re looking for a job, for example. Just being aware that things are changing and that they need to stay current.

I think that particularly, as you get very established in your career maybe later on, you can sometimes…What we call in the UK I suppose, you can just sit there and kind of relax, and sit there being a little bit complacent about your career, and not really thinking about the future.

That’s what I mean by future proofing your career, just starting to think about where’s it going, where do I need to upskill? Continually looking to develop yourself really.

Mac Prichard:

What would you say to people who might think, “Well I’m just happy right where I am, and this is okay. I don’t need to always be moving up or changing.” Is there a risk in taking a position like that, Jane?

Jane Barrett:

I think there is because if you don’t manage your career, it’s very unlikely that someone’s going to step in and do it for you, and while that might be okay now, in two, three, or five years time, where are you going to be? If you think it’s redundant or you decide you don’t want to stay in that role, have your skills lost their value in the market? It’s funny, I was doing some interviewing today actually, and I think there are some new skills that people can learn, this is in the admin-technical side, where you can really differentiate yourself from other people by knowing what’s going on, knowing what the new tools are out there, knowing what you could use.

Actually perhaps, getting some experience that, not necessarily in work because it’s not always easy to do that if you’re in an organization that doesn’t like a lot of change and new things. But perhaps you might be able to develop your skills yourself and use those skills in a volunteer capacity.

Mac Prichard:

I do want to talk about how to do this kind of future proofing, but one last question about the need for it: I’m thinking of people who might be later in their career, perhaps in their late fifties, early sixties, and they might think, “Oh gosh, the end is in sight, I just have to hang on for two, three, four years. I don’t really need to worry about this anymore. I just need to get to whatever retirement age goal I’ve set for myself.” What would you say to people like that, Jane?

Jane Barrett:

It depends how far off you are, I suppose, but what I suppose, what I see… And it was in the Financial Times today actually, but quite a lot of people retire then realize, “This is actually quite boring being retired. I actually want to go back to work.” Certainly, what I’m seeing is people wanting to work longer. It’s expensive to retire and people actually want to work for longer, and some people have to work for longer, because of the general expense of living, perhaps that’s just in the UK.

I would say be careful with that, by making assumptions that you might not want to carry on doing work. It is worth thinking about. Maybe it would be interesting to learn new skills as well, good for the old brain cells to learn new things as well. I can think of the most vibrant people I know at that kind of age, are often people who are still learning new skills and developing themselves.

I think it’s a bit of a dangerous assumption to think, “Well, it’s only a few years now, I’m going to sit back”; you may not like being completely retired, you might want to still contribute and be in the working environments. Maybe that’s a dangerous assumption to make.

Mac Prichard:

Well let’s talk about how to get started on this once you’ve made the commitment to do this kind of future proofing. What’s the first step, Jane?

Jane Barrett:

It’s worth taking an audit of where you are right now, thinking about, “Okay, what are my strengths? What are my values? What’s important to me?”, and this will change throughout your career. What are you really interested in? What are the trends that you’re interested in and might affect your sector as well? Let’s say, technology is a big one, and how is that actually impacting the area that you’re working in? Giving that some thought, what kind of environment you like working in, what kind of colleagues. What are your longer term plans? Five, ten, fifteen years time, and work out if you’ve maybe got commitments, such as children or perhaps aging parents, that might change your longer term plans of where you want to live and what you want to be doing.

Then bringing that all together, start to think about different options for yourself. I think it’s very useful to do this “stop and thinking” about things and then looking at different options. Then when you’re looking at different options, evaluating them against what things are important to you at this point. That’s the point when you can have informational interviews so you can meet people to talk about what they’re doing and whether that would be a good fit for you moving forward.

That’s when you might identify a gap and think, “Actually, in five years time, I don’t want to be doing this anymore, I’d like to be doing something else. That’s a really good fit for me so I’m going to look into perhaps getting trained up in that area, or getting some experience.” So you might think about doing some volunteering, some experience to move into that sector.

Mac Prichard:

You’ve outlined a really sensible approach to career planning, and for some people, because of daily responsibilities, family, the job itself, it can seem intimidating to take on that kind of career planning. What’s your best advice, Jane, for how to do that? Do you recommend people look at books, work with university alumni career services offices, a coach perhaps?

Jane Barrett:

There’s lots of great books around, and obviously I’ve written one as well, that look at those areas, that kind of career assessment. I’ve put together a summary sheet, the key areas you should be thinking about, and you may know the answers to those questions but you haven’t looked at that in a structured way. I think it does seem a bit overwhelming but I think I can say that your careers are incredibly important, they have the potential to make you very happy or pretty miserable. It’s an important part of your life so it’s important that you think about it.

I know that some people don’t give it a huge amount of thought, they maybe plan for their holiday more than they plan their career. I’d like to change that and I think a lot of career coaches would like to change that because we sometimes see the downside to that where people haven’t planned and they just let things drift and then they find themselves in a position where their skills are not needed in the market. They’ve not kept abreast with technology and therefore it’s quite hard to make that upskill.

Yes, I think there’s some thinking you can do, books, career coaches, but I would recommend you do at least some kind of thinking, to start thinking about those options and things like alumni department, if you went to university, and they’ve got an alumni department and they can help help identify people who are doing the types of things you might want to do. But also friends and family, once you’re clear on the kinds of things that might be a good fit for you, they might be able to help you identify people. Obviously LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for doing that as well.

Mac Prichard:

Once you’re clear about those goals and what you might want to do in five, ten, fifteen years, and you identify a skills gap, how do you go about plugging that skills gap?

Jane Barrett:

I think that one of the key things is to talk to people who are doing the kind of thing that you want to do. Ask them, do you need to get qualified for this? Or do you need to get experience for this? If you were going to get qualified, where are the places they’d recommend? Talk about their own career journey. Sometimes it’s not necessary to do a lot of retraining, you just need to get some experience and experience can go a long way to build your network. I think for certain careers it’s all about who you know, and being part of that industry. I mean, a lot of work gets referred.

I think it’s also quite hard to know what’s the best training but the people who are in it, who are doing it, will often be able to help you. I think it’s quite interesting, I was speaking to somebody who wants to be a florist and she needs to get some experience. She said she’s really struggling in her hometown to get some experience because obviously they think she’s going to set up a competition. You might have to get some experience in a different town. She has family in London, so she’s probably going to do a couple weeks of working experience. She’s a mid-career changer, just because it’s quite difficult to do it in her hometown.

Mac Prichard:

I love your suggestion about talking to people and getting their advice, the people who have these skills or have had these experiences, and finding out what the best way to do that is, because I think that often…And I’m curious to hear your take on this, too, Jane, people think that you have to make expensive, time consuming investments in degree programs or extensive re-training. Sometimes when you talk to people in that field, you get a very different picture, don’t you?

Jane Barrett:

Yeah, absolutely. Things can change quite quickly, you know, I think that education doesn’t always catch up, doesn’t move at the same speed as maybe people in that field. They might be able to say, “Actually that’s pretty obsolete now, it’s going in a different way. I would suggest you do this, it’s much more tailored to what the market needs.” I think that only by talking to people you find out that kind of information and whether it’s really worth doing that qualification. Would you be better getting that experience, or doing a shorter course, or whatever. Definitely talking to people in the field.

I think that’s where people fall down, it’s where I’ve fallen down in the past for sure, by not talking to people who are doing what you think you want to be doing.

Mac Prichard:

Talk to people in the field, and if you’re considering making a transition, perhaps switching careers as part of future proofing your career. How much time do you find, in your work with people, that you need to allow for those kinds of changes?

Jane Barrett:

It can take some time, it can definitely take a couple years to make that happen. It rather depends on whether you have a big war chest of money, that does help. But most people that I work with, and when I changed careers I didn’t have that either, and I had to make a slow transition into what I’m now doing. You sometimes have to take some part-time work, or contract work, to give yourself a bit more flexibility so you can do some studying or have time to get some different experience. But it also depends on whether you’ve got a partner that can support you while you make that career change. There are lots of different ways that you can make that happen. I’ve known people who sell their house and downsize to something smaller, or moved to a more affordable area to release some equity so they can buy a bit of time in retraining and getting established in a new field. This is why it’s so important to do this career thinking before making big changes in your life.

Do your homework, do your due diligence, work on yourself, think about what it is you really want, as much as possible you have done your homework to make sure that this is going to be the right move. Not only working on yourself and trying to understand what you want and what you have to offer, but also what’s happening in the market, so there’s this realistic idea about the direction you want to go in. It can be frustrating at times, you think, “Oh I’m never going to do it, it’s taking so long”, but it will pay off, that kind of research. It will all pay off.

Mac Prichard:

When you do that kind of research, do you find that it often doesn’t mean dramatic changes or switches in careers? It can also mean small, midcourse corrections as well. Can it?

Jane Barrett:

Yeah, sometimes it can, and that’s why the thinking at the beginning is really important because you may find that it’s just the environment that’s wrong. You don’t need to make a radical change, you actually need to change company if the company’s not right, for example. Or you just need to change industry but not action/function. It’s really worth doing this in depth thinking. I’ve been in this situation myself, where you get so unhappy in a job that you say, “I’m just going to chuck it in and resign. I’m just going to do something completely different.” Whereas, actually, there will be some parts of that job, hopefully, that you did enjoy and you can analyze what exactly was wrong with it.

Taking that time can mean that you make a more thoughtful decision about what you’re going to do next, and absolutely, sometimes it’s tweaking that and not making radical change.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, so whether it’s a modest or a big change, what I’m hearing is that change is a constant and we need to be ready for it.

Jane Barrett:

Yeah, I think so. I think that things are changing in this world, technology is changing things, the job market is changing, and certainly in the UK, we’ve seen the consequences of not being agile and not keeping an eye on the future. It’s something that a lot of career coaches here, myself including, I came to help people with trying to raise that awareness of thinking about your career in a more proactive way.

Mac Prichard:

Well great, excellent advice. Now, Jane, tell us what’s next for you?

Jane Barrett:

Well, I’m carrying on with my podcast and carrying on with the work that I do with my European business schools. We have an online program that we’re developing, so that’s continuing. Also next year, I’m planning to do a social enterprise, trying to work more with children, working with adults, particularly MBAs and alumni, and I want to work with a younger age group. That’s going to be happening next year.

Mac Prichard:

Great, well I know people can learn more about you, and your podcast, and your book by visiting thecareerfarm.com. I know you have a special offer for our listeners at thecareerfarm.com/summary.

Jane Barrett:

Yeah, it’s basically just a summary of what we talked about today. Some of the things to think about, it’s a download sheet that you’re able to work through yourself and think about those things I was talking about. What are your strengths, and values, and interests, and longer term plans? Help you plan your career a bit better.

Mac Prichard:

Alright, Jane, thanks for being on the show today.

Jane Barrett:

Thank you, I hope that was useful.

Mac Prichard:

It was, thank you.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. What are your reactions to my conversation with Jane about future proofing your career?

Ben Forstag:

Whenever we talk about this idea of being proactive in your career, even if you have a job, “keep your options open, keep looking, keep refining your skills”, part of me is always like, “Uh, that’s a lot of work, who has time for that?” But it also hit me when she was talking about how a lot of people get to a point in their job where they’re like, “I hate this, I’m going to throw it all to the scrap heap and start again.” That’s a really painful experience to have, doing that. A little bit, an ounce of prevention on the front end, is worth a pound of cure on the back end. If you can take little steps to keep your skills relevant, keep connected with your network, and taking steps so that you’re always employable throughout your career. Even if you have a job you love, that’s really going to pay dividends in the long run.

Frankly, you never know, you could have a dream job and the company disappears overnight. That happens.

Jessica Black:

That happens.

Ben Forstag:

It’s totally worth that little bit of extra effort.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, and I think of… Kind of piggybacking on what you were saying, I think it’s really good to be able to…your job title, or the current job you have, as much as you love it right now, you don’t want to be doing that in five years either, so continuing to figure out ways that you can continue improving upon your job, and make your interests stay really high as well, and make sure that your skills are matching and that you’re continuing to do the best possible. I think that’s really smart.

Then I like what she said about looking at the market and the future trends as well, because that’s part of it, too. Your job could go away at any second but it’s also looking at what skills are going to be relevant in a couple of years when potentially robots take over.

Mac Prichard:

I’m not laughing about the possibility of automation, but I would say to your point, Ben, I think that often when people are in jobs that they’ve come to dislike, remember there was a time when they took that job, and they accepted that offer, and they were excited about it. Something changed, maybe the mission of the organization or they outgrew the responsibilities, but things didn’t stay the same and they never do.

Jessica Black:

They never do.

Mac Prichard:

Jane’s point is, you’ve got to think about the future and how to prepare for it, because change is the constant.

Becky Thomas:

The only other thing I would add, I think you guys all made good points, and it can be really tricky to stay on top of your career and do the work to think about future proofing when you’re just trying to get through life and do your job everyday.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, for sure.

Becky Thomas:

I think that one piece of advice I would give is give yourself a couple hours a month that is dedicated to doing some reading on trends in your industry, and doing some reflection about where you’re at in your career, and what skills you want to develop, and keep a little journal, some records so that you have some sort of structured evidence of your process. That gives you a little bit more concrete, “I’m working on my career”, and you feel good about it. You can start to jot down tools or ideas that you have. I think that just putting some structure around it and not just being like, “Yeah, I’m doing some thinking.” That’s all very broad and it can feel like a lot, but when you dedicate a chunk of time, and then go about your business the rest of the time, and let that worry slide off.

Jessica Black:

That’s a really good point, because I think that what Ben mentioned, that Jane mentioned, of people sometimes wanting to do that 180* shift, comes from not checking with themselves on a regular basis, and getting too far down the line where they haven’t been keeping up with what it is they really want and what their goals are. Then pretty soon, it’s ten years down the line and they haven’t checked in and things have changed drastically and they’re completely miserable, but they could have checked in with themselves on a regular basis to make sure that they’re on the right track and what other things, resources, tools, or skills that they could improve on that are out there they can maximize on. I think that’s a really good point.

Becky Thomas:

Totally, and make smaller pivots over time.

Jessica Black:

Absolutely.

Becky Thomas:

Instead of, “I’m in a terrible place now, I have to totally switch it.” If you’re checking in, you can make a smaller pivot every year or something like that.

Jessica Black:

Yeah. I love it.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, I like that too, because I think that sometimes when people hear career change, they only think of dramatic change. Your point is well taken, Becky, because we can make these small corrections along the way, or by doing regular planning, or reflection. That will pay as many dividends as a dramatic change. Probably a lot more.

Becky Thomas:

Right.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, well good. Good discussion, thank you all, and thank you, Jane, for joining us this week, and thank you, our listeners, for downloading today’s episode of Find Your Dream Job.

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Join us next Wednesday when our special guest will be Will Thompson. He’ll explain Why You’re Not Getting a Second Interview.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job!

Chances are you’ll have many more than one job in the decades you spend in the workplace.  So how can you make sure you don’t get left behind by the evolving needs of employers? Create your future-proof career by playing to your strengths. Communicate your value. And commit to constant learning.

About Our Guest: Jane Barrett

Jane Barrett is a guest lecturer at leading business schools in Europe and an executive recruiter. Her clients include banks, blue chip companies, and startups.

She is also the co-author of How to Take Charge of Your Career and the host of the podcast Grow Your Own Career.

Resources in this Episode

  • New tool: Have your parents influenced your career choices? The Jobs You’re Most Likely to Inherit From Your Mother and Father
  • Listener question: What do you do when you’re not satisfied with your job but the benefits are ideal for your life? The team shares advice for our listener Leonard Coyer.
  • From our guest: Try Jane’s tool to start future-proofing your career at thecareerfarm.com/summary
  • Take our survey: We want to hear from you! Please take our listener survey and you’ll be entered to win a $50 Amazon gift card: visit macslist.org/podcastsurvey and complete by February 28, 2018 (Thank you!)