Yesterday I saw an inane Instagram post about "future-proofing" one's career. Anyone who has been working for a meaningful amount of time during which they've experienced economic tides turn will agree that there is no such thing. Why? If we can't mitigate risks with our choices, what is the point of trying to pick the right college, area of study, or job at all? The answer to this conundrum lies in the operative word "right"? Let's talk about future-proofing first though, and why it's a flawed way of looking at things.
Future-Proofing is for the Weak
The term future-proofing is tied to fluctuations in the economy and the job market, and how to somehow withstand them without losing everything. As we've seen in the last couple of months, markets, the tech industry, long-standing supply chains...none of these is indestructible.
The global pandemic showed us in an unprecedented fashion how vulnerable our systems are and what work needs to be done. Herein lies tremendous opportunities for young people to solve problems and discover purpose.
Future "proofing" implies that the future is tumultuous and bleak, and is something to be feared and guarded against. It implies that your goal as a professional should be to stay still and for there not to be major changes.
This is a mind f*ck not rooted in reality it places an enormous burden on a professional to not make "wrong choices" in an impossible environment of unpredictability. It also emphasizes and gives primacy to external choices, like choosing the right college major or company to work for. There is no such thing!
I don't want to future-proof myself or my career because ironically that mentality is what makes me most vulnerable. It renders me inflexible, fearful, and damages the agile heart and mind needed to embrace what's coming. It's the wrong message.
What is "Right"
Now let's talk about what's right. What is right is consistently chipping away at learning and work that seems imperative to you and perhaps nobody else. What's right is positioning yourself as a change agent, because change is the only companion we can rely on, in whatever field or area of work resonates deeply with you. That means slowly shifting from privately consuming to publicly producing – through writing, speaking, sharing ideas, joining initiatives, or even just having coffee with like-minded individuals so you're cultivating the the right influences and inputs to say inspired and jump on opportunities.
If you're holding down a job that you don't particularly care for in order to pay the bills while you fortify yourself to embrace the change you see for yourself, that is 100x better than choosing some college, company, or network that seems able to withstand economic headwinds, but one that you aren't purposeful about.
The only right career choices are the ones deeply aligned with the core of what you have to offer, and the only way to discover that is by creating and playing in the sandbox with others. Rather than up-skill in a prescriptive fashion based on a linear job trajectory outlined by some for-profit entity, up-skill in a way that is at the intersection of your existing strengths, what you love to do, and what the world needs.