Just like trending hashtags, things are moving very quickly in the world of work these days. How up to date are you? How well is your career tracking? What should you be keeping an eye on?

Here are five critical career trends.  Jump on board to ease the move from 2017 not just to the New Year, but well beyond that.

Trend #1: Skills are the new Black

According to a World Economic Forum Report, the accelerating pace of technological disruption is shortening the shelf life of knowledge. It claims that nearly 50% of subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree is outdated by the time students graduate.

I can always remember talking to a group of software engineers who worked on special effects for some of Hollywood’s most popular movies, including the Harry Potter and Wolverine series. Their huge frustration and worry was that the software changed very quickly, yet their employers gave them no help to learn the new software.

They regularly worked shocking hours, especially as the movie deadline approached and then went home to update their skills in the next software wave so that they maintained their employability.  A Brave New World indeed and often a ruthless one.

If you wish to maintain your value in the marketplace, industry-specific skills are critical. The first step is to be alert to which specific skills are trending. Then, of course, you will need to rapidly pick up these skills.  Don’t rely on your employer; accept that you may need to find both the funds and the time yourself.

Trend #2: Turning the Table on Employers

One of the most vexed questions that all job hunters face is, ’What are my new employers actually like?’

Back in the days when I was an employee, I was always scared about leaving my current job, even though I am generally a bit of a risk taker. I dreaded the getting-to-know-you stage, from mundane concerns like, ‘How does this wretched photocopier actually work’ to more worrying issues such as ‘That person just gave me the brush-off. Is it me or just him?’

As part of my career work, I get to hear quite a lot about the various organisations in my city, Adelaide, but I find that very few of my clients have any insight into their prospective employer.  Up until now, this information has been difficult to access and they faced all the risks associated with jumping in the great unknown.

Now, savvy job candidates are realising that they have more power in the Job Search equation. There are excellent websites which give insight into the employer’s culture, whether their compensation and pay is fair, and where you can learn about benefits and company policies.

The most famous is Glasshouse and its name really says it all. As long as the organisation you are vetting is large enough, you will find feedback about it from current and former employees. It costs you nothing to subscribe and you will get information right from the horse’s mouth.

For smaller Australian organisations, Seek.com.au works pretty well.

Failing those organisations, get onto LinkedIn.  Find contacts at the organisation or find contacts who have contacts there.  There are no excuses these days about not being able to find out.

Trend #3: Coding is the new Orange

The jury is still out about how to protect yourself against AI, as an employee. Even the so-called experts are at a loss.  One piece of advice, however, is compelling.

Learn coding.

Programming is becoming a fundamental skill. A hundred years ago, we may have asked ‘Is it important to learn how to write?’

Experts are saying that most future jobs will have a coding component to it. So, if you are under 40 years of age, learn coding. If you’re over 50, cross your fingers and hope you make it through to retirement. Or, if you’re over 50 and really want to sleep at night, learn coding. And, if you are a parent, encourage your kids to enrol in a coding club straight away.

When six year old children are learning to code, you know it’s time to jump on board.

Trend #4: Technical skills open doors

‘We’re not going to hire you because your Word skills are too good’.

Can you imagine any employer telling you this when you’ve just applied for an Executive Assistant role?

Recently, I worked with an EA who told me ‘I’m not interested in being an expert at Word, Excel or PowerPoint and I don’t need to be.  In my current job, we use templates all the time.’

First, I can’t help thinking that you are in the wrong job if you don’t enjoy using the tools of your trade. I can’t imagine a highly skilled carpenter stating that she didn’t like using a chisel. Second, the problem was that this Executive Assistant was targeting very high-profile roles in the private sector which doesn’t use templates to the same extent as in her previous government sector.

Once you make it to the interview, an employer may well be assessing your transferable/soft skills.  In fact, it’s great if they do.  However, you need industry-specific technical skills to make the cut in the first place.

Trend #5: Emboldened employees are talking to their bosses about options

‘I’m bored…’

I was in my last job for four years and I became bored every 12 months. Did I just put up with it?  No way!  I am the ultimate spoiled brat and have very little tolerance for unpleasant work situations. I went to my boss and told him.  He was very receptive and each year, we managed to revamp my activities to give me the challenge and variety I need.

Based on what I have heard since then from clients, my behaviour was unusual. So many people tell me that they really love their place of employment but the work no longer stimulates them.  They just put up with it, letting their mojo seep out of them day after day until the whole world can see that they are no longer happy.

Or else, they leave.

In most circumstances, there’s absolutely no need to do this.  With my clients, we craft an approach to the boss, taking into account relevant information about personality and politics. And off they go to effect change in their lives.

Savvy employees are doing the same.

Anything New is Hard

I’ve been learning Italian seriously now for a year.  Sometimes, I tear my hair out at the seemingly arbitrary rules.  And I really do struggle to memorise the vocabulary. 

I persist because the adventure of experimenting in another language is a fascinating challenge for me.  In common terms, the upside is worth the downside. When it comes to your career, it would be perfect if you actually relished keeping up with new trends. Regardless, it must be done.  Take charge of your future so that you have a future.

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