Seven things you need to know before deciding what is right for your future

Traditional career advice is generally very tactical. It focuses on what you like and how to maximise your future income by leveraging what you’re good at.

While this can be helpful, here are some things I wish I’d known when making the initial decisions about my future. I hope you find them helpful.

 

People are living longer. The “career” as you know it will be redefined. Understand what a long life means for you. Learn how to take advantage of it.

It’s not a new trend. The average life expectancy of people in developed countries has been increasing for hundreds of years.

With advances in technology and medicine, some Economists forecast that this trend will continue. The average life expectancy of someone born in 2016 is now around 105 according to Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott in their book ‘The 100 Year Life’.

Many of us underestimate how this will impact us in the future and don’t understand what we need to do now to make sure we help our future selves. We make our choices based on what worked for older generations. The truth is the older generations are unlikely to live as long as us, so we all need to think differently.

If we’re expected to live longer, we’ll be expected to fund our lives for longer. Therefore, the number of years we’ll spend working is very likely to increase. Some of us may have to work for the best part of 60 years or longer before retiring. Is that a bad thing? Maybe not.

To enjoy a longer working life will we settle for a single career? Most likely not.

Over a long, ‘multistage life’ you may move between jobs, have multiple career breaks, go back into education many times, and enjoy many different careers.

To live successfully in a ‘multistage life’ you’ll need to focus on more than just education and making money. Good health, valuable friendships, balanced living, strong networks, a good personal brand, self-awareness, and having supportive people around you become more and more important.

The game of life is changing. It’s no longer a race to retirement, it’s a journey to be enjoyed. New ways to be successful are developing. Make sure you remain aware of them so that you continually make good decisions about your future.

 

Technology is changing the world at a fast pace. Probably faster than ever before. The career you’re looking at today may be vastly different or even gone altogether in the future. Start preparing yourself now to be flexible and agile so you’re ready to switch when the time comes.

Welcome to the new world. The term ‘job for life’ has just been made redundant. It seems weird to be thinking about a second career when you haven’t started or chosen your first.

Today you might be studying accounting. Tomorrow, Accountants maybe replaced by artificially intelligent robots. It sounds like science fiction, but fiction is slowly turning into fact.

The self-driving car. It’s coming. It’s forecast to shake up the whole Trucking industry, and along with it, the loss of many jobs.

Ever since the Farmers moved into the Factories and the Factory Workers moved into the Offices, people have been forced to change. With the acceleration in technological advancement this change is bound to happen more frequently, across more and more industries.

While it’s important to start developing a subject specialism that will help you get a job tomorrow, it’s likely the expertise will be displaced and you’ll have to become a subject specialist in something else in the future.

When choosing a higher education course, think about some of the fundamental skills you can learn that will be relevant to any job, no matter the subject expertise required.

Machines will never be able to replace: empathy, creativity, and innovation. Learn and cultivate these skills, among others, on top of your core subject expertise. That way, if your job is displaced, you’ll have a better chance of moving quickly into another job you like, rather than facing limited options or unemployment.

 

Being rich and being wealthy aren’t the same. Aim to be wealthy rather than rich. Everyone can start living a wealthy life now and support it with the money they need, not the money they think they want.

The new wealthy maintain balance between their health, family and friendships, money, and spiritual self (not necessarily religion). They continually grow and rebalance these ‘assets’ over the course of their lives.

Having too much of one thing can lead to problems. Too much alcohol can lead to alcoholism and bad health. Too much time spent working, without time spent on other aspects of your life, can lead to stress, burnout, or relationship problems to name a few.

Balance is good for your mental health. If you’re mentally healthy you’re more likely to focus on the positive aspects of your life than the negative, leading a happier and wealthier life overall.

Set yourself some goals. If you’re working towards and achieving your goals you’re more likely to feel fulfilled and happy. Set health goals, goals to spend time with your friends, family, partner. Set some realistic financial goals, even if you don’t have much money yet.

Organise your life so you have a good balance between all these important aspects. Aligned the time you spend in each area to your goals. Then think of money as an income stream that supports this lifestyle.

New research from UCLA and the University of Northern California has shown that having a sense of purpose and meaning in your life is a healthy form of happiness. Quick bursts of pleasure, that are short lived e.g. buying new shoes, can actually have a worse impact on your health than being unhappy.

What gives you a sense of purpose will change over time. Don’t forget to reassess and rebalance.

Work towards what you want. You might not achieve balance on day one. Remember you don’t need $1m a year to live an enjoyable life. You might do the maths and find that you can get a job you love that pays $40k, and provides you with the balance you want in all aspects of your life. Anything else you make you can save for your first house or for a rainy day.

 

Employers don’t focus on your certificates of education. Employers are looking for passion, enthusiasm, potential, willingness to learn, hard workers, creativity, sociability, and value. Use your next steps to cultivate these skills and attributes and get that certificate of education as a by-product.

When most people start work they soon realise that what they learnt at School, College, University etc… is only a drop in the ocean compared to what they actually need to know to perform their job effectively.

So much more is learnt on the job. This learning never ends as you progress through the roles, and ranks of your first career.

Employers know this already. They know they’re going to have to make an investment in every fresh faced ‘newbie’ that walks through their office door.

Your Degree Certificate, College Diploma, freshly printed Qualification only got you the opportunity to interview.

Your interviewer isn’t going to quiz you on the molecular structure of an atom.  They want to know how you’re actually going to perform in the job, if you’ll be a good ‘fit’ for their organisation.

Interviewers will want to know who you are as well as what you’ve achieved in the past. They want to know if you have the right attributes and potential to exceed in their organisation. You might want to clean up your social media accounts.

Whatever your next step is make sure you cultivate the key attributes mentioned above. Think about how you can demonstrate these when it comes to job interviewing in the future. Record examples where you demonstrated the attributes. You never know when looking back on it may come in helpful.

 

The most valuable subject you can study is ‘you’. Learning about yourself is an ongoing education. Understanding yourself at deeper and deeper levels (what you like, what you dislike, what makes you tick) will allow you to make better choices now and in the future.

If you want to maximise the enjoyment you get out of life, do things that align with your goals and values. Do things that you enjoy, that make you happy, that get you into that state where time passes without you even noticing.

We do things most days that get us into a happy state, but we don’t take the time to consider how we got there. We never stop in the middle of that good mood and make a mental note of what it is specifically that got us there.

Then comes the time when we need to make a big decision, like what to study at College or University, or what job to apply for, and we stall. We fail to align what we’re going to do next to with the things that make us happy.

When we do start to think about the things that make us happy we tend to think about the activity itself rather than the aspects of the activity that we like. E.g. if you like soccer you may actually value teamwork, strategising, or being outdoors, over other aspects of the game.

Knowing why you like something at a deeper level gives you a broader perspective about you. E.g. if you know that the thing that you really like about soccer is strategy, then when it comes to looking for jobs or fields of study, you may look into Business Strategy.

When you’re happy, find out why. What is it that makes you happy. Then dig deeper into what really makes you tick.

Start to log the things that make you happy and use this to evaluate fields of study, future careers and jobs you might be interested in. Overall, you’ll have a much better chance of finding something you like.

 

You live your life by the beliefs you have in yourself. Some of these beliefs propel you, others hold you back. Find out what beliefs are holding you back and eliminate them by creating new beliefs that align with your goals.

Beliefs are powerful. Belief is powerful. We’re not just talking about religious beliefs here, but they do provide the best examples of how powerful beliefs can be.

Take a radical religious group. Their belief is so powerful they’re willing to commit heinous atrocities in the name of what they believe.

When it comes to choosing what to study, where to study, what career we’d like, beliefs about ourselves play a big part in our decisions. We tend to make decisions that we think will be accepted by our friends, family and community, rather than considering what will be best for us. We make decisions within artificial boundaries we or our friends and family have placed on us.

Our beliefs are created over time. They are influenced by the cultures we’re brought up in. Friends and family tell us about our strengths and weaknesses, what they think about us, what we’re good at, what we’re not good at. We then start internalising this, and living within these bounds set by others. We start telling ourselves what we can and can’t do based on these beliefs.

You might have a set of beliefs that hold you back. You think you’re not smart enough, attractive enough, motivated enough to do X, so instead you choose Y. You really wanted to do X, but you believe it’s not achievable, not something you can aspire to, so you let it go.

There are always going to be some physical or legal bounds that will limit what you can do. Still, until you’ve really challenged your beliefs, you shouldn’t rule anything out. Are they really 100% true?

It takes time, but learn to stop yourself any time a belief that holds you back enters your mind. Think hard about what you’re telling yourself. Should you really be letting this hold you back?

We all create stories in our heads about what things will be like if we did x, y or z. The truth is, you don’t know till you give it a try. So, stop holding yourself back and start taking steps towards what you want to do.

 

You’ll achieve nothing if you don’t take action. Who ever achieved anything by sitting on the couch watching TV, reading books and just thinking about what life could be like. You’ll only progress towards your next goal if you take actions aligned directly to that goal. Take an action today.

It’s valuable reading books, watching insightful TV shows and educating yourself, if it’s aligned with your interests and goals. However, unless you take some form of action, you’ll never really benefit from it.

Words are louder than thoughts. Thinking you might do something is less likely to make it happen than telling someone what you propose to do. If you tell someone, then you create an expectation that you’re likely going to have to follow through on, otherwise you’ll lose face.

Actions speak louder than words. When you actually do whatever it is you said you’d do, that’s when you get the benefits.

People read books on choosing a career, they talk to career counsellors, listen to their teachers, friends and families. Then they might think to themselves, I’m really interested in meteorology, but I don’t know much about it, what it entails, what job prospects there are from it. Then the idea just kinda dies after a few weeks. The focus is back on your parent’s expectations of becoming a teacher, or Policeman or Dentist, or whatever.

If they took some action, even a small action that leads to other bigger actions, then they might end up finding that it’s the job of their dreams.

Taking action feels good. It gives you a sense of accomplishment. It feels like you’re getting things done. Make it a habit. Take actions to learn about new things. Take actions to do new things and find out if you like them or not. Just don’t sit paralysed thinking to yourself, “it might not work out”. It’s sometimes easier to run away at the first inclination of fear than fight through it and achieve something great. Once you build a habit of achieving, of doing, of taking action, you’ll set yourself on a path that could lead to many great things.

 

What is some of the best advice you’ve had to date? Did you find this advice helpful? We’d love to hear your comments and feedback.

 

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