“The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be”: Helping Clients Future-Proof their Careers
By Willa Smith
Baseball great Yogi Berra (1998) said, “The future ain’t what it used to be. . . . times are different. Not necessarily better or worse. Just different.” These “different” times call for career practitioners to help clients cope with their present careers and be able to pivot their career course as dictated by the future.
According to Lexicon, future-proof means “unlikely to become obsolete.” How can career practitioners help clients so they don’t become obsolete? The absolute answer is as uncertain as knowing the absolute end date of the pandemic. However, reviewing career trends of the past and present, as well as future-forecasted ones can provide insights clients can use to proceed forward in a positive way. It is also important to help clients communicate their skill sets that the labor market needs at any given time and develop a flexible and balanced approach in making career decisions.
Career Trends from the Past, Present, and Future
Looking back and surveying current trends is sometimes a good way to look forward. Jobs that were in existence ten years ago but are obsolete today might help clients identify useful career trends. Technological advances and new ways of communicating have made jobs such as switchboard operators, data entry keyers, and newspaper street vendors now obsolete or nearly so.
Just before the pandemic outbreak, technology jobs dominated the field of new or growing careers, including SEO specialist, driverless car engineer, and cloud services specialist, among others (Walker, 2019). Prior to the pandemic, Anderson (2018) predicted that jobs clients might apply for in 2030 included organ creator, earthquake forecaster, and drone traffic optimizer. Technology will continue to influence the future labor market, but the healthcare field should continue to dominate occupational growth, including research and development, medical care, medical device and equipment manufacturing, and more. Now, Nova (2020) reports that pandemic labor market needs include:
- Covid-19 testers who conduct swab tests;
- Covid-19 caregivers who tend to those who have contracted the virus;
- Contact tracers who track down and interview people potentially exposed to the virus;
- Temperature screeners who check temperatures as people enter workplaces, stores, etc.;
- Bylaw enforcement officers who follow up on complaints about public safety violations;
- Screen manufacturers and installers who provide plexiglass shields and dividers for work stations and public places;
- Face mask makers who sew homemade and commercial masks;
- Zoom support specialists who provide technical support for video meetings, classroom sessions, medical visits, and other business and social interactions.
Essential Skills for Staying Current
As helpful as a crystal ball would be to reveal specific jobs in demand in 2030, it is also important to know which essential skills will be needed. According to Payle (2020), these include:
- Complex problem solving
- Critical thinking
- People management
- Coordinating with others
- Emotional intelligence
- Judgment and decision-making
- Service orientation
- Cognitive flexibility
Payle (2020) wrote, “most of these capabilities are expressions of emotional intelligence which will be one of the defining characteristics of the 21st century employee.” Additional tools, such as TED webcasts, social media sources, and online industry groups can help widen clients’ networks, provide insight into career challenges, and surround them with people who have effectively managed change.
Multiple Skill Sets
Clients need to convey their multiple skills sets, especially ones that are in demand. We can look to the past and present for how best to do this. The late Howard Figler (Figler & Bolles, 2007) advocated for having five business cards, each emphasizing different skill sets, depending on market needs, to distribute when job searching. “The five cards can all be clustered in a single field or industry, or they can represent five fields that are worlds apart” (Figler & Bolles, 2007, p. 247). Today, a client’s “business card” will include LinkedIn, website, and other social media addresses where their digital brand communicates multiple versatile skills and experience. McIntosh (2020) wrote about the importance of LinkedIn profiles, especially headlines and skills sections, to convey client’s multiple skills.
Decision-making Skills for the Present and Future
Clients will need a new kind of career decision-making approach for the future and for today. This approach may best be guided by a decision-making perspective also from the past. H.B. Gelatt (1989) coined the term Positive Uncertainty for his philosophical approach to creative decision-making. He stated the most essential skill any client can have is open-mindedness. This allows them to become as capable of change as the job market. Gelatt (1989) wrote, “Changing one's mind will be an essential decision-making skill in the future. . . . Positive uncertainty helps clients deal with ambiguity, accept inconsistency, and utilize the intuitive side of choosing” (p. 252).
Gelatt (1992) also stated there are four factors that can be used to guide clients in making [career] decisions. These include: 1) What you want, 2) What you know, 3) What you believe, and 4) What you do.
It’s important to use positive attitudes and factors to provide flexibility and balance. It does so by combining the . . . left-brain approach with the . . . right-brain approach into an ambiguous, paradoxical set of principles for planning and deciding. (Gelatt, 1992, para. 11)
Gelatt’s (2003) Scenario Rehearsal Exercise can help clients make career decisions. This requires envisioning detailed possible outcomes, imagining the most desirable and the least desirable ones, as well as the outcome clients predict will happen a year from now. Gelatt (2003, pg. 103) wrote, “Describe the scenario in the present tense rather than past tense (e.g., “I am doing this” rather than “I was doing this.”) . . . If you can imagine something happening, you increase your chances of creating it or preventing it.”
Gelatt’s (2003) Outcomes Window guides clients in identifying each positive and negative factor of a decision and its impact on others. Another exercise allows clients to understand how they make decisions, rationally or intuitively, and how each affects other people.
Examining trends, communicating multiple skill sets, and exercising positive uncertainty help manage information overload as career decisions are made in today's rapidly changing world of work. Career practitioners can facilitate clients’ decision-making as they positively pursue career opportunities while moving forward in these uncertain times.
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Berra, Y. (December 6, 2012). The yogi book: I really didn’t say everything I said! https://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/12/06/future-not-used/
Figler, H. & Bolles, R. N. (2007). The career counselor’s handbook (2nd edition). Ten Speed Press.
Gelatt, H. B. (1989). Positive uncertainty: A new decision-making framework for counseling. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 2(36),252-256.
Gelatt, H. B. (December 1992). Positive uncertainty: A paradoxical philosophy of counseling whose time has come. https://www.ericdigests.org/1992-3/positive.htm
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Lakritz, T. (November 25, 2019). 10 jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago. https://www.insider.com/jobs-that-didnt-exist-10-years-ago
Lexico. (2020). Future-proof. https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/future-proof
McIntosh, B. (June 15, 2020). The LinkedIn profile headline is the MOST important section, according to 46% of people polled. https://thingscareerrelated.com/2020/06/15/the-linkedin-profile-headline-is-the-most-important-section-according-to-46-of-people-polled/
Nova, A. (May 31, 2020). Without the coronavirus pandemic, these jobs probably wouldn’t have existed. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/31/new-jobs-created-as-a-result-of-the-coronavirus-pandemic.html
Payle, C. (January 22, 2020). 10 essential skills for the 4th industrial revolution. https://www.skillsportal.co.za/content/10-essential-skills-4th-industrial-revolution
Walker, A. (January 10, 2019). Eight jobs that didn't exist ten years ago. https://www.masterstudies.com/article/eight-jobs-that-didnt-exist-ten-years-ago/
Willa Smith, M.S., is a retired Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, National Certified Career, National Certified Career Counselor and Distance Credentialed Counselor. She is a Field Editor for Career Convergence and author of articles (National Career Development Association) and chapter author (Unfocused Kids: Helping Students to Focus on Their Education and Career Plans). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.