I entered the job market a bit late. I was 26. Most of my friends had landed their first jobs at 22, right after university. I chose to chase my rock star dreams for another few years with my friends playing music in bands touring up and down the East coast of the US. As I grew tired of being broke (playing music, sadly, barely paid the bills) I turned my attention to a different career — web design.
I entered the field at the height of the Dot Com Boom and, despite the volatility in the market, was able to establish myself as a credible designer. From there I followed the career path I was taught. The same one you were taught:
- Work somewhere for a few years
- Gain experience
- Make a move to a position with a better title, slightly more responsibility and slightly more money
- Repeat until you retire
We call this “climbing the corporate ladder.” In a world with relatively little, or at least predictable, change this was, perhaps, the proper way to build a professional life and make a living. Today’s world is far from that. It’s volatile, unpredictable and reinventing itself with each new technological innovation. Climbing the corporate ladder doesn’t make sense any more.
When you climb the corporate ladder you give up control. You put your viability and livelihood in the hands of others. Your career is left up to the decisions of others. There’s a different way to think about your professional development and become a magnet for new opportunities.
Fundamentally it’s about rethinking the dynamics of your career growth. Think of it in terms of systems. Traditional career growth can be portrayed as a push system. You push yourself into job postings, interviews and the job market. In doing so you leave all the decision-making to others. You abdicate any control over your career in the hopes that someone else will choose you out of a field of many others who have also pushed their way into these same opportunities. Competition can be fierce and there’s no guarantee you’ll win the job.
Future-proofing your career involves turning that dynamic around 180 degrees into a pull system. In a pull system you are constantly attracting opportunities to yourself. You get to decide which of those opportunities make sense for you and which you’ll ignore. Your goal is to create a reality where you are pulling continuously on the system and attracting opportunities towards you. This way, no matter what happens in the market or in your company or in your industry, there are always inbound opportunities headed in your direction to move on to.
There are many ways to build that opportunity magnet and I cover many of them in my latest book, Forever Employable. But the key to the success of any of those methods is to reimagine how you view your professional development and career growth. If you leave it in the hands of others and continue pushing yourself into opportunities you leave your career plan to a system that doesn’t work in a modern, digital world. If you imagine your career as a system that you pull on continuously — one where your presence, expertise, experience and reputation develop a network, build an audience and attract a variety of opportunities towards you — you take back control of your career and future proof it ensuring that, no matter what happens, your next gig is right around the corner.