There Is No ‘Google Maps’ For Your Future…So Here’s What You Should Do About It
“In 1,000 feet, turn left — then turn right at the fork”.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a soothing voice guiding you along the way in life? A guide who will watch out for you, making sure that whenever you need to make a big decision you’ve got nothing to worry about?
Wouldn’t that be something?
GPS Signal Lost
I left college for the last time in August 2010. I say last time because it wasn’t the first time, unfortunately.
The night I realized I couldn’t bring myself back to the Community College’s campus for class registration, I broke down in my parent’s driveway and bawled my eyes out. I had just started dating my fiancee, lost 40 pounds, and was looking forward to a much anticipated hockey game that evening — and yet I thought my life was over before I had even given myself a chance.
I used to think — as did many others — not having a degree would keep me from doing anything worthwhile in life. Now I am relieved not to be burdened by the debt. I’ve worked my way from intern to ‘whatever-you-need-boss’ to Social Media Manager. The road has been rough at times but it has taught me way more than I could have ever imagined.
Hypothesizing about what to do with our future and having a five-year plan mapping out exactly how we’ll achieve our goals are both good things. It shows we are preparing ourselves for tomorrow and thinking ahead…but often times these plans become outdated and useless after the first few miles.
It’s frustrating, maybe even scary.
But what if you embraced it?
After I had decided, without really ever telling anyone, that I didn’t want to go back to school, I had to figure out how I would carve out a career for myself without much formal training. I began to pick-up as many hours as possible in my deli job and started reading as much as I could about social media during breaks, lunches, and slow periods.
In the moment I knew I was on to something — reading all of these industry articles on Mashable about Social Media for Business was going to be THE thing in the coming years. I was feeling very confident in my foray into such an unknown field.
This past weekend I came across a solid write-up about a WEF report on theFourth Industrial Revolution. While I encourage you to read it, the gist is this: if you want a job in the future, you’re probably not ready.
“Jon, what do you mean I’m not ready for the future? I’m smart, went to college, I have a job, and I don’t make any waves in my company — I’m not going anywhere!”
The conversation of education gets a lot of play in our world, especially during the Presidential campaigns and debates. But there is something not being said that everyone needs to understand:
College is not enough anymore.
The economy is outpacing our school systems and no matter how much formal education you elect to take, you can’t keep up with how quickly things have started to move with school alone.
I don’t want you to interpret that as me saying, ‘it’s not enough to [just have an undergraduate degree]’…because then I’d be a hypocrite. I’m not suggesting that possessing a BA, BS, or even higher levels of academia are worthless for you — I’m simply telling you that our economy is outpacing our school systems by leaps and bounds and colleges aren’t keeping up.
If you want to survive in this world, you’re going to want a job…right?
So what are we to do?
What if so much of what we believed would be viable our future was now outdated? What are we to do if the things we’ve been shown and taught during our lifetime are suddenly…inadequate?
In 1000 Feet, Make a U-Turn
The idea of wholly preparing yourself for the future is something I have thought and read about for quite some time. It seems improbable, if not impossible, to achieve though I still find the discussion necessary. We absolutely should be doing everything we can to make ourselves desirable to employers, clients, and customers.
We need to build ourselves to be future compatible.
So where should we placing our attention?
To be compatible with the future, we need to think differently about the skills we need to survive and thrive. While I’m no expert, I have invested many a night in learning about this subject and lots of experience in experimenting. So with that said, here are my four actions items to be ready for tomorrow:
We all have to start from scratch at some point. The more comfortable you can become with admitting to yourself that you don’t know everything the easier it will be to ask questions.
From what I have gathered in speaking with colleagues and those outside of my industry, the biggest problem is that people don’t know which questions to ask — and that leaves them stuck in a rut.
The questions you ask, and the people whom you ask, will shape the path you begin to travel. Remember; the most successful people are often the most inquisitive and humble — not the most brilliant.
Didn’t think the dropout would use this word? Well, me either, only because this wasn’t my original subtitle :)
While studying is not the most popular thing to say or do in today’s zero second attention span climate, if you want to ever move forward, get used to studying — a lot.
Blogs, tweets, magazine pieces, interviews, cliff notes, Facebook posts, and most importantly — books.
Reading allows you learn on your own time which we all need, especially when discovering something new. The time you spend reading will quickly become the time you look forward too most, since it gives you a shot to broaden your horizons, catch-up or, better yet, stay ahead.
And if reading REALLY isn’t your thing, no worries. Listening to podcasts, interviews on YouTube, audiobooks, and other rich media options are how I have learned a ton of information. I always love when one medium prompts me to go to another to continue my edification within another medium.
Software is eating the world and that isn’t going to stop anytime soon.
Investing time in learning how to build in the virtual world (coding, user-experience, Virtual Reality, your network) and how to quantify the physical world (analytics, business operations metrics) is something that certainly would be worthwhile. Of all the investments you could make in yourself, they seem to be the ‘safest’ bets.
The ability to build gives you the option to control your own future and potentially create something that opens doors for others looking work.
And don’t forget that last part of building — by that I mean your own network, by the way. Not a computer system; a network of people. Through the effort I have put into rounding out a network of my own I’ve been given chances I would have never heard of or been considered for had I never introduced myself.
No matter what we do, we eventually have to reconsider whether what we are spending our time on is worthwhile.
“If I learn this skill, will I be good enough in time to benefit? Will I miss the boat or will profit from this investment?” Your time is a terrific and renewable asset — treat it as such.
Needs, interests, and demands change. You must learn to become unbiased and unattached to the ways of the world and marry yourself only to the idea of revision and adaptation.
And on top of all this revision comes the repetition and speed at which you can do all of these things. The faster you can go, the better life will be.
Speed kills but you need to go slow to learn how to handle it. The reps we take to improve ourselves show later on and reflect just how well we understand our craft, whatever it may be.
Get through all four steps? Great! Now do them again. And again. And again…
You Are On The Fastest Route and Your Route Is Clear
I’m proud of my journey thus far. I am far from being complete and I am far from being satisfied with where I am as a professional and as a person.
The road never ends. We will never be a total expert in one area or another and there will always be someone more ‘x’ than you … so you’d be better off getting used to feeling as though you can’t keep up with everything — because you can’t and that’s OK.
You have to keep going, though.
How good are you at adapting to a new situation? Do you panic when you make a wrong turn and realize you’re lost? You shouldn’t — not because it’s a matter of being or not being ‘tough’ — because you’re well within your depths to figure it out on the fly.
Trust me — you’ll thank me tomorrow.