Working professionals now live in a time of unprecedented change and disruption–the only thing that we can predict for certain is that things will become even more uncertain and unpredictable going forward.
As a result, an entirely new set of success skills is needed to get ahead in such new and novel business environments. Following are seven all-new habits that highly successful people share–and seven ways you can apply them to continuously vault yourself ahead of the pack, regardless of what the future brings.
Get on-the-job training, skills, capabilities, and insights that are hard to come by, and even more difficult to outsource. The more unique and value-adding your abilities, the more difficult it becomes to substitute others in your place.
As a simple example, you could be your company’s most innovative authority on product design, well-connected social media maven, or sought-after educator and mentor. If it can be done better, faster, and cheaper, rest assured it will. If others can easily be trained to perform your duties, be certain you’re in their crosshairs.
The solution to the problem is to make yourself indispensable in your workplace–the more painful and challenging it is to replace you, the less likely you are to be jettisoned.
Make education and professional development an ongoing mandate. Ask yourself: What types of talents, training, and educational experiences will be in demand tomorrow? Then purposefully seek out the opportunities you’ll need to get them today so you’ll be ready to greet the future before it comes knocking.
Also take a moment to think about where you want to be in your career, then work backwards, creating an action plan with specific, definable steps and milestones that can motivate you and help you get from here to there.
Begin executing on it; you can always course-correct your strategy based on the results of your efforts. And when the opportunity presents itself, always push yourself to learn, grow, and expand your comfort zone as well. If you’re not comfortable making a huge leap in new strategic directions, take smaller ones first until you become comfortable making a more radical shift in career focus or current priorities.
Luck is hard work, but it becomes easier to court fortune’s favor when you consistently take steps to put yourself in chance’s sights. To this extent, don’t wait for career opportunities, but rather actively seek them out instead. Don’t sit around doing the same thing at work over and over either; actively look for ways to learn new skills, gain hands-on experience in unfamiliar areas, or exercise your problem-solving abilities in new and novel fashions.
Purposefully put yourself in situations that challenge you as well, such as volunteering to work on projects that demand you try new things with new people or teaming up with colleagues to experiment with creative ideas. To get different results, try different things. To get better ones, keep trying more things, learning, and adjusting to do better with each new effort as you go.
Don’t shy away from hard tasks that others are avoiding; actively seek them out and dive head-in instead. Less rivals means less competition, and more valuable rewards for those who push through the pain and complete these challenging tasks–after all, surgeons and aerospace engineers wouldn’t be so well paid if the skills and training they possessed were easier to come by.
The more creative you are about exercising the different skills and insights you possess in new and novel ways as you go about pursuing these tasks, the better, as well. Learning to improvise makes us more versatile, more resilient, and more successful at problem solving.
The more comfortable you become applying focused effort toward accomplishing larger goals and brainstorming new solutions, the more effective an innovator you’ll be.
Never stop learning, improving, and finding ways to reinvest in personal and professional development–become a lifelong student.
The goal isn’t just to get really smart about one subject; it’s to become conversational in many, and smarter about finding innovative ways to apply what you’ve learned to multiple professional contexts.
If you’re a software designer, why not spend time with marketing pros to learn more effective ways to design and promote your products? If you’re marketer, why not visit a few hackathons to see how you can create more engaging promotions with less time and effort by leverage simple high-tech solutions?
The more skills you can throw in your professional toolkit, and the more ways you know how to use them, the more adaptable, resourceful and future-proof you’ll be.
Why should work stop the moment 5 p.m. arrives, or education end the moment you leave the classroom door? If that’s when effort ends for most, off-hours present ample room for you to build competitive advantage by pursuing hobbies, interests, and side projects that can help you build experience, education, and marketable skills while they’re enjoying downtime.
In a world of infinite competition, where thousands of others possess similar skills and training on paper, it’s inevitable that our work portfolio will become the new resume. Use time off the clock to grow and enhance your skills, build this portfolio, and create a wealth of original materials you can point to when asked what qualifies you for a position and say “I made/marketed/helped build that.”
People and businesses naturally gravitate to taking fewer risks, especially in challenging and uncertain times–it seems to be the easiest way to avoid mistakes. The smarter play in a changing world, where doing the same things over and over repeatedly holds less value over time, isn’t to be risk-free though, but rather risk-averse instead.
Recognizing that change is inevitably coming, you should make smart, calculated, and cost-affordable business or career bets that propel you closer to achieving your goals. Whatever your objective, pick a portfolio of promising growth activities to try–launch a new product line or relaunch an existing one; attend night school or go back to get your MBA–and start pursuing them immediately.
Running in place while times, trends, and competitors are also evolving isn’t a recipe for success. Take the steps needed to create an open lane and vault yourself out ahead of the curve instead.
—Scott Steinberg is and award-winning professional speaker, a best-selling expert on leadership and innovation, and the author of Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty. Among today’s leading providers of keynote speeches, workshops, and seminars for Fortune 500 firms, his website is www.AKeynoteSpeaker.com.