Why is being able to adapt key to career success? Where does that ability fit into defining your career? How should you adapt and to what?
Why is it so important to dedicate a whole post just on this?
We hear the word Adapt regularly. You need to adapt to this, adapt to that etc. The fact is though that we rarely adapt to all that much. We might consciously believe that we do, but we are creatures of habit.
Anywhere between 40% – 95% of our daily lives are spent following habitual behaviour. It’s what psychologists refer to as Autopilot. We are not naturally wired to adapt and in fact we spend the first fourteen years of our lives in two stages of habitual behaviour development.
Much of this habitual behaviour concerns our decision-making processes and bias, how we react to challenges and what we consider to be a comfortable social environment. These seem rudimentary in isolation but consider how these subconscious directives impact our careers.
A decade of our habitual behaviour development period is spent in education. Increasingly we are raised in a system where a University education is consistently marketed to us many years before we could even apply. This marketing effort has seen dramatic increases in the volume of people who hold a degree in the UK.
In 1970 8.4% of the population held a degree. This was the generation of Baby Boomers. In 1980, for students who were a mix of Baby Boomers/Generation X, that figure had risen to 75,000. In 1990, it had only increased to around 80,000. But in 2000 the figure had rocketed to around 240,000. By 2010 it had jumped again to 350,000. However, today’s number of students currently in higher education isn’t just a jump, it’s an explosion. It stands at 1.87 million UK residents. 2.32 million if you count non UK nationals.
Much has been written about Millennials of who the majority of this grandiose number consist of. The sheer volume of Millennials entering the industry at a time when technology is accelerating our sector has seen titanic shifts in how our work is done. But if we think we have seen a lot in just how much technology will impact our working lives, trust me, we have seen nothing yet.
Technology over the next two decades will re-invent the world we live in to a landscape we will barely recognise from some angles. Twenty years ago a Mobile phone was a must have gadget for most, and only a necessity for the businessperson. Now it’s a necessity for all and a psychological addition for many.
The Government want to ban all combustion fuel new vehicle sales by 2032 with an exclusively electric/clean vehicle market to replace it. That sounds quite a way off though, right? It’s only 14 years time. Fourteen years ago it was 2004. That was the year the Motorola RAZR phone was released. I can still remember having one! It seems like yesterday.
In 2004 Tesla began work on the Tesla Roadster. But it wasn’t until 2008 that they released it for commercial sale. Ten years on only 0.2% of the worlds registered road vehicles are electric. Yet in 14 years time this country is targeting itself to stop new sales of what 99% of the world uses currently for vehicle propulsion!
How does this tie into the need to adapt in your career?
Your career will be impacted by technology now. In some industries this is more prevalent than others. In some eyes it can be a threat to job security; machine replacing man for example. Other eyes will see it as a brave new world and embrace technology with positively open arms.
Regardless of the level it will impact you now, this is just the beginning. It won’t just have an impact in future, it will revolutionise the entire landscape. It is better to get used to adapting now to take advantage of it than be left behind as it engulfs how we work.
Is that it – just adapt to technology?
Technology is simply the most visual impact that you’ll need to adapt to. It has knock on effects. And it is those knock on effects that drive the urgent need to adapt if you want to have a successful and long career.
Technology drives change at an accelerated rate. What our grandparents accepted as a norm for their entire working lives, we can no longer rely on. My Grandfather was a miner for many years. Mining had been a multi-century long trade. His own grandfather was a miner. He knew what to expect during his initial 14 year habitual behaviour development period. He was raised on it.
But our millennial workforce hasn’t been raised doing the same jobs as their grandparents. Some of the jobs that millennials are doing now are jobs that didn’t exist 20 years ago.
What’s the point here?
Going back to the original example that we spend between 40% – 95% of our lives performing habitual behaviour; this was fine when that habitual behaviour hadn’t changed much in a few decades. The only things that had changed were fashions and trends. Sure, some technology had come in, but it was hardly transforming the way we live our lives as dramatically as the age we are entering now.
If jobs that exist now, didn’t exist 20 years ago who knows what jobs and entire industries will be created in the next 20 years? At the rate that we are insatiably driving through new technological advancements not only will new industries be born, but during our working lives, some of those same industries will die too.
Adapting will become the norm
For your career to flourish you will no longer be able to simply find a trade and stay in it until retirement. Yes, some industries will allow for that. Take carpentry or plumbing for example. But technology will probably take many of those jobs at some point anyway. Technological advancement is business and, as anyone who has experienced the cold light of business will know, business is unforgiving. It doesn’t care about your feelings, job security or your future. It’s the collective economic system and it’s an unstoppable force.
I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but that is an inevitability. If you refuse to adapt and stick to what you have always done, your career will be a struggle.
Careers in the future
Careers moving forward will probably see you work in an industry field, but that field will be constantly moving, progressing and evolving with market demand. This could be so dramatic that your job role could develop into something markedly different every ten years. If you can adapt and consistently aim to update your skills, you can thrive. But if you stick to what you know and refuse to evolve you will get left behind.
Career paths in 20 years will see larger gaps between success and failure. The rapid rate of technology innovation will see countless opportunities. Savvy entrepreneurs and tech opportunists will make a fortune if they keep looking for the next opportunity.
Business life spans will become shorter and shorter. And the only businesses that will succeed are the platform type operations that other businesses depend on. We are already seeing this with Amazon who other businesses depend on as a platform.
Being able to adapt is already a key skill without it being well documented. However, it will only become more critical to career success as industries and job roles are born, evolve and subside. If you want to succeed you will need to be pro-active. This covers technology education, ideas and emerging sectors as getting in early is where the success will be made.
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External Links: https://www.forbes.com/sites/gregsatell/2013/04/02/4-ways-in-which-technology-is-transforming-business/
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