There is an overwhelming truth that you need to realize… No one is looking out for you. No one. From the moment that you took your first job, you and your career have been in your hands. Even in the best companies in the world, your boss isn’t looking out for you. They probably already know this secret. That’s how they became your boss. Here’s a few tips on why you need to be thinking about your future every day.
Business changes. Customer expectation changes. The competitive landscape changes. Any great CEO knows that they can’t run their company today in the same way that it might have been run 20 years ago. This is the same with how you look towards your future. You need to be anticipating the change and be prepared before the time comes.
It used to be that you went to school, you went to more school (maybe), then you worked at your first job for the next 20-30 years to finally retire and live the good life at the age of 55. That story ended many years ago. These days, your reality will be more like this… Go to school, (maybe) go to school again, then work at a different employer every 2-5 years until you retire at the ripe age of 70-75 (hopefully). This means that every 2-5 years, you will need to re-evaluate how people find you; how people perceive you; how you want yourself to be perceived; and more.
CEO’s often create moments called “pivots,” where they choose to take the company a new direction for any number of reasons. You need to be prepared to also recognize what is and isn’t working for you, and pivot yourself.
Most of us don’t realize until we’re in our 30’s that we actually don’t know what we love to do. Sure, some of us get lucky, but the vast majority have no idea who they are and what they really do love. You might think you love being a marketing expert today, but may find out later that you actually love customer service or programming. This happens to people every day. It’s much better though, if you discover this on your own and you take it yourself. You’ll be more happy and happier sooner – but you’ll also be prepared when the time comes.
A CEO might receive an unexpected visit, paperwork, or phone call one day from another company with an offer it can’t refuse. We’ve heard about this time and again with companies like when Microsoft bought Skype, or the incredible Instagram acquisition by Facebook. You too need to be prepared to be recruited if and when the time comes.
If you’re doing the things you should be doing, you’re hopefully constantly building a network and cultivating it. This is probably the most important thing you can do to secure your future, because when the time comes for a job that’s perfect for you, there’s nothing better than someone in your network recommending you for it. If you’re not building your network, those unexpected opportunities won’t happen.
More importantly, when that unexpected opportunity comes, you need to be ready for it. It’s pretty rare that someone will come to you with an opportunity to do exactly what you’re doing today. Instead, they’ll be bringing you something that’s at least a minor step up from what you’re doing today. You don’t want to be the person that was recommended, but couldn’t do the job.
By the way, those opportunities aren’t always at new companies. Why would your boss think to recommend you for something new tomorrow? Have you done anything recently to make that happen?
CEO’s don’t last forever. They might find a better opportunity in another company or the current company might need a change. If it can happen to a CEO, it can certainly happen to you.
One major misconception is that you will indeed be at your current employer for the next 2 years. You should never take that for-granted. Anything could happen. The company might be sold, your department might get merged or eliminated, the company might change focus, or your position might get eliminated for no apparent reason.
You and your future should be something you think about every single day. Like the dreaded interview question says, “What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?” Are you ready for it today? Do something about it.