Future-proofing your career

By Tom O' Neil

Overseas statistics suggest the average person will have numerous distinctly different careers. Photo / Comstock
Overseas statistics suggest the average person will have numerous distinctly different careers. Photo / Comstock

An obsolete job isn't always the end of the road, writes Tom O'Neil.

Imagine if you woke up next Monday and found your profession had just disappeared. All the processes, systems and skills you spent years perfecting were suddenly not relevant anymore. Your qualifications are now worthless, as the actual job you did has been superseded by new technology.

This is a harrowing thought, however this is exactly what happened to Adrian Fitzgerald in the early 90s. An apprentice photolithographer, Adrian was employed in the competitive graphic arts industry. He was working on numerous accounts and was building a respected reputation for his work in the industry.

Suddenly he noticed that a large amount of the prepress houses were shutting down, and the process was becoming totally digital. Adrian quickly realised he had to re-invent himself if he was to survive professionally. Initially he turned to high-end drum scanning, which got him acquainted with the digital world. He then transitioned into retouching on early Mac computers at various Auckland-based prepress houses.

Over time, he noted that prepress houses were now not getting the high-end retouching work, as this was being done in-house at advertising agencies.

Adrian then invested in himself by completing a Graduate Diploma in Advertising Creativity at the Auckland University of Technology, which gave him a well-rounded knowledge of this highly competitive industry. He had a lucky break when he was "headhunted" by an advertising firm, which then solidified his career as a professional creative retoucher.

At the start of 2011, Adrian founded Pixelcraft Ltd, which specialises in cutting edge digital craft. His clients are award-winning advertising agencies and photographers, as well as a selection of direct clients with in-house creatives. Adrian delivers high-end retouching and 3D CGI services to these clients and works with them on campaigns for their customers. This includes work on advertisements for the Coca-Cola Rugby World Cup, Air New Zealand, Genesis Energy, National Bank and Fonterra, to name a few. Not bad considering his original trade disappeared over a decade ago.

Scott Dormer is another man looking to 'reinvent' himself in his 40s. With more than twenty years' experience as an Auckland-based courier, Scott is now completing a Graduate Diploma in Creative Writing at the Auckland University of Technology. Scott says his inspiration for the change was to "try something different and really challenge myself. I want to transition into a job I'm passionate about, but without losing any income from my day job."

In a recent Seek survey of more than 1000 New Zealanders, 70 per cent said they have considered a total change in career during their working lives. Statistics from overseas say the average person will have numerous distinctly different careers during their lifetime as well. "With the employment market becoming more competitive over the last few years, people are starting to be more aware of the need to become more versatile in what they can offer an employer," Amanda Scott, General Manager of Interim Taskforce (part of The Madison Group), believes. "To only offer one solution to prospective companies will not future-proof your career."

What careers are "safer" in the future?

A good way to determine the medium-term needs of New Zealand employers is the Long Term Skill Shortage List (LTSSL) published by Immigration New Zealand. This is a list of occupations in which New Zealand has a sustained and ongoing shortage of skilled workers.

Of course, this does not factor in future changes to the nature of work as a whole, however it gives you a good understanding of the areas that will continue to be relevant to Kiwi employers in the future.

Key areas in the LTSSL include:

Agriculture and forestry
Construction
Engineering
Health and social services
ICT, electronics and telecommunications
Science
Automotive and electrical trades

With a large amount of entry level "knowledge worker" jobs such as programming, customer service, tech support and accounting being moved overseas, careerplanner.com suggests that both proximity and creativity are the key to staying employed. Key aspects in future-proofing your career include positions that require a very high level of skill or creativity, as well as jobs that require a hands-on presence and cannot be completed by a lesser paid competitor overseas.

Set your goalsWhile you may be keen to explore other job types and opportunities, remember that whatever new career you choose, it's imperative it matches your personality, skills, and passion. Just because you see the healthcare industry as a safe future employer, it's not so good if you can't stand the sight of blood ...

Take some time to write down what type of job you would like to be doing in twenty years' time. Management? People-orientated? Analytical? Once you set your long-term goals, your short-term decisions will become easier to make.

Up-skilling for the futureNot keen to resign from work and spend three years studying towards a new qualification? Can't afford high tuition fees? Retraining may not be quite a daunting as it may seem.The Southern Institute of Technology offers a wide range of free business and trade-related courses to New Zealanders, many of them via correspondence. This allows you to work full-time, while investing in your academic future in evenings and weekends.

As well as this, you may have earned some qualifications without even realising it. Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) through tertiary institutions such as MIT, Otago Polytech and CPIT helps candidates gain credits toward a large part, or all, of a qualification based on their work and life experience. This can be a great way to both formalise your learning, and open up a whole new world of career opportunities.

SummaryMoving forward towards 2020, employees will have to be more versatile and relevant in the future, and not afraid to re-skill themselves when needed. Ultimately however, your choice of future career must depend mostly on your passion, skills and interests. This is vital if you want to be successful across all areas of your life, no matter how positive prospects are in other areas of the employment world.

Tom O'Neil is MD of cv.co.nz and author of Selling Yourself to Employers - The Essential Job-Hunting Guide. You can email him direct at tom@cv.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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