Big Data Architect. SEO Specialist. Chief Sustainability Officer. Generational Consultant.
What do all of these titles have in common? They barely existed five years ago.
If you are a typical college student attending a four year university, you can count on two things. Some of what you learned in college is outdated by the time you graduate and there are a growing number of career paths that are just starting to develop. Even if you major in a high-demand field, the preferred skill set within that field might be rapidly changing. Given the dynamic landscape of the workforce, what can college students or recent graduates do to future-proof their careers? Below are several steps to stay ahead of the game.
- Become a market scanner to stay on top of emerging trends. Here are a few strategies:
- Subscribe to email news digests (global, regional, and field-specific news outlets) to scan emerging trends in your industry.
- Use internships as an opportunity to connect with thought leaders in your field and ask them for informational interviews. This will educate you about trends and allow you to ask advice about how to prepare for a career in the field.
- Although most jobs are found through networking, job boards can be great research tools. Subscribe to daily email digests for positions in your area of interest and pay attention to new job titles and the skills required for those new positions.
- Attend at least one professional conference a year to learn about advancements in your field—stay in touch with the connections you make there. For students or recent graduates, you can often volunteer at conferences in exchange for a free conference registration.
- Consider lateral moves to strengthen your knowledge and skills. If vertical advancement is not possible, consider applying for internal positions that will allow you to develop a new skill set or new area of knowledge. As an existing intern or employee, the organization will be more open to offering you a development opportunity and you will become more indispensable as you broaden your expertise in new ways.
- Invest in shorter-term, in-demand skills training and certifications that focus on market-driven skills. Possible resources for affordable on-demand skill development include online training through platforms like Lynda, Udacity, and Udemy. There is also a wide range of bootcamps and certificate programs that are proliferating to allow students and employees to upgrade their skills in a shorter amount of time than it would take to complete a traditional college degree.
As you monitor developments in your field and engage in learning and development to stay current, make sure that people know that you are continuing to grow professionally. The successful employee of the future is one who can scan the marketplace for trends and opportunities and engage in lifelong learning to create or meet the demand for market-based skills. College is the perfect time to start developing those habits and skills.
Angela Schmiede is Dean of Academic & Professional Success at Menlo College, a small, private business college located in Silicon Valley. She has over 20 years of experience designing and leading experiential learning programs, and has taught at Vanderbilt and Stanford Universities.