Advice to the Next Generation on Careers

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In an interview last week by Kenneth Hein, the U.S. editor of The Drum, I was asked to look back at what the keys to a successful career might be and then look ahead to what may come. It was a short interview, but feedback indicates it resonated. I have edited it down to the parts others may find useful while adding some summary points. The entire interview can be found here.

Looking back. Advice to the next generation on careers.

The first piece of advice is that successful careers are built on a combination of luck, mentorship and aligning with the right trend. Yes, hard work is important, but everybody works hard. For mentorship the key is to find the best bosses or best people you can find to guide you. In the case of aligning with the trend, try to understand something that will grow over the next 10-15 years. And the way to maximize luck is say yes to as many opportunities as you can, even if they seem a stretch.

The second piece of advice is to never stop learning. The day you stop being a student is the beginning of the end of your career. It doesn’t matter how senior you are or how powerful you are. The world is changing so much that even at this stage I spend an hour-and-a-half a day learning. Invest in continuous learning and education, because otherwise you will find yourself growing increasingly irrelevant.

The third piece of advice is that eventually when you become truly successful, your success will be built on a very benign form of a Ponzi scheme. You will be successful because the people around you are successful. And you will basically be given some sort of credit for the people around you. Therefore, make sure that you really, really invest in the people around you because that is investing in yourself in everything, from training to relationships to looking after them and helping them along with their careers. You can’t succeed, especially as you get more responsibility, unless you do that.

The last thing is never taken yourself too seriously. Be humble. Laugh at yourself. When people say you’re full of shit, you probably are.

Looking ahead. The state of things to come.

An intense optimism about where we are relative to the state of two things.

The state of technology is one. Broadly, we’re at the cusp of one of the most radical and positive changes in technology. It isn’t necessarily just digital technology – it’s everything from biotechnology to all the rest.

The second one is that I believe that all of us are good people, more than the newspapers claim we are. Especially if you look at the younger generations. They have the right set of values. Take those combined with the next generation of technologies and I believe we’re going to have a step change.

Here are two broad predictions.

One is that the next 10 years will be good for people all over the world. Not for every single person, but the world will be better off in the next 10 years than it is today because of a combination of artificial intelligence, biotechnology and the next generation of the internet -- which is everything from blockchain to AR to VR to 5G.

Second is that we will look back at the way we used to be working in 2019 and in 2029 wonder how anybody worked that way. We’re about to see the most radical rethinking of work, workers and workspaces ever. And this is going to unleash more options for more people and enable many powerful ways to combine the benefits of in-person interaction and the flexibility and cost benefits of distributed work.

In sum, 1) find mentors, 2) raise your hand/take risks, 3) align with trends, 4) keep learning, 5) invest in people, 6) remember to not take yourself too seriously and 7) have a positive/optimistic attitude. These fundamentals tend to work in every industry, every countryandacross all levels.

For a deeper look at career management check out Career Tools.

For more on what lies ahead see 10 predictions for the next decade.

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