Disruptions. Unforeseen events. Misguided strategies. All of these are possible for businesses and also for careers. In 2020, we don’t have to look very far in the past to see how the best laid business and career plans can go awry due to a surprising and unpredicted event. We could conclude, well that’s life. No one ever guaranteed us long-term certainty. This is true. Unannounced and unintended curve balls are part of life’s churn, but that doesn’t mean we can’t proactively prepare for sudden changes and develop an agility which may result in competitive advantages and success despite perturbations.

Many of us still operate by a model which views the most difficult parts of executing a career as first determining which career path to follow, followed by education and training, landing the great job, retaining employment, and staying current with best practices. As important as these features are I would encourage the addition of at least one more – enhancing your ability to foretell where your career may be headed and what hazards may ambush your planning.

With regard to our careers, it is wise to allocate time and energy to a style of future planning which embeds intentional forecasting of trends and movements that carry the potential for threat and disruption. Although no one can definitively predict the future, by practicing the formation of projections over time we can hone our capacity to more accurately make predictions, test our hypotheses, and peer ever deeper into what makes our professions tick. Sharpening our prognostication skill could be the difference between thriving or losing in today’s turbulent economy.

Preparing for the future requires at the outset a shift in attitude and a challenging of our assumptions. Here are some basic conjectures I encourage shaking up. The good times don’t roll forever. Luck can only carry you just so far. The world is more dynamic than static. That said, alter the way you plan for tomorrow. Future planning should not be confined to assessing the present and then looking forward. Rather, determine as best one can the most likely future perception and plan backwards from there.

Interpreting the future is a matter of creating a vision. This vision displays greater resolution the more in-depth is our knowledge of our profession, including the proclivities of markets and customers. Vision is not certitude, but an estimation of what is possible. The more we know the closer we get to refining our analysis. Therefore, structured ongoing learning is the core activity to practice. By looking at every angle of our profession, including the influences and disorders impacting our lines of work along with practice in making and reviewing our predictions we better prepare ourselves for forecasting. Opportunities will always be out there. Become your own agent of change and a magnet for locating these possibilities.

Smart organizations deploy a strategic method known as scenario planning. It involves forecasting and integrating a large degree of flexibility into long-term planning. Scenario planning assumes adaptation is necessary for survival. The same mindset applies to our careers. In general, this process involves merging known facts about the future, such as demographics, geographic limitations, cultural characteristics, government structures, etc. with social, economic, political, technical, and environmental trends. From this blend we can formulate simulations that function as prototype strategies. For example, is it feasible to think climate related disruptions may manifest in novel ways over the next three decades prompting potentially sudden market fluctuations? Are you confident the U.S. has learned its lesson about pandemic preparedness and is ready for the next such assault?

Developing a heuristic approach to prepare for uncertainty may very well be the necessary system to best weather whatever the future is going to throw at us next.

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