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How to prepare for careers of the future

In addition to global threats like pandemics
In addition to global threats like pandemics (coronavirus being one) and climate change, the media tells us to brace for other uncertainties. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

With all the risks in the world today, students and their parents are worried. How can we prepare for the future? We hear many confusing things. In addition to global threats like pandemics (coronavirus being one) and climate change, the media tells us to brace for other uncertainties. We hear every day that robots and other “kids” of artificial intelligence are going to disrupt all jobs. And then is the popular adage that the jobs we will have 20 years from now are not even invented yet!

What does all this mean for a young person making career choices today? How can you prepare yourself for this brave new world?

Here are 7 tips to bullet-proof your career:

1. Think Science and Art

In past, there was the idea that there were two types of people in the world: artists and scientists. Those who are right-brained, the creatives, are intuitive free thinkers while, left-brained people are more logical and analytical.

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And with the growth of the knowledge economy, and computerisation in general, schools started promoting STEM - Science, Tech, Engineering and Math - careers. This made many artistic people wonder: just because I have a strength in visual arts or say, storytelling, will I be excluded from the opportunities in the tech sector? Conversely, those with scientific background felt boxed in: Just because I’m a geek, does it mean I cannot be a designer?

We have good news. The digital economy requires a wide range of skills in science and arts. To be ready for the many opportunities coming up, study both. Take the exploding game industry, now valued at over $US150 billion and expected to grow to almost US$200 billion by 2025.

To build a game, whether for education and entertainment, you need the designer to create the visual aspects, the story-teller to make sure the characters and plot captivate the player, a developer to power the software and the marketer to finance the game and sold to the right market. This means that rather than STEM, many schools are now talking about STEAM which represents STEM plus the arts – visual arts, design, music and new media.

2. Go Global

In preparing for a career in the new digital economy, it is important to remember that the competition for your skills is now global. First, find out what sectors are growing fastest around the world and which skills can prepare you for those careers. And then learn how to present your skills in a global language and also promote them on international platforms.

How can you accomplish that? Learn from people all over the world. Get as much global training and certification as you can.

Look for opportunities to collaborate with your peers across the world. This will enable to you to sell your talent in Kenya and abroad.

3. Go Digital

Of course, the work of the world is now online. But just because you are on WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram doesn’t mean you are digital. In fact, the digital skills needed for employment require a deeper knowledge of how to use writing, spreadsheet, presentation and database applications to meet the needs of a client, whether an internal supervisor or an external client. Master applications like Microsoft Suite (Word, Excel, Power Point and Access) but also co-working tools and project management tools like G: Drive, Slack and Trello. You don’t need to be employed or in school to learn these tools. You can go online and practice every day.

4. Business is for everyone

There is a myth that some people are businesspeople, but not others. When you say things like “I am not business-minded”, this is a red flag for any employer or client. The truth is financial management is crucial in all careers. They help you understand how to budget for the costs of a project, monitor expenses and measure the return on your investment. This skill is needed whether you work for an NGO, the government or for a large or small company. This business acumen makes an employer or client more confident that you will not be wasteful or irresponsible with any resources entrusted to you.

5. Understand soft skills

Many of us have experienced working with someone who is talented but difficult to work with.

So, as you prepare yourself for your career, you need to think carefully about how to build 21st century skills. For example, work on your Critical Thinking (which helps you make informed and sober choices), Creativity (which helps you come up with innovative ideas), Collaboration (the ability to work in a team with others to get a good result), and Communication (speaking, writing and presenting clearly).

Also cultivate initiative, being a problem solver who starts off, rather than waiting to be told what to do.

6. Flexibility helps you adapt to change.

Integrity means you are trustworthy. And productivity is managing your time to complete your work on time.

7. Get work experience early

Many employers complain that many college graduates are not ready for the workplace.

The learning is too theoretical. Whatever you study, make sure you find ways to apply that knowledge in real projects. One way to do this is to find someone more experienced who can mentor you by helping you work with them on work projects.

If you start off in this way, you will be well prepared for the future of work, whatever it may be.

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