Career Management: Adapting for the Future


Tracey WilenThe CFA Institute Annual Conference is an unrivaled opportunity to access high-quality, unbiased educational content that equips investment professionals with the latest thinking on critical industry issues. The 71st CFA Institute Annual Conference will be held in Hong Kong on 13–16 May 2018.

If you knew with certainty that you would live to be 100, how would that impact how you think about your career?

Tracey Wilen asked delegates at the 69th CFA Institute Annual Conference to consider that question in her presentation, “The Future of Work, Skills, and Careers in a Digital World.” Indeed, advances in medicine and technology, combined with other forces in society, are coalescing to propel average lifespans easily toward 100. For most people, this will mean having to build a revenue stream that funds their later years for at least 10–15 years longer than was the norm over the past several decades.

Extending your career timeline by 33% has implications for how you need to think about your professional life. Here are a few:

  • How can you stay healthy in a way that helps you enjoy these additional years of life? Well, one key might be figuring out how you can better manage stress instead of simply accepting that an overwhelming amount of it is inevitable in an intense profession like finance.
  • Workplaces will have as few as three and as many as five different generations working in them. Navigating different generational styles to manage successful teams takes an intentional mindset.
  • The importance of continuous learning is incalculably high.

But living longer is not the only development that demands finance professionals adapt how they think about managing their careers. The shift to a software-oriented world from a hardware-oriented one means industries can change rapidly. The shift toward an on-demand society — made possible in large measure by globalization — means innovation can be crowd-sourced or incubated rather than tied to desks in headquarters. Freelancing delivers on-demand labor. And, of course, as technology becomes better and better, it will transform — not replace — the functions humans perform in most industries.

So, how can finance professionals adapt to these VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) times and “future-proof” their careers? Wilen offers several suggestions.

First, consider developing and honing the following skills:

  • Multimedia literacy: Learn to communicate — both to listen and to express yourself — across a wide spectrum of media.
  • Big Data: Develop skills that integrate and make sense of a large amount and variety of information. (This, of course, is good news for finance professionals, since many are already adept at this.)
  • Novel and adaptive thinking: Be able to see how technologies and solutions from other verticals or industries could solve problems in your own, including those that have a working but inefficient solution in your sphere. (In her presentation, Wilen offered the example of a doctor who is making human ears using 3-D printing.)

In addition, Wilen encourages adopting a “CEO of my own career” mindset. This way of thinking emphasizes such career management strategies as:

  • Job crafting: Work with managers to modify your role both to achieve the employer’s needs and to maximize your opportunities to contribute value, to learn, and to develop new skills.
  • Build your emotional and social intelligence: Become highly self-aware and empathetic. (For lots more on emotional and social intelligence, consider reading Daniel Goleman’s work.)
  • Build teams: Regardless of the scale you are working on — a small project or a full-fledged venture — make part of your contribution the building up and development of team members.

Adapting and staying relevant while demographics and technology shape and reshape the industry will not be easy, but recognizing the need to do so and beginning to manage your career with these influences in mind will prepare you to face the challenge.

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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.

Photo courtesy of W. Scott Mitchell

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