Resilient careers: engineering your own future

July 12, 2017 / By The Warren Centre

Advice to new professionals about what to expect in the workplace of the future, from the Innovation Advisory Committee at The Warren Centre.

Not that long ago, the best career advice was to get a degree, find a job and stay with an organisation until retirement. Today’s professional landscape has changed significantly.

According to a report by the Foundation for Young Australians policy and research program in 2015, today’s graduates may change jobs more than 17 times in five different industries over the course of their working life. Not only will graduates have several jobs and careers over their lifetime, but the nature of their working careers is evolving rapidly.

Employment is fragile. Jobs are changing dramatically, even disappearing, due to automation, artificial intelligence and globalisation. Forty years ago, the proportion of part-time employed tertiary education leavers (20 to 24 years old) was less than 10%. Today it is more than 40%, a rate of increase that surpasses that of the 25 to 64-year-old bracket by 15%:

For modern day professionals, employment fragility is a permanent structural change. Professionals that survive and thrive in the future workplace will be those with “Resilient Careers”.

The Oxford dictionary describes resilience as ‘the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness’. The Harvard Business Review defines career resilience in an individual as someone “who not only [is] dedicated to the idea of continuous learning but also stand[s] ready to reinvent themselves to keep pace with change; who take[s] responsibility for their own career management; and, last but not least, who [is] committed to the company’s success…[T]his means staying knowledgeable about market trends and understanding the skills and behaviours the company will need down the road… being aware of one’s own skills—of one’s strengths and weaknesses—and having a plan for enhancing one’s performance and long-term employability. It means having the willingness and ability to respond quickly and flexibly to changing business needs.”

In this new environment, what career stands to be the most resilient? For those seeking a career that is synonymous with resilience, engineering is a natural candidate. At its core, the engineering discipline is grounded in resourcefulness, ingenuity and creativity as its practitioners find solutions to challenges in the presence of many and varied real world constraints. The word “engineer” originates from the Latin ‘ingeniator’: one who creates. These characteristics surely mean that engineers are capable of weathering, and even leading through, changes in the workplace.

The 2016 report on the Future of Jobs from the World Economic Forum estimates that technology increases in areas such as automation and artificial intelligence, alongside other factors will remove an estimated five million jobs globally by 2020 in middle-class vocations such as office administration, manufacturing and construction.

However, this report also estimates that two million new jobs will be created in fields focused around business, finance, mathematics, architecture and engineering. If these estimates are indicative, young professionals entering the engineering disciplines are well placed to engage
a wave of newly created job categories and future changes.

Is merely having an engineering degree or a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) degree enough to build a resilient career? How can universities better equip future graduates with the tools to build resilient careers? The Warren Centre believes there are five key steps to preparing for a resilient career whilst at university.

Find out more at The Warren Centre

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