How to create your own opportunities

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  • Louisa Sherlock

The working world is changing and the ability to believe in yourself is even more important than ever. With nearly half of all jobs predicted to be replaced by computers in the next two decades, believing in yourself and your potential has never been more important, says Louisa Sherlock.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time? At your desk, albeit a few rungs up the ladder, but doing pretty much the same job? If the answer is yes, then it might be time for a rethink, because all signs are that the future workplace is going to look very different indeed.

While it all sounds a bit I, Robot, some experts have predicted that a massive 47 per cent of jobs will be replaced by computers and artificial intelligence in the next two decades. And the digital revolution is already having an impact on how we work – we’re already seeing a rise in the “gig economy” (a move away from the traditional nine-to-five towards technology-enabled “gigging” for several employers at the same time) and the fact that nearly one in six of us is already self-employed, according to the Office for National Statistics.

All of which means there’s no getting away from the fact that the world of work is changing more quickly than you think. So it’s no surprise that we also need to adapt to keep up, and get ahead.

A new report on the future of the workplace commissioned by EY backs this up. The report, which pulled together expert predictions with survey findings from 1,000 people from all industries and professions, looked in detail at what the new landscape might look like and what a future-proofed worker will need to equip him or herself to thrive. The report confirmed that, while personality traits like self-promotion, networking and self-motivation are key, to cope with the shift in work trends and the fact we might have several jobs on the go, we will also need “emotional resilience – self-belief, self-confidence and the ability to bounce back”.

In fact, 44 per cent of the people surveyed said this resilience – to be able to cope with change and uncertainty at work – was the most important personal skill they would need to be successful in the future.

All of which means that, to be visible and get the roles we deserve, we need to ignore any internal voice of doubt that we have about our capabilities. Because, if we don’t, someone else may take our place.

Future-proof yourself with training

The first way to do this is fairly obvious – ask your employer for training in a bid to learn new skills to future-proof yourself. But what happens if your employer won’t help? A survey by Barbara Mistick and Karie Willyerd, authors of Stretch: How to Future-Proof Yourself for Tomorrow’s Workplace, found only 34 per cent said their companies were giving them the training they need. However, you can take your future into your own hands – if you work for a company with more than 250 employees and have been there at least 26 weeks you can ask for time off for training or study that you've organised yourself. (Your boss doesn't have to agree to it though, so make sure you've got a great business case ready.)

Ignore any self-doubt

Of course, some companies are already investing in training with the future in mind. EY runs “Learning”, “Experience” and “Coaching” programmes designed to help you acquire new skills, get on-the-job experience or be coached (mentored).

Mimi Kyazze, a Marketing Manager at EY, has recently finished one of the leadership programmes. She says, “I’ve learnt to say yes more. And, as a woman in particular, we often come from a place of doubt. Even when I was offered a place on the course, I was thinking, ‘Am I the right person? Can I do it?' I think it’s vital to allow yourself to be bold and give yourself that permission to go for something – and also accept that, if someone is approaching you for an opportunity, then they must believe in you. You have to say, ‘Go for it!’”

Be more comfortable with taking risks

Life Coach Cara Moore who works for Voice At The Table which runs workshops to help women build their resilience, agrees there’s no place for self-doubt in the future workplace, “Meritocracy doesn’t support women’s careers and there often comes a point when confidence trumps competence. But we need to put our hands up and be visible, proactively go for stretch jobs for our next role. We absolutely need to have that self-belief in ourselves in this changing world of work.”

Moore says, “We need to take control and responsibility for our own professional and personal development, and become much more comfortable with taking risks. We need to ask ourselves, ‘What is the cost of my inaction? If I’m in the same place in six months’ time, and know I should have grasped an opportunity and an idea, and I didn’t, how will I feel?’ That comes down to your attitude to risk and getting comfortable with not seeing failure as failure, but as learning. And thinking about what is the worst that can happen.”

“With an evolving workplace, it makes it even more important for women to have this self-belief. It’s time to believe in our potential.”

@LouSherlock1

This article is brought to you in collaboration with The Pool.

  • Louisa Sherlock

About the author

Louisa is a former Grazia magazine Features Director, now freelance journalist specialising in women's issues, fertility, parenting, health, social trends and world news whilst also working with The Womanity Foundation.