Here was the path to a “good career” thirty years ago:

  1. Go to college (maybe grad school too)
  2. Get a well-paying job
  3. Stay in that industry (maybe even in the same company) until retirement.

Society was changing, but at a reasonable pace. Today, the world is changing so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up. Entire industries have been shelled to rubble by disruptive technologies, and many others are under siege.

Travel agents? Gone. Taxi drivers are next. Things don’t look good for long-haul truckers, either. Even prestigious, highly-trained fields like medicine, law, and accounting will eventually be touched by the uncaring hand of technological change as artificial intelligence takes over many day-to-day tasks in these professions.

No, it’s no longer safe to be trained only for one narrow, specific job, no matter how prestigious. In twenty years, that job might no longer exist, and even if it does, it might be unrecognizable. The smartest career move you can make is to get good at learning—to focus on continuing education.

Continuing education is baked in to some fields, like medicine and software engineering. But most of us must direct our own efforts to build new skills. What skills could help you thrive in your present field in 10 years? Here are some possible answers:

  • Data science skills
  • Modern marketing skills
  • Project management skills
  • People management skills

You might not be able to quit work and go back to school, but maybe you could enroll in night classes at your local community college. You could take a MOOC from Coursera. How about Lean Six Sigma or PMP certification? Your work might even pay for it.

To prepare for an uncertain future, let’s keep our current skills sharp while building new ones. Lifelong learning is fun, but it also gives us options, allowing us to look to the future not with anxiety, but with anticipation.