Whether you blame robots, artificial intelligence, or automation more broadly, the proactive professional needs to plan for a successful career in a future without jobs. It is not enough to know how to navigate a company hierarchy because that company may completely restructure. It is not enough to understand how to find another job because it might make more sense to freelance or launch a business. It is not enough to develop deep expertise in any one industry because your industry might be disrupted beyond recognition (my two main industries, financial services and media, look nothing like they did when my career started 25 years ago!). In a future without jobs you have to be far more self-reliant and prepared to constantly drum up your own opportunities. Here are three ways to build a successful career in a future without jobs:
Become a money manager
I don’t mean enter the wealth management business specifically, since you don’t have to be in financial services to be in money management these days. Anyone who relies on their career to make a living needs to manage their earnings for the long haul. People are living longer — if your peak career earnings occur in your 40’s or 50’s, you can have 30 or 40 more years after that where you still need to support yourself. Traditional, defined benefit retirement plans are going away, so you’re your own pension manager now. You must be prepared to earn money, manage your everyday budget so you put some aside, invest it to build a large enough nest egg for when your earnings inevitably wane or cease entirely, and then draw it down in such a way that you don’t run out of money. Mind your salary requirements and refine those negotiation skills – you’re not just building a career; you’re building an annuity that needs to support you for decades. In a future without jobs, you are a money manager in addition to whatever other roles you hold.
Build a brand, not a resume
Just like everyone will need to know money management, today’s professional will need to know marketing and branding. You can’t just hire a resume writer, even a good one, and think you’ll be competitive. You need an online presence – a LinkedIn profile at minimum and typically multiple social media platforms and ideally your own website. You need to establish thought leadership by getting published, appearing in media, and/ or speaking at conferences. In addition to these tangible pieces of marketing collateral, you need to generate word-of-mouth by maintaining a helpful and influential network. In a future with jobs, your ability to generate opportunities will depend heavily on your brand – who knows about you, who wants what you offer.
Accept that the line between entrepreneurship and employment is gone
Branding, targeted networking, and managing the money are some of the activities that are now your purview because you are an entrepreneur, even if your pay stubs and tax status suggest you are an employee. Many jobs are already “at-will” meaning that you can leave and your employer can also let you go without much difficulty. But with change happening much more frequently (in whole markets, in select industries, and down to the individual company level) job security is even more tenuous. Today’s professional is operating in a shorter-term capacity than the phrase “permanent, full-time employment” suggests. You need to accept that your current job is a project that may or may not last. You need to keep your pipeline of opportunities full and your marketability high, such that you can land the next opportunity when you need it (whether consulting or employed on payroll). In a future without jobs your career is a business, and you are its CEO.
Self-motivation, self-sufficiency and self-discipline are critical to a successful career in a future without jobs. If you get complacent, your skills, expertise, network, and therefore pipeline of opportunities will atrophy. There may not be another job to jump to, so get used to making your own. Not everyone may have chosen to be an entrepreneur and some may still think it’s too risky. But in many industries already upended, you have no choice but to embrace a more entrepreneurial version of your former career, and pending a future without jobs, entrepreneurship looks like the surer bet right now.
This post originally appeared in my leadership column on Forbes.com.