Predict and be Prepared.

The most devastating career risk we face is getting stuck doing one thing for too long without branching out. As a result increasing the chances of unemployed or underemployed or doing work that is not challenging, being poorly paid, or nearing obsolescence.

To end this we can have a framework – Career development and being proactive about learning. The big difference is how quickly the field changes and how much one feels a need to edge their career options.

It’s useful to note that all of the following stages are generally in play at any given time. If you focus only on the future, you might starve. If you focus only on the present, you might become short-sighted and hurt long term results.

The idea is that one should have: 

a list of skills that have general value today,
a list of skills that are becoming obsolete, and
a list of skills that just might become very useful in the near future.

Essentially, it’s skill diversification, much like people diversify stock.

The Cash Cow
This is something that one is very good at and is currently in hot demand. It differs from a core competency because this is something that can make money doing for the near foreseeable future. This could be web programming (and others) in the late 1990s. This is probably Sharepoint (and others) today. It might be something else tomorrow.
There are different kinds of cows. It could be that Java programming is the thing you are best at and can easily find a variety of work for. This would fit the criterion that is laid out. You might have some that are solid, and some that are getting to be less profitable.
If you follow this general process, you will eventually have multiple focused competencies that can be used in the future. This helps ensure losses in one area can be absorbed in another. For example, if for some reason the technology that you are working in suddenly comes into huge legal problems, you are alright because you have other skills that are useful.
It helps to have some competencies be similar so that can leverage what is known, but it also helps to diversify. In either case, being able to quickly shift what is known and learnt something new is going to be a benefit. If dinosaurs could adapt to changing climates, they would have been in much better shape.

Some of the time things don’t pan out, but the rest of the time it looks like we can predict the future.

Branching out
At the same time, it is possible to learn more about surrounding fields and seemingly completely tangential ones. This is the longest view possible and also has larger potential gains. It takes a long time to become an expert in one field, and it’s helpful to understand other fields to try to be at least oriented in a certain field. Again, this branching out takes into consideration that short term and medium term needs also need to be fulfilled for success.
The overall goal is to maximize long-term value creation and ensure cash flow stays at an adequate level. The opportunities should be evaluated for their lifetime value and short term impact. Value could come in terms of financial compensation, contacts, experience, work environment, and more.

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