Ten Tips for Future Careers

We check in with four UCalgary grads and career development experts for their insights, advice and tips on how to survive and thrive in the next economy.

By Mark Witten

Employment Line


1: Get on the right side of the robots

Robotics, automation and artificial intelligence are leading-edge technologies that will have a massive impact on virtually every sector of the economy — both replacing and creating jobs. “I see huge opportunities in robotics and automation. In the resource industry, we use high-end drones for surveying. Get on the side where you’re designing and manufacturing these systems. Most delivery positions won’t exist in 10 to 15 years. The jobs will be developing and making intelligent systems that drive cars, trucks and equipment,” says Rich MacDonald, MEng’11, co-founder and managing partner of Higher Ground Consulting and a member of Avenue Calgary magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 Class of 2017.


2. Focus on sustainability

Career opportunities to help solve global, national and local challenges in pursuing sustainable development have never been so varied and will continue to grow. In sectors ranging from food and health to energy, construction and investing, companies and governments are seeking new ways to achieve a sustainable future. “Even for traditional industries like oil and gas and agriculture, companies are looking at ways to be sustainable, environmentally and economically,” says Kristen Cumming, MEd’12, a career development consultant and principal of Cantos Performance Management. “There will be many career opportunities for people who find new and innovative ways of meeting the rising demand for energy and food sustainability.” 


3. Think like an entrepreneur

The economy is moving towards a more contingent workforce. The trend towards more contract and project-based work, and self-employment, will accelerate and there will be a continuing decline in full-time jobs with pensions. “Always think from an entrepreneurial mindset, even if you’re in a full-time job,” says Cumming. “Think about how to bring value in the job beyond your job description and how to make a difference in the world of work, rather than waiting for that to be defined.” 


4. Continuously learn

“Millennials should be ready to continuously learn, traditionally and non-traditionally. There are lots of opportunities if you’re flexible and you may do six different things in your career. That should be exciting, not daunting or scary,” says MacDonald. Upgrading your education is a good idea, provided it’s a carefully made decision and you’ve thought about why you’re doing it, advises Laura Hambley, BA’97, MSc’99, PhD’05, founder of Calgary Career Counselling. “When choosing to further your education, working with a career counsellor or coach can help you make a more strategic decision,” she says. “Education is expensive and it’s very important to choose the right educational path for the career path you are targeting,” 


5. Nurture your soft skills

“Employers will always be looking for people with appropriate soft skills — technical skills can be taught,” says Karen Blackmur, BSc’84, BSW’92, an Alberta government employee who has worked in career and employment consulting. “Have a positive attitude and strong work ethic. Build relationships. Be willing to learn, be flexible and accept change. If you are adaptable to the needs of employers, the workplace environment and your own needs, that’s the key to maintaining and advancing your career.”


6. Make the personal connection

“Get out there and talk to people. Always be open to conversations,” says MacDonald. “You never know where opportunities for new jobs, or to change jobs, may come from. Go to trade shows and conferences. Don’t just fire off resumes electronically. I’ve always got my business development hat on and work comes in through places you don’t expect. I once picked up a consulting job buying a couch over Kijiji. I had a conversation with the guy, who happened to work for an energy company and he needed help with a serious challenge, which we provided.”  


7. Give back to your network too

"Networking is a two-way street, where you have to give back to your network to receive from it. My advice to millennials is to develop a network that is meaningful. Don’t rely 100 per cent on technology. Connecting face to face is still important,” says Hambley.


8. Stay resilient

Continuous development keeps you strong and flexible in an ever-changing workplace. “If you’re always increasing and broadening your skill sets, you become recession-proof because you bring more value. If you’re too narrow, you’re more at risk,” says Hambley.


9. Collaborate across generations

Many baby boomers need or want to keep working, while many millennials are facing challenges getting meaningful work. As the workplace changes, it’s important to keep the best of both generations active and working together. “Embrace diversity and what value the other generations bring,” says Cumming. “Get really curious about the strengths and abilities of the people around you, which helps you to collaborate across generations.” 


10. Don’t let age be a barrier

For baby boomers, energy level often trumps chronological age. “It’s all about your energy level and how you take care of yourself. That’s what matters,” says Hambley. Projecting energy and confidence counts with employers, colleagues and clients. Adds Blackmur: “What’s important is how you present yourself to your current or a prospective employer. If you don’t believe in yourself, that will come across. Whether you’re 18 or 55, you’ve got to present yourself in a way that will convince an employer that you have the skills and attitude they’re looking for.” 

Our Experts

Laura Hambley

Laura Hambley

BA’97 (Psychology), MSc’99 (Counselling), PhD’05 (Industrial/ Organizational Psychology), founder of Calgary Career Counselling

Karen Blackmur

Karen Blackmur

BSc’84, BSW’92, an Alberta government employee, who has worked in career and employment consulting

Rich MacDonald

Rich MacDonald

MEng’11, co-founder and managing partner of Higher Ground Consulting and a member of Avenue Calgary magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 Class of 2017    

Kristen Cumming

Kristen Cumming

MEd’12, a career development consultant and principal of Cantos Performance Management