Earning

4 ways to future-proof your money and career, from CEO and author of 'Make Change Work for You'

Scott Steinberg
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I've spent 25 years teaching Fortune 500 leaders and four-star generals how to boost creativity and innovation, design winning business strategies, and stay one step ahead of the curve. Across hundreds of keynote speeches and books like "Think Like a Futurist" and "Make Change Work for You," I've explored how to thrive during periods of upheaval. 

I'm also the CEO of an organization called BIZDEV: The International Association for Business Development and Strategic Partnerships. And during this period of unprecedented change, I've often reminded my colleagues that while negative events can happen outside of our control, we have the ability to choose how we handle the challenges that come our way.

A few simple mindset shifts are all it takes to safeguard yourself against the unexpected and rebound from setbacks. 

Here are four strategies that the most successful people employ and that you can use to future-proof your career and finances, no matter what tomorrow brings.  

Value time like money 

Time is one of your most valuable assets. The most successful people know what their time is worth and use it to invest in themselves. 

Sometimes when you look for new opportunities, you've got to take a sidestep, moving into a position of equal rank and pay, or a take a back step, down the career ladder, to acquire essential experience. If a volunteer position or chance to help a colleague at no charge helps you expand your work portfolio, demonstrate your talents to an important audience, or make crucial contacts, don't be afraid to contribute.

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None of this is wasted time. You're building resilience and elastic skills that you can apply in any context. This moment also gives you a chance to explore the question that leaders ask themselves when they reach career turning points: What do I need to do right now to get where I want to be later?

In business, there's a difference between maintenance activities (things that keep the lights on) and growth activities (things which pave the way to future expansion). As you reassess your budget right now, after you cover the essentials, create a line item for those growth activities. It can be an online course or start-up costs for a side hustle. But remember that no matter who you work for, you're always the CEO of You, Inc. 

Understand risk and use it to your advantage

Every dollar that you sock away into a savings account, investment portfolio, or new business venture has the potential to help you build equity, and quietly do the work of compounding upon itself, even while you sleep. Even if you're working with a tighter budget right now, get in the habit of saving a small percentage of what comes in the door, especially for those potential growth activities.

If you have an idea for a side hustle but are wary about what the future holds, I encourage you to get started anyway. Periods of uncertainty can be paralyzing. But if you want to start a new business, or pursue a new investment, the truth is that there isn't ever going to be a risk-free option. 

By being aware of the risks and using that information to make smart, calculated bets, though, you can come out ahead. Anyone can adapt to new and novel problems the same way that the most successful innovators do: Study them, brainstorm original solutions, and then test them out and improve as you go. And find collaborators who can help you make your idea the best it can be.

Seek out community support

The most successful people understand that if they want to solve big challenges and spot potential areas for business or career growth, they need to surround themselves with a network of diverse individuals with different backgrounds, skills, and experiences. And they are constantly building those relationships.

If you are one of the many people who is searching for a new work opportunity in the wake of Covid-19, don't be afraid to ask for help. The more that you make others aware that you're looking for work, the better off you'll be. If you're shy about connecting with peers, find an excuse to be in their inbox, even if it's just to share an article you think they would like.

You can also proactively network and make introductions between your connections, especially if they have similar interests or complementary skill sets.

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Pay attention to emerging patterns 

Right now, many people are dealing with job losses. If your industry is one that has been hit hard by Covid-19, now is an chance to think about where your experience could be an asset, perhaps in a way you've never explored before. The world's business leaders pay attention to signals, emerging innovations and disruptions, that show where the marketplace is headed. And you can do the same. 

Familiarize yourself with your industry's leaders and their competitors, and recent events in your current space and any related fields. Be on the lookout for developments like new startups and investment activity. Set up Google alerts, sign up for virtual conferences and talks, seek out relevant academic studies. As you start to see the same terms or names come up in your research, that's a good indicator you're on the right track, and you can begin to adapt or expand your skill set accordingly.

Finding long-term career and financial success is about constantly building bridges to future opportunities. And with these four strategies in your back pocket, you'll be able to improvise and rise to meet setbacks with solutions.

Scott Steinberg is the author of  "Think Like a Futurist" and "Make Change Work for You," and is the CEO of BIZDEV: The International Association for Business Development and Strategic Partnerships.

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