In the age of extreme globalisation and rapid technological advances, employees can no longer depend on national borders and organisations to shield them from an increasingly competitive world.

The upcoming decade is likely to witness even more market turbulence, driven by the digital disruption of industries, especially manufacturing, media, education, health care and transport.

These traditional industries are poised to undergo major transformations, causing notable job extinctions while creating new exciting professions.

As Thomas Friedman, prize-winning author of The World Is Flat, puts it: “Globalisation 1.0 is the competition between empires and version 2.0 is fought between corporations. Today, we are in Globalisation 3.0, which has brought the level of global competition down to the individual.”

Plan your career like a start-up

Under intense competition and without the traditional safety nets of a secure job, everyone has to take the initiative to think, plan and execute their careers. In a hyper-competitive and hyper-connected world, some experts believe there will be no more employees and workers. Everyone will be a Business of One (BO1).

Reid Hoffman, chairman and co-founder of Linked-In, wrote the book The Start-Up Of You to inspire employees to plan their careers like a start-up. He says: “Entrepreneurs deal with uncertainties, changes and constraints head-on. They take stock of their assets, aspirations and the market realities to develop a competitive advantage. To succeed professionally in today’s world, you need to adopt these same entrepreneurial strategies.”

Adds foremost management guru Tom Peters: “It’s over. No more vertical. No more ladder… Linearity is out. A career is now a checkerboard. Or even a maze. It’s full of moves that go sideways, forward, slide on the diagonal, even go backward when that makes sense.

“A career is a portfolio of projects that teach you new skills, gain you new expertise, develop new capabilities, grow your colleague set, and constantly reinvent you as a brand. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc.”

Be your own C-Suite

Conceptually, businesses and individuals are similar economic entities — they perform their work and sell their products to the highest bidder they can find in the marketplace.

The only difference is that employees sell their services to one buyer (employer). The key idea behind BO1 is that individuals have a lot to gain from applying proven management strategies and business principles to their own careers.

There are five parts to implementing the BO1 Concept, each mirroring a key function of an enterprise:

• Vision

You need to understand your own role and contribution to the economic universe. Having a vision and mission statement helps you to crystallise career direction and goals.

As an example, consider my personal statements. Vision: “To be a very impactful entrepreneur, educator and consultant in the fields of strategic foresight, innovation and entrepreneurship”. Mission: “Helping organisations and people to plan and prepare for a future they do not yet understand.”

• Strategy

It is essential for you to create your own business model. I highly recommend Tim Clark’s revolutionary book, Business Model You, which shows how you can design a personal business model on a single page.

Also, consider that being an employee is not the only, nor necessarily the best, way to monetise your skills. Other than being full-fledged entrepreneurs, middle ground options are to become independent consultants, marketers and trainers.

• Product development

This entails developing a good view of what is and will be in high demand through market and competitive analysis (that is, supply and demand). You will then have to design your product differentiation and competitive advantages and constantly upgrade your own capabilities as product improvement.

• Marketing

Branding helps businesses to articulate their differentiation and command a higher price. Networking enhances the mindshare and outreach of the brand. The fusion of both magnifies your brand value and helps you to secure a high-priced customer.

• Operations

This is what you do in your job and how you deliver your value.

From my observations, most career professionals only diligently perform the operating function, while neglecting the planning and marketing functions.

To be successful in your career, you have to move to a higher level and take on the CEO role of Me Inc. No one else will. To borrow a famous axiom from small business guru Michael Gerber: “Work on your business, not in your business.”

Article by Charlie Ang, CEO and principal trainer of FutureCraft. He helps leaders and professionals understand economic megatrends, anticipate potential pitfalls and leverage on opportunities. For more information, visit