WHEN you were in college, your career counsellor would have advised you on how to best map out your career. The process typically involved a psychological examination — one that measured how your personality suited certain jobs.

If you were lucky, there would have been an interview: one that considered your unique experiences. In some schools, career counselling services even involved internships in a company.

Fast forward to the present. If you have been working for a few years, you now understand that the job market changes — and with it, so should your career planning principles.

While some principles are timeless (for example, “find a job that matches your interests”), some of the principles taught when you were younger need to be updated.

So what career planning principles should you reconsider? Mull over the list below:

 

Stay in one field and work your way up

One of the oldest pieces of advice in career guidance is: if you want to be a top earner by your 40s, you have to stay in one field and work your way to the top.

So if you studied engineering, your best course of action is to find jobs only in the engineering industry, but making sure you go higher up the pay scale with each transfer or resignation.

This seems logical. After all, with this approach, by the time you are in your 40s, you would have already earned your stripes and you can look forward to a senior position and a high salary.

Hiring trends today, however, show that companies are more open to people with multiple career tracks. In fact, in some fields, a diverse background is an advantage.

This is a reaction to the growing tendency of Millennials (the generation populating the workforce today) to jump from one career to another. An engineering major, for example, would not be faulted for straying from the hard sciences into, say, psychology. The result may be an expert in ergonomics — the perfect marriage of engineering and psychology.

Information technology majors are encouraged to take MBAs, as there is a science to competitive strategy within the software industry. And never mind if you are an agriculturist dabbling in copywriting — there is a place for you under the sun.

So don’t be afraid to pursue multiple interests. As long as you can find a niche for your uniqueness, you will be fine.

 

High-quality education guarantees a job

In more conservative economies, this probably remains true. But in dynamic markets such as, say, mobile applications or multi-platform advertising, it may be less about what you know, but more about how quickly you can learn — and come up with — something new.

The ability to be creative, to anticipate trends, and to adapt to changing technology is something not taught in many schools.

The trends in continuing education today favour short, specialised courses, rather than long degree programs. And many educational providers are shifting to online platforms.

Take, for example, the popularity of short but focused courses from Coursera and Khan Academy. Stripped of the burden of unnecessary general subjects and impractical prerequisites, these short courses may be more geared to real-life problems.

Excellence in output, regardless of which school you graduated from, seems a better criterion in judging whether you deserve a job.

 

Loyalty is security

There was a time when staying in a company guaranteed lifetime security, as it would leave you with a sizeable sum to enjoy your post-retirement life.

But not any more. If the recent economic crisis is any indication, you know that companies can easily let go of even their most loyal staff when push comes to shove.

More so, the global nature of the marketplace means your work can easily be outsourced to a more affordable, and most likely competent, workforce. Loyalty, therefore, has become a low-value commodity.

It is for this reason that fresh graduates are now encouraged to invest in themselves, instead of relying on their companies for future security.

Setting up a business while still an employee is a good move, and may even increase work engagement, as the chance of boredom is less with more varied things to do.

Learning how to tap sources of passive income, such as stocks, is also a good move, and many companies are now seeing the value of financial intelligence workshops for their staff.

Similarly, pursuing professional education, to ensure you remain a marketable employee when laid off, is career insurance.

This list of outdated career planning principles is incomplete. Given the speed with which the market changes, some jobs will become obsolete in the near future while new career paths will be introduced.

What is important is to be alert and flexible. If something is not working any more, it is best to throw it away. Know also that the opposite is true: if something isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it.

 

Article by Kay Vardeleon, an associate writer with Sandbox Advisors, a firm that helps people with careers, job search and training in Singapore. For more information, visit www.sandboxadvisors.com