By Tracey Wilen-Daugenti
The 21st-century workplace is a brave new world -- new technology, new ways to connect and do business, and new demands on workers. To stay competitive -- and employable -- you'll need to anticipate and embrace these changes.
So here are five predictions for business and careers in 2012, and some tips for making these forecasts work for you:
1. Continuous employment: Multiple jobs and employers.
Forget about spending a lifetime at the same firm and retiring with a gold watch. Younger baby boomers, born just when single-employer careers and pensions were beginning to wane, reported holding 11 jobs on average between the ages of 18 to 44, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Technology is accelerating this multiple-job trend, easing the move to virtual organizations as people can more easily work remotely or as freelancers. In the near term, until the economy improves, businesses can be expected to postpone hiring decisions in favor of retaining contractors.
The savvy response: Keep your eye on the big picture -- your long-range goals for your work life and career -- even as you aim to excel in your current position. The multiple-job trend means you don't have to settle for a dead end.
Some workers are riding this trend by working several jobs at once, what Nancy Shenker, founder and CEO of theONswitch marketing company, calls being a "patchwork professional." This can provide you with an employment safety net, along with opportunities to expand your skills, networks and income.
Fuel your journey with a commitment to lifelong learning (see Tip No. 4). Stay flexible, and view each job as a stepping-stone on your career path. If you concentrate on doing your best, you will undoubtedly discover opportunities for learning and professional growth.
2. Tiny but mighty: Small businesses and self-employment will drive job creation.
During recessions, business startups boom and small businesses create the most jobs. Many workers laid off during this recession are choosing self-employment. Keep an eye on health care and social services (where the BLS projects that 26 percent of all new jobs will be created through 2018) and information technology for employment growth and competitive salaries.
As the number of solo workers grows, so will their need for business services, such as tech support aimed at small and medium-size business.
The savvy response: Today's business climate may be perfect to launch your own business-to-business company. Cash in on skills you already have -- marketing, IT, accounting -- to serve small businesses and startups.
Not ready to go it alone just yet? Join a business -- networking group to test the waters. Check out local chapters of SCORE, a group dedicated to educating and mentoring entrepreneurs and small business owners, for advice and training.
3. Women rising: How working women will impact the marketplace
Women will continue to lead in the workplace and on college campuses. Women-owned companies are growing in number at twice the rate of all U.S. firms, creating or maintaining 23 million jobs, and contributing nearly $3 trillion to the economy. And women are earning more and higher degrees than men.
Women-owned businesses are good places to work, too, as studies show that companies with women at the helm tend to be more financially successful than comparable male-led companies.
The savvy response: Take a look at women-owned businesses for employment and expansion opportunities. Of course, many women still work the "second shift," taking the lead in home and family responsibilities. But businesses that cater to working women or dual-career families can be growth opportunities: specialized childcare, elder care, personal shopping or food/meal services.
4. Education matters: Lifelong learning will be vital to career success
In the global, technologically connected economy, employers can find skilled workers almost anywhere. To compete and stay employable, workers must be lifelong learners who continue to develop higher-order thinking skills and demonstrate that they can adopt new technology.
The savvy response: Take charge of your career's trajectory. Take inventory of your skill set regularly, and seek education and training to fill any gaps.
Take a look at how your work skills align with those that will be needed in the future. Remember, the complex problems in today's workplace require teamwork and collaboration. The ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines, to be "transdisciplinarity," will be increasingly valuable, so cultivate your curiosity and openness to new learning opportunities.
Develop the tools you'll need to broaden your scope for employability or for offering new products and services. And join professional or business associations to keep up-to-date in your field.
5. Showing up for work: Face time will become a precious commodity.
Mobile and wireless technology now allow work environments to be set up practically anywhere, and people no longer need to commute to a physical location for meetings or to do business. In fact, according to a recent poll, more than 1 in 6 people in 22 countries report that they telecommute regularly.
Instead, virtual collaboration will grow and become more sophisticated. In the current fast-paced work environment, expect face-to-face meetings to be deliberately brief, tightly focused and rare.
The savvy response: The global marketplace works both ways: Savvy workers can now sell their skills and expertise worldwide and work from anywhere. Master your mobile communication technology to market yourself or your business. Develop a talent for developing trust and authority in the online environments where more meetings and projects will be based in the future.
If you can become the go-to person in your office when it comes to reaching company goals with technology, you'll find new opportunities which call for these in-demand skills -- at your current job or beyond.
Dr. Tracey Wilen-Daugenti is vice president and managing director of Apollo Research Institute and a visiting scholar at Stanford University's Media X program. Learn more about her latest book, "Society 3.0," or visit Apollo Research Institute.
Don't Miss: Companies Hiring Now
More From Brazen Life
- Should You Really Make Your Resume All Pretty And Fancy?
- 7 Grown-Up Lessons From Your Favorite Disney Movies
- Take Advantage Of These 5 Trends And Become The Boss Of Tomorrow's Workplace
Looking for a job? Click here to get started.