Career planning for a turbulent world

Washington Post

Reading the newspaper these days can create anxiety. At the time of this writing the world is closely following the outbreak of Covid-19, a deadly Coronavirus which has paralyzed Hubei province in China and whose economic effects are spreading across the world.

All of this is going on at a time when the United States and China are locked in a trade war which Harvard’s Neil Ferguson called Cold War 2.0. There are ongoing wars in Syria, Yemen and the Eastern Ukraine, Brexit threatens the stability of Europe, and a number of conflicts are simmering in Africa, and Asia.

Besides the drama of the Trump presidency in the United States, populist political leaders have ridden a wave of discontent around the world that appears to be fueled by rising income inequality that in turn is be caused by the digital revolution and automation.

What makes all of this even more alarming is that the world is quickly heading for the no return point in terms of climate change. On top of this there is a serious problem concerning air and water pollution in many parts of the world and in particular in the mega cities of Asia and Africa.

In this context I find that the executives, middle managers and MBA students that I interact with are increasingly concerned with their career prospects in the medium term.  I also meet many people who are currently looking for work and even more who would like to but are afraid of giving up the job they have even if it is not fully satisfying in terms of the money they make or the kind of work they are doing.

What I find surprising, and a bit alarming, however, is that most of the people separate their concerns about the changing world from their discussions about career management and their future prospects as if the two issues had nothing to do with one another.

In more conceptual terms people look at the problem of what to do with their professional life in static rather than dynamic terms. My conviction is that each of us has the ability and the responsibility to think through how we feel the major trends affecting the world will play out when making choices about where to work, what to do and where to live.

For this effort I recommend that individuals develop scenarios for how they think these trends will end up and then use those scenarios as an input to the question of how to manage their career going forward.

Amy Qin

Will China recover from Covid-19 as soon as the weather gets warmer and the virus begins to die out? This is clearly what everyone is hoping for but it is not a foregone conclusion. Last week, the New York Times ran a segment on its pod cast, The Daily, describing the situation in Wuhan which is enough to make anyone stop and take stock of the blessings we enjoy in our day to day life.

What is even more striking is the anger the virus has sparked in China and the question poised by correspondent Amy Qin about what it means for the future of the Chinese government and the Communist Party.

You can listen to the pod cast here.

While I have no crystal ball and do not know how this whole thing will end up, what is clear is that the Chinese economy will take an important hit as a result of Covid-19 and that will have a wider impact around the world. It has already resulted in the cancelling of the the Mobile World Congress here in Barcelona as well as a number of other events, trips and programs.

My advice for people who do extensive business with China is to think through the implications of the unfolding story and where it might end up. My suggestion is not to succumb to fear and panic but to start thinking about what things might mean for the industry in which you work, the company you work for, and especially your own family and well being.