Imagine Your Future(s) to Guide Your Present

Imagine Your Future(s) to Guide Your Present

Dealing with uncertainty is the new normal, whether you’re looking through the lens of a parent, a CEO, or an individual contributor. With so many questions floating around in our heads, a natural reaction is to avoid thinking about the future and focus on what’s right in front of us today and tomorrow. However, it turns out that thinking about the future, in fact thinking about multiple possible futures, can provide the secret to working through all that uncertainty today.

A good friend of mine, Peter Scoblic, recently published an article in Foreign Affairs entitled “A Better Crystal Ball: The Right Way to Think About the Future.” While Peter’s focus is on a business and organizational context, the more I’ve talked over his research that underlies the article, the more I believe his findings apply to us as individuals as well.

The basic premise is this: By imagining multiple plausible futures - think 10-15 years out - and then working backwards to identify the events that would have occurred on the way to each future scenario, we can identify common threads and identify patterns that drive our decision making today. While Peter and his co-author, Philip Tetlock incorporate forecasting in their approach, let’s focus on the idea of imagination and scenarios.

If we map out five future scenarios based on our personal and professional lives, what would they look like? Don’t limit yourself to what you think is likely. In fact, it’s important that you stretch the boundaries and pick five different scenarios. For example, one might have you create a foundation for charitable work. Another might have you start a company. Another might have you lose your job and have to sell your house. While this last one isn’t a positive outcome, going through the exercise of laying out these scenarios gives us a powerful tool for making decisions today, tomorrow, and next month.

Once you have your different scenarios laid out, look at the common threads. What commonalities do you see? What would be the signposts that would tell you if you’re headed down the path to one or more of these possible futures? Peter and Philip push business and organizational leaders to develop question clusters: “Questions should be chosen not only for their individual diagnostic value but also for their diversity as a set, so that each cluster provides the greatest amount of information about which imagined future is emerging—or which elements of which envisioned futures are emerging.” We can apply the same technique for ourselves. As we start to find answers to these questions, we can adapt and develop new questions.

This exercise is key to help us escape what Scoblic and Tetlock refer to as “the tyranny of the present.” This requires imagination and a willingness to put our biases aside while we think about possible futures to in turn guide the decisions we make in the present.

Discover the Hidden Job Market

Discover the Hidden Job Market

We all know that many job opportunities are never listed publicly.  Some career experts say that 80 percent of openings are never advertised. Most businesses prefer to hire someone who has been referred to them by someone they trust. It’s a credible, reliable person they’ve either worked with in the past or have found through other connections.

A friend of mine recently changed his approach to interviewing and decided he’d give his knowledge away for free.  So he decided to figure out the pain points of a company and approach them with his viewpoint including solutions about gaps he could see. If he did not know someone there, he’d set up a call with one of their leaders through LinkedIn.  He did this by explaining his background and established credibility by citing something that recently occurred at the company and if they’ve experienced X.  That short note typically landed him a 20-minute phone call which led to additional conversations and relationships at that company.  He landed a “hidden job” by using this tactic because when people at the targeted company met him, they thought he had great ideas and he was able to illustrate his expertise.  Here are four ways to find the hidden job market:

  • Your Network is Your Net Worth:  Your best source of leads for these hidden jobs is your network, people you already know— friends, neighbors, relatives, former co-workers. Have you heard the saying that if you combine your five friend’s salaries and divide by 5, that is typically your salary as well?  It’s the “birds of a feather flock together” syndrome.  Being aware of the types of people in your inner circle is key.  If you feel like you may need to expand your network, taking a challenging class is one way to do that.  If everyone is working towards a similar goal, it’s a great way to build friendships, collaborate and get a referral. 
  • Your Pitch:  Have a 30-second pitch and a one-minute elevator pitch ready when talking to people about your desired position.  In it, include your background, accomplishments, and where you’re headed and why it makes sense - especially if it’s a career pivot. 
  • Make a List & Do the Research:  Make a list of potential employers and learn as much about them as you can. What are their needs and how can you fill them? Follow them on LinkedIn and follow their leadership team. If you’re not sure which company interests you or where to locate them, there are typically “Top Private Companies” lists or “Top Public Companies” in that city’s “Book of Lists” published by American City Business Journals.  Learn about a specific job lead, including the skills and prior experience the job requires.  Look at the job title in LinkedIn and research people who have the same title.  What kind of background does the individual have and how do they market themselves?  Could their career path be duplicated?  Was there a career pivot that made sense?  What certifications have they attained in the last few years? You’ll find interesting ideas from others when reading people’s profiles who are on a similar path or are where you’d like to be. 
  • Join a “Talent Community”:  Talent communities are online forums companies use to attract prospective job candidates. For example, both Adobe and Zappos have one.  It’s an opportunity for employers to start building a relationship with potential hires and for would-be applicants to let them know what they’re looking for in a candidate. When there are job openings, the employer has a pipeline of interested prospects.  Here are four reasons to be involved with a talent community:
  • Get a feel for the company culture: Companies use talent communities to share information about what it’s really like to work there. It illustrates their culture, core values, and work-life initiatives. 

    Learn more about the company and its jobs: Businesses share what’s happening in their company and share information about new product releases, business news as well as new job openings. 

    Interact with recruiters: Being active in a talent community gives you an opportunity to talk with recruiters and learn about the company’s hiring process in a low-risk environment. Sometimes, recruitment teams even host “Ask the Recruiter” webinars for their talent communities. 

    Build relationships and increase the likelihood of referrals: As we mentioned in the beginning of the article, getting a referral into a job greatly increases the odds of being hired and it’s the most important benefit of being involved in a talent community. By networking and actively participating in discussions with decision-makers and other employees, it will help to build relationships that may lead to job referrals.


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Other ideas on finding the hidden job market:

6 Ways to Crack the Hidden Job Market