College Seniors: How to Prepare for the Next 45 Years

Tips on how to kick-start your career
By Stephen Dupont, vice president, Pocket Hercules

It’s the final year of college for millions of students. Graduation and taking the next big, bold step into the career world are only months away.

Because you’ve been so focused on the past three years, you may not have considered this: If you graduate when you’re 22 years old, and if the age of retirement remains at 67 (this is when people can start receiving full Social Security benefits), then your active career will last about 45 years.College seniors are underway in their final year of school, anticipating a graduation and job hunt in the months ahead.

That means your expected retirement date will be about May 2060. Sure, it’s difficult to think far ahead at this point in your life. But now is a good time to acknowledge some realities that you will likely face in the years ahead.

“The day-to-day world of public relations is in a process of transformation,” says Cecily Sommers, a Minneapolis-based futurist and author of “Think Like a Futurist.”

Instead of issuing news releases, she says the PR professional of the future will be crafting communications for more intuitive interactions, such as Jibo, the in-home robotic personal assistant that leads you through a recipe, orders theater tickets and recommends a pair of shoes that complements your outfit.

“Increasingly, people in communications will need to be as socially adept and smart as the ever-smarter technologies coming our way,” she says.

As she has advised Fortune 500 corporations, Sommers suggests that the business landscape is changing in some fundamental ways that new graduates should keep in mind. Some key trends to watch include:


  • Life expectancy: Based on dramatic progress in health care and medical science, today’s Millennials will likely live longer, redefining careers (with multiple career changes) in the process. Because people will be living longer, many Millennials will manage co-workers who may be much older than they are.
  • Technology disruptions: According to Sommers, we are on the cusp of several major technology breakthroughs — quantum computing, sensors baked into everything (the “Internet of Things,” clothes, shoes, furniture, building materials, appliances, even pets), and androids and robots that will serve as office assistants and caregivers. The outcome is that the next generation will have access to more data, allowing companies to personalize the marketing experience like never before. The downside with this new “smart” approach is the growing loss of privacy.
  • Automation: Earlier this year, Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, told participants at an event hosted by The American Enterprise Institute that software automation (or “bots” in tech speak) will replace many workers, particularly for tasks requiring lower skill sets. For example, software bots already have dramatically cut the time required to measure the outcomes of online campaigns or track social media mentions, tasks that had been done manually just a few years ago.
  • The changing face of America: The United States continues to become more diverse. By 2020, whites will no longer represent the largest percentage of our country’s population. This will lead to more racial, political, and religious diversity and force business, government and non-profits to speak to the discrete identities and cultures of an increasingly diverse market.
  • Communications 24/7: TV and digital are merging rapidly and creating an always-on environment-as-console world. We can expect a concurrent rise in services, trips and gatherings that allow people to completely unplug and escape to a temporarily turned-off experience.

Be curious

So, what should you do now and throughout your career to be able to thrive as the ground shifts beneath your feet?

Ted Murphy, a Minneapolis PR consultant for more than 30 years, and my first boss, having hired me as an intern when I attended the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., says that many PR practitioners begin their careers thinking that becoming an expert should be their highest priority.

“Unfortunately, once they think they’ve achieved that goal, they stop growing,” he says. “The smart money is on developing the habit of becoming a lifelong learner. That’s a mindset that helps prepare you for the inevitable changes ahead, and better positions you to understand change, not just react to it.”

Sommers says that curiosity is the key.

“To thrive in a world of automation and disruption, you can no longer follow a linear path,” she says. “The people who will thrive will be those who embrace change and are willing to practice career purging regularly. The new normal will be in a constant state of flux as new technology changes faster than our values can keep up with. Those who can think creatively and strategically and are able to converse with the world around them will be the winners in the decades to come.”

 Embrace change

Today’s new professionals need to embrace a change mindset now. To manage the wave of changes yet to come, remember to:

  • Be open to new experiences: Instead of building a portfolio of work samples, focus on building a portfolio of experiences that you can leverage throughout your career. For many people, it’s not until they experience something new, such as traveling to a different part of the country, or put themselves “out there,” such as giving a webinar, that they begin to understand the positive value of change in their lives.
  • Experiment with new technology: When you try to use and understand even relatively simple technology, such as recording a podcast or creating a LinkedIn profile, you give yourself license to experiment and learn new skills.
  • Put yourself out there: For many, public speaking is their biggest fear. But it’s in addressing those fears that you become stronger. Throughout your career, seek opportunities to challenge yourself by taking on leadership positions and volunteering to take on the tough jobs.
  • Seek mastery over expertise: The difference between an expert and a master is that a master is willing to accept rejection, as well as failure, as part of the learning process. They don’t get caught up in the status of being an expert. Because they’re more open to taking risks, they’re more flexible in handling the ups and downs of our economy.
  • Grab a hold of big data: Technology allows us to collect unprecedented amounts of free and paid data about the consumers we’re targeting, about the progress of our marketing efforts, and about the ultimate value of that data. However, more information is not necessarily a blessing. The key will be learning about how to get smart about data — how to recognize what data really matters and how to apply that data.

There isn’t any way to know exactly how change will affect the work you do in the future. But, by being open to change throughout your career and seeking out experiences that challenge your skills and thinking, you’ll develop the flexibility and nimbleness you’ll need to be ready for nearly anything.

Stephen Dupont, APR, is vice president of public relations and branded content for Pocket Hercules, a hybrid brand marketing firm based in Minneapolis. Contact Stephen at: www.linkedin.com/in/stephendupont or visit his website at stephendupont.co.

Written by Stephen Dupont

Stephen Dupont, APR, is vice president of public relations and branded content at Pocket Hercules, a Minneapolis branding and creative firm. He blogs at www.stephendupont.co.

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