Anticipatory Searching

Anticipatory Searching

Have you heard about Amazon’s new patent?  It’s for a process they call “anticipatory shipping.”

The company uses a software program to track your purchases and determine what you’re like to buy next on the site and then ships those items to an Amazon fulfillment center near your home.  That way, you’ll get your product more quickly once you realize you want it.

I’m not sure what to think of the Amazon process – it’s definitely convenient but it’s also more than a little intrusive – but I think it does signal a smart way to manage your career.  I call the process “anticipatory searching.”

Anticipatory searching is based on a simple fact: with every passing day, the probability goes down that you will be in your current job next year.  Why is that so?  As I’ve noted here on many occasions, today’s crazy cocktail of rapid technological change, shifting global markets, morphing consumer tastes and evolving cultural norms means that, on average, today’s jobs have a life expectancy of barely more than three years.

That reality leaves most of us with only two possible outcomes: we can ignore the impending changes and become their victim or we can anticipate those changes and takes steps to ensure they work for us.  And, of course, for any rational person and every Career Activist, only the latter course makes any sense.

So, how do you conduct anticipatory searching?  Think of it as a hands-on version of Amazon’s software program.  You’re going to invest the time to read, talk to mentors and colleagues and conduct the research that will enable you to track what’s happening in or to your career field, industry, employer, home town and boss and then determine what move you should make to preserve your employment security.

The first step is investigative: you’ll assess whether the trend in each of those areas is positive or negative and the potential impact of those trends on your career?  Nobody’s crystal ball is perfect, but the signs are usually pretty clear: growth, advancement and strength are positive, while decline, retreat, and weakness are negative.

The second step is anticipatory: you’ll start searching for the job that will best enable you to leverage the benefits of the positive trends and minimize the harm of the negative ones.  And, then you have to act on that information.  That is clearest the biggest challenge in the process – inertia, comfort with what we know and discomfort with what we don’t all work to hold us in place – but acting as your own person fulfillment center is the only way you can get the future you want more quickly, once you realize what it is.

Thanks for reading,
Peter