I gave a speech to several hundred students at Fudan University in Shanghai this past week. Fudan is considered one of China’s top universities (and incidentally, this week they are hosting Twitter’s CEO, Dick Costolo, on his first trip to China).
The students were kind enough to give up a part of their Friday evening to attend. It was a two-part talk: in the first part I spoke on behalf of the British Council about my experience in the U.K.’s education system, and how my going through it had helped prepare me for a career at McKinsey. Rather different and more personal than my usual speeches.
The second half was more typical of my presentations, but closed with a section that I hope is very relevant for students as they make their first career choices. I spoke first about the digital economy and its impact. I moved on to describe how businesses are embracing technology – to get closer to their customers, to improve their decision-making, to automate existing activities and to innovate their business model. I argued that China is actually a very fertile place in which to innovate aggressively on the back of new technologies, as often regulations that might constrain innovation are simply absent, and private sector entrepreneurs are taking advantage of new opportunities with vigor.
My final section focused on the individual starting a career in an economy that is suddenly much more volatile as a result of the impact of technology. I started by highlighting how the life expectancy of even the largest companies is becoming shorter and shorter, and how specific jobs that we might only 10 years ago have expected to provide a full career no longer will. I laid out a set of digital and broader life skills that I believe are foundational to a successful career starting in 2014 or 2015, and that will almost certainly require more role changes and more skill renewal than any of us have experienced in our own careers.
I then posed a set of 10 questions that I suggest students consider as they select an industry, a company and a role as they launch their careers. I have condensed these questions down onto one graphic, which is below.
Do these questions feel right to you?