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A Step-by-step Approach toward Becoming a Professional Futurist

Becoming a professional futurist does not happen overnight, but everyone interested in developing a career in foresight may find the five steps suggested by this new book helpful.


From January 2019 to May 2021, I had the pleasure of serving the Association of Professional Futurists (APF) as the webmaster with writing reviews of future-oriented books, announcing foresight events, posting futurist job announcements, publishing blog posts, and sharing news, information, and open access materials useful to futurists.


During that time, I discovered that many users visited the APF website just because they wanted to become futurists but did not know how to. Observing that, and learning from my futurist professors and friends, I decided to write a guidebook offering advice to those who would like to learn how to become a professional futurist through a step-by-step approach. This article contains the main elements of that book. An eBook version of my book can be accessed digitally here.


A Five-Step Approach

Becoming a professional futurist does not happen overnight, but everyone interested in developing a career in foresight may check the possibility of taking the five specific steps I propose in this article. If you have ever taken these steps, your inner futurist was working pretty well. I trust you have heard of professional futurists and what they do. However, I begin my discussion with some terms and definitions, especially for readers who may be new to the foresight field.


Foresight refers to a thinking capacity that allows people to think ahead and consider, model, create, and respond to future possibilities. It involves a series of thinking methods such as systems thinking, design thinking, and critical thinking. It also requires the utilization of foresight techniques such as the Delphi survey, cross-impact analysis, scenarios, and several other methods. The ultimate goal is to choose thinking methods and foresight techniques correctly and apply them appropriately to the analysis of future-oriented phenomena. At the strategic level, professional futurists are academically or self-trained experts who have learned strategic foresight. Strategic foresight enables them to enrich their analyses by envisioning alternative futures and their consequences in various sectors.


Becoming a professional futurist requires individuals to acquire the abilities and proficiencies necessary for the study of the future, namely futures studies. In this sense, professionalization in foresight means developing skills and competencies required for the study of alternative futures by the appropriate use of foresight methods and functioning effectively in the oresight ecosystem. At a higher level, professionalization means subscribing to professional ethics and ethical codes of practice of which serving humanity is the best.


Professional futurists attempt to create a sense of responsibility among those who care about the futures of everything, futures that are not only tied to humans but also to all the things existing and living on this planet. They appreciate the cooperation and serving humanity through foresight. They desire to provoke the common spirit of humanity in all men and women through futures studies. Based on these definitions, descriptions, and values, I modestly suggest five steps for everyone seeking a career in foresight.


Know Yourself

Before you can begin to develop a career in foresight, you must understand yourself. Self-knowledge includes self-evaluation, self-awareness, and evaluating one’s strengths and limitations. It also entails recognizing your work qualities. Your abilities, skills, interests, values, personal traits, and chosen lifestyle are all important things to consider.


To acquire trustworthy self-knowledge, you must first understand how your personality impacts your daily routines, dreams, and challenges. There are many online and offline resources available to assist you in gaining self-awareness. A personality self-test, such as the Myers-Briggs Personality Test or the Clifton Strengths Finder assessment, allows you to compare your attributes to the introvert and extrovert features of futurist jobs and determine which one is best for you and your personality. Onceyouhave defined our personality, you might be able to identify your desirable foresight career as well.


Choose Your Foresight Career Path

There are three general career pathways in foresight. These include:

1. You enroll in a formal program at a university or institute of higher education that teaches futures research, strategic foresight, or futures studies.

2. You adopt a non-formal approach by participating in face-to-face or online foresight learning activities.

3. You pursue a self-designed learning and experience path.


The main advantage of the first and second approaches is that an instructor or facilitator can monitor your learning process and tell you about your accomplishments and potential faults. The most significant obstacle to the third approach is that self-study programs rely mostly on the learner’s understanding and may have gaps in information that presumably exist in the learner’s thinking regarding the topics covered. In other words, educated futurists may go through a better learning process and have a better understanding of the topic than self-trained futurists. This is not to say those self-taught futurists cannot contribute to foresight undertakings.

A Roadmap to Becoming a Professional Futurist
A Roadmap to Becoming a Professional Futurist
Design Your Career

Futurists, unlike other professions, may not be able to walk into an employment office and ask for a job. They may not be able to obtain work like other professions, which have recruitment advertising in online or print media. They, like many entrepreneurs and freelancers, must generate their jobs. Thus, customized business models are required, particularly if futurists want to operate independently. Because of the nature of their profession, it is possible that none of the conventional positions of futurists, such as academic, organizational, or consulting, will connect with freelancer futurists.

Therefore, the business models for these freelancer futurists may be built beyond the conventional paradigms of employer/employee, client/consultant, and so on. To develop your business model, you must consider all the most significant decisions you make. You may be uninterested in operational or organizational concerns, but to define the blueprint of your business strategy, you must specify the fundamental aspects that form the heart of how your prospective business operates and who will be your customer.


Build Your Personal Brand

In a world with millions of knowledge workers such as futurists, personal branding is more valuable than ever. As a futurist, your personal branding is about realizing who you are and what you do best and conveying that to customers. There is no guarantee for explicit job offers in any sector for professional futurists. They need to develop their career and they need goodpersonal brands. A good brand is about trust. A brand is a promise and the more the promise is fulfilled, the stronger the brand becomes. Futurists need to think seriously about the promise they are making to their customers. They need to see if they are connecting to their customers and their real foresight needs.


Your personal brand is a mash-up of who you are, who you represent yourself to be, and who others believe you are. The better these three elements add to one another, the stronger your brand. Professional futurists explore the future to help clients and stakeholders understand, envision, and influence the future. To be a successful futurist means to make yourself known to people who need your expertise. When you serve your clients in the best possible way throughout your career, they trust you and become your customers. As a result, your personal brand will get a big boost thanks to your sincere services.


Develop Your Network

To become successful in the world of foresight is not simply about what foresight techniques you know, how hard you work, how educated you are, or what talents you have. It also includes who you know and how you use those connections. It is strategic networking that brings you the opportunities you need to grow and develop your foresight business. It is networking with a specific goal and a strategy to get your career goal. Through networking, you meet professionals in the field that you wish to enter, to decide on your futurist career path. The secret to success is to build key and strategic relationships with people who can help you to gain a professional spot. As a professional futurist, you will meet a wide rangeofpeople. Each of these individuals has its network of contacts, knowledge base, and skill set. They may be able to assist you in expanding your network. You can learn how to use professional futurist networks for this purpose.


Depending on the sort of foresight work you perform (training, planning, and advising), you may find success by assisting others — those in your network. Coworkers, clients, friends, family, professors, professional and personal acquaintances, and people you meet daily may all become part of your ever-expanding network. Networking may assist you in obtaining new clients or consumers for your professional services, discovering unadvertised employment vacancies, obtaining knowledge, or creating chances that would not have been available to you otherwise.

To learn more, check the practical tips provided in the book.

 



Alireza Hejazi


Alireza Hejazi, Ph.D. is an analyst for leadership and futures studies. He is the author of several books, including Responsible Foresight (2022), and Becoming a Professional Futurist (2021). Contact him through his website: https://nutsaboutleadership.com.

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