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Some experts predict that 40% of the companies on the Fortune 500 won’t exist in 10 years. In one lifetime, 88% of the companies on the original Fortune 500 list are gone. Experts say the extinction rate is accelerating dramatically. In their report, “The burdens of the past: Report 4 of the 2013 Shift Index series,” Deloittesays the average life expectancy of a Fortune 500 company today is less than 15 years. Wow, time is not what it used to be.

Conversely, that means that many of the companies that WILL be on the Fortune 500 list in 2025 are small companies today – or perhaps have not even been started yet. Are you working for a dinosaur? Hold that question for a moment, let’s switch over to job extinction.

In the span of one lifetime, dozens of jobs – indeed entire careers – have gone extinct. In many cases, that was a good thing, even though that was the way many people made their livings. According to Salary.com, at least 12 careers are on the verge of extinction today.

Conversely, there are a growing number of jobs (careers) that did not exist 10 years ago, according to Forbes, Kiplinger and other sources. The jobs of the futureare increasingly technical and specialized. Will your job exist, or will you be qualified for the ones that will exist?

Companies and careers are inextricably linked. One strategy is to place bets on which companies will be around and start angling now to get on (or be promoted) with one of them. In fact, Fortune predicts which companies will top the Fortune 500 list in 2025. A better strategy is to continue to gain expertise and hone your skills for jobs that are perennial, regardless of the company.

Companies and jobs will go extinct, just take care to avoid being one of them.

Here is how to avoid becoming a dinosaur:

  1. Customer Empathy. Understanding the customer and focusing your company or career on their pain points and desires is the surest way to survive. Many companies focus more on management and shareholder expectations than they do on customers. Many employees focus more on office politics than they do on spending time with customers. That’s the fastest way to become extinct.
  2. Reinvention. History proves that the companies that continue to innovate and reinvent themselves are the ones that stay on the Fortune 500 list. Those that milk their franchises and reinvest little in R&D are doomed to extinction. From a career perspective, employees that continue to reinvent themselves have the longest tenure in most companies. You can be the disruptor, or you can be the distruptee, either way, disruption in every industry is inevitable.
  3. Diversity. The more diverse a company — the more its employees bond and associate with peoples of all genders, ethnicities and cultures — the greater the chances of survival. Homogeneous companies with no women executives, no people of color, no young or aging employees, and no global presence, will die an unceremonious death.
  4. Alliances. Companies and employees that are active in their respective ecosystems and who partner and cooperative, even with the competition, will stand a higher chance of survival. Looking outside of one’s own industry and marketplace is the best way to keep a pulse on the coming changes. Forging joint ventures and partnerships with startups and growing companies in other spaces keeps a company and its employees fresh.
  5. Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG). Companies that shoot far often land short, but they still find themselves further ahead of where they would have been with incremental improvements. Big goals inspire people, motivate customers, shareholders and employees. Meeting quarterly estimates and setting 10% growth targets is an invitation for those with 10X ambitions to eat you alive. It’s true of companies. It’s true of people.

In summary, if you are working for a dinosaur, start following the companies that are likely to be thriving 10 years from now. If your job or profession is likely to become extinct, prepare now to jump into one that is needed by the future. Test yourself and your company against the five attributes outlined above to not only survive, but thrive. As Yogi Berra famously said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

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Post Author: Michael ODonnell