Just starting your career and feeling lost? Picture yourself at 50, says DBS CEO

Piyush Gupta, CEO of DBS
Bloomberg | Getty

In an age of evolving industries and growing automation, the concept of a "job for life" has become increasingly elusive.

For some, that's a great weight lifted: No more worrying that you'll be stuck doing a job you hate for the next 30 years — something else will come along, right? But for those looking to plan their career path, the shifting landscape can look daunting.

However, even in a changing world it's still possible to reach your career goals, the CEO of DBS, Southeast Asia's largest bank, told CNBC. You just have to work backward.

"The way to do it is to look outside in, or long to short," Piyush Gupta said in an episode of CNBC's "Life Hacks Live."

"If you say I want to be an entrepreneur at the age of 40, then there's certain skills you need to make sure you acquire by the time you're 30 or 35."

Gupta advised thinking about the kind of job you'd ultimately like to have aged 40 or 50, and then working out the role you would need to be in and the skills you would need to develop to get there. He suggested doing that in increments of around five years.

"As you work back, you start getting a range of possibilities about the exposure and experience you need to have to qualify for the next thing," said Gupta.

Those exposures and experiences can be "very disparate," ranging from subject matter expertise to working across different geographies, he noted, and they can be incorporated at various stages.

"You can't do everything at once, but you can do this in a planned way. You can be systematic about it and you can shape your own career."

"It's really more about what you need to develop in yourself over a period of time, more than exactly what role you want in a particular context."

When should you consider a career change?

"All the time," according to Gupta, who worked on 22 different projects during the 27 years he spent working at Citibank prior to DBS.

He advocated getting a range of different experiences in different areas, whether at the same company or different ones.

"My standard philosophy used to be that within the first 90 to 120 days of being in every role I would have a fairly good sense of what I would like to do next," he explained.

"Then I'd make sure that everybody — human resources, my boss, the areas that I wanted to go to — knew that I had an aspiration to move into a particular area."

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