First things first: DON’T PANIC!
Scary Robot Overlords aren’t a thing just yet*, even if AI, continuing technological developments, pandemics and the Climate Crisis are changing the way we work. The idea of preparing for jobs that don’t exist yet may seem challenging, but it can be done.
(*That said, maybe The Zuck is possibly our first Scary Robot Overlord...?)
The first step to surviving in the future workplace is to never stop learning. We need to keep developing our skills, and learn new ones as we go. The benefits of learning new skills is that it makes you adaptable and able to master new tasks – and it keeps your brain healthy, too.
Becoming an expert generalist
Being multi-disciplined and multi-skilled is important for thriving in the future workplace, says Amir Orad, CEO of business analytics software Sisense – but he also points out that we have challenges to overcome to get there. “Our tradition of schooling from the Industrial Age makes you really, really good at one thing. I think that’s very dangerous.”
Orit Gadiesh, management consultancy Bain & Company London’s Chairperson, coined the term “expert generalist” to speak to the idea of becoming multi-skilled. She defines expert generalist as:
“Someone who has the ability and curiosity to master and collect expertise in many different disciplines, industries, skills, capabilities, countries, and topics.”
Explore as widely as you can and open your mind to different education and career pathways – having a variety of experience will prove valuable in the future.
If you haven’t figured out your skills yet, get started with our Skillsroad Career Quiz
– it will help you determine the areas you’re strong in.
How to keep learning
There are many ways to keep learning new skills. Structured learning includes apprenticeships and traineeships, university degrees, TAFE courses, or courses your workplace offers.
Other ways of learning include online short courses you can do for free, webinars and TED Talks, podcasts, reading books, hands-on learning while volunteering… Even your hobby could be a way to learn new skills: whether it’s woodworking, playing guitar, painting or creating arts and crafts.
There are various ways to keep learning new skills, such as:
- School-based Apprenticeships and Traineeships (SBATs)
- Work experience placements
- Involvement in Community Projects
- Entrepreneurial activities
- Cultural exchanges
- Earn-and-learn apprenticeships and traineeships
- TAFE courses
- Online courses (short or longer, paid or unpaid)
- University courses
- Normalising day-to-day research and reading
- Webinars, TED Talks, podcasts
- Pursuing new hobbies
- Taking part in debating and forum discussions
The trick is to keep an open mind to the endless possibilities out there. We need to expect the unexpected – artificial intelligence and automation will change the jobs landscape in ways we can’t anticipate. Start by staying up to date with both culture and the latest technology. Be curious about the world around you and think about the different things you can offer to the future.
Soft Skills Rock
There are certain universal skills that will be very important for future work. These are the so-called “soft skills”, and they include learning more about stuff like art, philosophy, history, sociology, psychology and neuroscience.
According to the World Economic Forum’s latest “The Future of Jobs” report
, the most important skills needed to thrive in the future are:
- Complex problem solving
- Critical thinking and analysis
- Creativity, innovation, ideation, originality, and initiative
- People management
- Coordinating with others
- Emotional intelligence
- Judgment, reasoning, analytical thinking, and decision making
- Service orientation
- Cognitive flexibility
- Active learning and learning strategies
- Technology design and programming
- Leadership and social influence
- Systems analysis and evaluation
Avil Beckford (The Invisible Mentor
) adds two very important skills to this list:
- Cultural awareness and sensitivity – We should all become more aware and accepting of difference, and how to respectfully engage with it to open valuable opportunities for growth and agile collaboration.
- The importance of reading widely, or “reading the world” – but also of being able to analyse and interpret what you read. The value of encouraging a love of reading and gaining knowledge should never be underestimated for future success.
Types of work
Marty Neumeier, Director of CEO Branding for Liquid Agency, defines four types of work:
- Creative: Unique, imaginative, non-routine, and autonomous.
- Skilled: Standardised, talent-driven, professional, and directed.
- Rote: Interchangeable, routinised, outsourceable, and managed.
- Robotic: Algorithmic, computerised, efficient, and purchased.
He suggests focusing on creative work, because that is where you are likely to remain employable. But remember: you can be creative in your work regardless of the job you’re in or career pathway you’re following. Being “creative” doesn’t necessarily mean becoming an artist – it means being creative at and making the most of the job you’re in. And to never stop learning!
But how do I know what to do?
Fair question. It’s not just enough to be curious and discover widely: you also need to know how to effectively analyse and synthesise information to proactively help you make better decisions about your future. Rohit Bhargava’s “Haystack Method” is a tool that can help with this.
The model has five components. In the example below, it’s used to broadly answer the question “What career will I be happiest in?”
Important information, stories and interesting ideas related to different career paths found while reading, listening, seeing and experiencing, which you then make note of and save or collect somewhere. The results of Career Quizzes and chats with industry experts or family members can form part of “gathering the hay”.
Take individual ideas and disconnected thoughts you discovered really appeal or “speak” to you, or really repel you, and group them together to identify a broader theme or possibilities. What underlying need of yours do these themes or ideas speak to? Is there a vague trend towards liking outdoor work, or the idea of working with animals? Are you attracted to stories or ideas about making a difference? Do you have a bias against working with your hands?
Identify underlying themes that align a group of ideas to describe a single bigger concept. This is the tricky part: condensing all you’ve learnt so far to find a key, non-obvious insight into something: the specific industries that might suit you best, for example. Does it look like working for a non-profit might be your thing? Or do you want to be an entrepreneur?
Describe a collection of your powerful ideas in a memorable way to make it easy to understand. This could be condensing each “idea collection” into a “role name”: Creative Director at World Wildlife Fund, or Fire Station Chief, or Sustainable City Planner and Architect, or Surf Instructor working with people with a disability – try to describe what is core to you in a few actionable words.
Validate your ideas. Think about the roles you “named” – what speaks to you? What doesn’t? Do you need more information? “Test” your ideas by talking to friends, family, career advisors, thinking about pros and cons – and if you’re unsure, do more research (start gathering the hay again!). Once you’ve run through this process, it’s time to apply the ideas, or make the decisions.
Get started gathering hay: find your skills with the Skillsroad Career Quiz
Photo by Raj Eiamworakul on Unsplash
Gifs from Giphy.com