The Future of Work: What to Prepare For?

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Throughout the history of mankind, work has always been a routine part of our lives, something that comes at a certain point in time and ends when we reach a certain age. To start working, we need to go to school when we are young. We’d pick a profession early on and study to obtain the required qualification or pick a profession while studying. To earn good money, we’d work hard and get a solid experience. Our parents, and their parents, likely had only one profession, which they never changed in their entire lifetime. Everything was sort of secure about work, and that routine didn’t change much for centuries.

However, the next couple of decades are going to be like no other decades have ever been, for both – employees and employers. All participants in the job market are going to experience the most profound change in the history of work, which will affect everything and everyone, irrespective of age, gender, profession, work type, or experience. The main question is – are you ready for what’s coming?     

Emerging Technologies and Automation

Technologies have been here for centuries to help us do our work. Automation entered the stage relatively recently – perhaps, with the first mass production lines, like Henry Ford’s factories. People were also initially afraid of losing jobs due to automation, however, that didn’t really happen. Instead, more new jobs were created – more technological ones, and better-paid jobs. Workers only had to master the operation of technologies and do less hard physical work, but instead the more sophisticated, intellectual one.

However, the automation that we, the people of the Internet and smart devices, are experiencing – that’s something different. Unlike all the previous technologically driven automations, today smart computers are taking on the highly-intellectual jobs previously done by skilled humans. For example, earlier, personal computers empowered writers, translators, administrative personnel, and even lawyers, to do their jobs more effectively. However, today, machine learning and neural network-enabled devices are doing many jobs faster and better than humans.

Skills and Education in the Digital Age

The workers of tomorrow need to be ready to study throughout their lives. In the digital age, information and skills become outdated faster than most contemporary schools and colleges are able to teach. For example, by the time technical and IT freshmen graduate in 4-5 years, the information they’ve been trained in their first and second years will already be outdated. So, reskilling, upskilling, and continuous learning will become the norm.

Remarkably, some people can handle the stress of never-ending learning, while most cannot. With age, our brains and the cognitive function they represent, deteriorate. We best learn when we are young, but later in life, especially at 50-60 years, we cannot absorb information and new skills as effectively. That is a big challenge.

The workers of tomorrow will require skills that will be centered around problem-solving, creativity, digital literacy, critical thinking, leadership, and emotional intelligence, as opposed to narrow-focused, physical work skills, which are only going to deteriorate.   

Work-Life Balance and Well-Being

The work-life balance has never been as essential as today, and it’s going to be even more vital soon. This is because the boundaries between work and life are getting thinner and less articulated. Previously, an average factory worker would get home after a hard work day and leave all their work troubles behind. 

Already today, intellectual and creative workers have more flexibility, as many of them are free to choose their preferred working hours during the day, i.e., take a morning, or evening shift. They can also alternate work and life & family duties throughout the day, and overall enjoy more freedom. This is good, on the one hand. 

Though, on the other hand, many cannot effectively manage their freedom, they end up taking their work to their homes and families. They are drowning in work-related thoughts in the late evenings and at night since the nature of creative and intellectually intense work requires them to be constantly digesting the information, and searching for ideas on how to overcome challenges. This is not going to contribute positively to the workers’ well-being in the long run.     

Constant changes, driven by the new technologies, will not make employees feel comfortable either. No matter how often the teachers or business coaches say to you that “change is good, you need to embrace change and constantly look for development opportunities” – your psyche and brains are not wired that way. The ever-increasing speed of change is not going to make us happier in the future.   

Future Trends in Job Markets

To get ready for what’s coming on the job market, we need to understand the demand – what kind of jobs are going to be in higher demand, and what jobs will become obsolete. According to career-building specialists, leading recruiters, and strategic workforce planners, the following types of jobs are going to experience the highest demand some 2-5 years from now:

  • Data scientists and data analysts – they will be needed to help businesses analyze the enormous volume of data, the so-called big data;
  • Software developers and programmers – to satisfy the need to operate the ever-capable machines and artificial intelligence applications;
  • Healthcare professionals – professions that require a human level of care and physical support are going to be in most demand (e.g., nurses and physical therapy specialists);
  • Cybersecurity specialists – when everyone and everything goes online (the Internet of things), the security of personal data and privacy are going to be of utmost significance;
  • Renewable energy technicians – to reduce CO2 emissions and replace fossil-fuel energy extraction methods, we’ll desperately need to speed up renewable energy production.

At the same time, certain jobs and roles will be less important and will ultimately become extinct, for example, traditional retail jobs, routine manual labor, administrative roles, data entry jobs, textile workers, and typesetting jobs, to name a few.  

Conclusion – Preparing for the Future of Work

To get ready for these changes and tackle the upcoming challenges, we need more than just the relevant knowledge and understanding. We need to embrace the new reality and start acting now, already today! 

Start with analyzing your current work, specialization, and skills by projecting them to what’s coming and identifying the possible knowledge and skills gaps. Perhaps, to stay competitive, you’ll only need to step up some of your skills, update yourself on certain things, and get new knowledge.

However, you may also require a more profound change in your career. For that, you’ll need to go to “school” again – take some training, online courses, hire a coach, etc. This may require you to also change your attitude toward yourself, your work, and studying as a continuous process.     

By incrementally changing our daily routine, we can get more resilient and more competitive in the job market of the future.