“We have no idea what the job market will look like in 2050. It is generally agreed that machine learning and robotics will change almost every line of work…” Yuval Noah Harari – 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.
My wife and I recently welcomed our daughter to the world. She just turned three months old. I’ve made a bet with my wife, family, and friends that she will never need to learn how to drive a car in her life. In 18 years time, I fully expect self-driving cars to be the norm. Now when you look at that, how do you feel?
Some people when they see topics like automation and AI embrace it. Some people fear the change coming with it, maybe due to a lack of understanding what it all means. Worst of all though, people fear irrelevance.
Back in the early 20th century, workers were fighting against exploitation from their employers. Workers rights, hours, safety in the workplace were all the topics, but people still knew their skills were needed and valued. With the coming wave of AI and automation, now we don’t fear exploitation, we fear the skills we have learned for our job are becoming irrelevant… and that is much harder to fight against. This is nothing new though.
In the 19th century, a group known as Luddites fought against the industrial revolution and the machines it brought.
“Fears that automation will create massive unemployment go back to the nineteenth century and so far they have never materialized.” Yuval Noah Harari – 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.
In fact, for every job lost to automation, at least one replacement job was created, and often more jobs were created then those lost.
“Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, for every job lost to a machine at least one new job was created, and the average standard of living has increased dramatically.” Yuval Noah Harari – 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.
Is automation always a bad thing? Close to 1.25 million people are killed annually in traffic accidents, and human errors cause more than 90 percent of those accidents. Things like drinking alcohol, sending a text message, falling asleep at the wheel, etc. Would it not be insane to block automation technologies like self-driving cars when millions of people can be saved by it?
As Yuval Noah Harri says in his book 21 lessons of the 21st century: “Displaced drivers and doctors will just have to find something else to do.” And that’s where we get into, how do they find something else to do and discover new skills? In days of the past, you could learn one specialized skill and probably do that same thing for the rest of your career. That does not exist anymore.
“The idea that a persons education stops at around 25 is no longer relevant. Technology and jobs are quickly and constantly changing, and society needs to recognize education as a lifelong endeavor.” – Darrell M West – The Future of Work.
Skills have changed towards rapid development and continuous improvement. Our education system hasn’t even caught up yet. It’s kind of sad now, but when you enter a 4-year degree program, it’s possible by the time you graduate the skills you learned in the first couple of years are already out of date.
“The future of work won’t be about degrees. More and more, it’ll be about skills. And no one school, whether it be Harvard, General Assembly or Udacity, can ever insulate us from the unpredictability of technological progression and disruption.” – CNBC
So what can we do? You can choose to blame lost jobs on lousy trade agreements, lost manufacturing jobs or immigration but that won’t do anything. The threat to displaced workers goes far beyond these factors, and it is up to us to adapt and change. Our inaction will only make things worse.
Try this formula instead. While you can’t predict precisely what the future will bring you can make sure you are ready and always have the skills to future-proof your work life.
Almost every top performing person I’ve seen, who excels in their career or business is continually doing the following.
1) Scan the horizon for skills
Every six months, block out a few hours and go hunting on the job market—preferably looking at the leading companies in the world. The goal here isn’t to get a new job but to see what employers are looking for. What skills are sought after for the roles you would be interested in? Find the gaps you need to learn.
For example a few years back knowing that Agile methodologies we’re taking on in tech space I decided to learn Jira, an agile software tool. Through learning this new tool, I ended up being one of the first users to pilot it in the company I worked for. After a year of testing the device with great success, it ended up getting adopted throughout the company. I helped other users learn it and was widely recognized for it.
All because I searched for skills that the top companies we’re looking for, then the applied the steps below.
2) Always be learning
Once you’ve identified the skills you need to learn, here is an exact action plan to use to get them.
Research the top books on Amazon for the skill you want to learn and buy the 3 to 5 that are highest rated. Consume them, study them and takes notes on them.
Look up online courses for the skill you have selected. There are a lot of providers of classes these days with sites like Udemy, Coursera, and Udacity. Most are free or very cheap. Enroll in one or two of these.
Use websites like Meetup.com and Eventbrite.com to search out events in your area that talk about the skill you are trying to learn. It’s one thing to study on your own, but your learning will be amplified dramatically if you can find other people interested in it and learn from them.
Finally if cost permits, I would try to attend one professional conference for the skill you are learning. This is a great way to further connect and network with other like-minded individuals.
3) Embrace change, don’t resist it
This is not intended to sound preachy or all-knowing, but it’s well known that being adaptable and able to groove with change is one of the most essential skills to being successful. Most people when faced with a chance first have an emotional reaction. This is human nature.
A lot of times this reaction is fear as we don’t understand. Do your homework and take the time to understand the change and how you can adapt to it. After that exercise, the change coming is almost never as scary as it seems.
4) Teach the skill you’ve learned
Once you’ve mastered the new skill, what’s the best way to show it off to potential employers? Teach it. It’s easiest to start by writing blog posts on the subject. You can then create a following and tech it through videos, webinars, podcasts or any medium of your choosing. Slowly, over time you start to create a portfolio of your knowledge on the subject that could easily be used to show off to employers or gain your followers.
For example, I have a friend Josh who loves growth marketing. Some years back he created his meetup group in San Francisco to teach some cool things he had learned.
This grew to thousands of followers, branding him as an expert on the subject, leading to some cool jobs with great employers and eventually starting his own company. Many people will learn new skills but going the extra step of sharing and teaching what you know can propel you ahead of the rest.
5) Rinse and repeat
The formula for success and staying ahead is repetition. Set yourself up with the intentions to learn 1-3 new skills every year. If you do this, you’ll be as prepared as possible to take on the changes in our fast-changing world. Need help creating a system to stay on track? Try this quick tip and see how long you can last.