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Preparing yourself for the future of work

Changing workforces and job roles will only be a challenge if we fail to prepare ourselves

AI is taking over many routine tasks. During the Industrial Revolution the Luddites thought machines destroyed jobs, and they were half right, but they also create new ones.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty says 10% of jobs will go, but “the change in technology would lead to 100% of jobs changing in all industries”. It is incumbent on the industrious and ambitious to think about their employability and focus on career management.

What happened to the telex operator, Blockbuster Video, and Blackberry? In 2000 the CEO of Blockbuster declined the opportunity to buy Netflix thinking it a "very small niche business". In May 2018 Netflix had a market cap of approximately $151.43 billion, adding 7.41 million subscribers internationally in the first quarter of 2018.

Algorithms and AI

Technology is powerful; just ask Alexa, Cortana and chatbots everywhere. When Edwina Dunn and Clive Humby enabled the Tesco Clubcard they transformed retail. AI won’t displace humans but it will change the labour market and the tasks we perform, with obvious personal and societal implications.

I believe what you need for sustainable career success is IQ (not too much), EQ and LQ learning agility.

EQ, because empathy and relationship-building are skills AI doesn’t currently possess. Indeed’s former EMEA economist Mariano Mamertino says occupations that will be harder to automate "often involve managing and developing people" and "decision-making and strategic planning, or creative work". Healthcare, for instance, requires strong interpersonal and communication skills that you won't get from a robot. There’s much evidence to show drug-prescribing robots are more efficient than humans but it takes more than expertise to show empathy.

Learning agility (LQ) matters because curiosity, openness to novelty, and appreciation of diversity in a globalised world are crucial in building interconnected networks on a professional and personal basis. Reid Hoffman, co-founder and former executive chairman of LinkedIn, highlights the responsibility of employers to help employees build networks so they benefit from collaboration.

The secret of employability

How do you know where to invest in terms of your career? Former ice hockey player and head coach Wayne Gretzky said the secret to his success was in skating to where the puck was going to be. The older we get the less likely we are to invest in personal development; it’s not getting older that makes you liable to redundancy but failing to invest in your skills and education.

Lifelong learning and investing in yourself are crucial. Choose a job that does not require algorithms as most repetitive processes will be replaced by AI. Consider driverless cars and what they mean for cabbies who don’t have a plan B.

Appreciating in value as an employee entails a proactive approach to career management and building networks to prepare for change and disruption. Ask yourself:

  • Does your network understand your career aspirations?
  • Have you invested in your network so your contacts owe you favours – networking is a reciprocal game.
  • Is what your network says about you consistent with your career aspirations?

Most people spend more time planning a holiday than they do their career, drifting into jobs without real mission or purpose. Self-awareness enables alignment of personal values and career engagers.

My tips for the future of work are:

Don’t worry about robots but invest in yourself so as to be in demand five years from now.

Understand yourself and what makes work meaningful for you.

Build your network – they can tell you where that puck is going.

Michael Moran is CEO of 10Eighty. This article is based on a talk he gave to senior leaders at Rabobank in September 2018