The World Economic Forum calls it the Fourth Industrial Revolution. What they’re talking about is the fusion of physical and digital technology, the rise of machine learning and the very real prospect of humans, not to put too fine a point on it, becoming obsolete. Yikes.
Experts differ on how fast this will happen. Will we move to a Universal Basic Income while robots do all the work? Which industries will be the first to fall? How should we hedge your career bets and brace for change?
It’s tempting to run to the forest, hole-up with lots of canned food and wait for Skynet, but there are some practical steps you can take to future-proof your career. No matter what that career might be.
1. Embrace change
The first step to dealing with anything is to accept it. The workplace will change, but that’s nothing new. It’s been changing for hundreds of years. If you travelled back to 2005 and tried to explain Facebook, Digital Nomads, Uber, AirBnB and VR to people, they’d think you were nuts. Instead of fearing change, look for opportunities. What parts of your industry are shifting? What skills will people need in five year’s time? Where are the gaps in the market?
2. Become tech fluent
You’ve probably heard it before: every company is a technology company now. Law firms are recruiting AI bots for document management and legal drafting. Hospitals use deep learning to improve the speed and accuracy of X-Ray readings. That doesn’t mean everyone needs to master code – you’ll just need different levels of tech-fluency, depending on your role. Business strategists need to understand how emerging tech is disrupting their business model. Marketers should be across new audience listening tools, programmatic advertising and analysis metrics. It doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. RMIT runs a bunch of digital transformation short courses that’ll help you get up to speed.
3. Diversify your skill-set
Learning tangential skills isn’t seen as “above and beyond” anymore, it’s necessary. Hitachi’s president Brian Householder spoke about this. He said companies need to create a culture where employees embrace learning all the time, as an ongoing process (not necessarily knuckling down for a 3-year bachelor degree). “It gives you the best opportunity to succeed,” he says. “Because we could get the smartest people in the world to figure out the kinds of skills that we need, and I guarantee that we’re going to get most of it wrong.”
The one thing the theorists don’t disagree on is change. Change is coming, and it’s probably going to be faster, bigger and more unpredictable than people realise. That’s not to say the future is bleak, it just looks different.
Accept that and you’re halfway there.