Preparing for jobs that don’t exist… yet

By: Dorothy Dalton Follow

International Talent Management Consultant | Exe

As we have previously discussed, the global pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation process for many organizations which have been slow to invest in tech. #WFH has helped reshape the thinking around the way we physically work and the location we work from, as we search for a better normal. Emerging technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and augmented reality are creating whole new industry sectors. New jobs are being created regularly to meet these new and hitherto unheard-of activities.

Implication for career planning

The implications for career planning have become much more nuanced than before. Back in the day we chose a specialist field and planned a linear trajectory – upwards of course, if we could.

I’m no stranger to career pivoting and transition, and have made a number of conscious decisions to change direction. The first was a sector shift from a declining industry (steel) to a growth industry (television.) The second was a functional pivot from a senior HR role, (number two in a department of 29) to become a “feet on the street” sales rep in Luxembourg with zero sales and language skills, or reports. That move did absolutely nothing for my feet, but going backwards to move forwards proved to be invaluable.The third was combining my HR and sales experience to start my own business going full circle to my HR roots.

But in all cases the roles and sectors were known to me as well as everyone else and existed at the time.

New jobs

The jury is out on how many jobs will be lost (The World Economic Forum suggests 85 million) and new ones created (97 million,) but all experts agree that a high percentage of roles that will exist in 2030, do not exist at the moment. Obsolete jobs could also be replaced by new ones that may also require more sophisticated tech skills. The frequently quoted example is the demand for Blockchain Developers which increased by 517% in 2019 according to Hired, offering some of the highest salaries in the tech sector and an explosion of training courses to meet those demands.

Other jobs will change significantly as the dynamic between humans, software and machines shifts. McKinsey research indicates only 5% of jobs can’t be automated at all and approximately 33% of tasks will be carried out by machines or algorithms.

The World Economic Forum Skills for 2025, show 8 out of 10 top skills are the new “power” skills, that is soft skills. 50% of the global workforce will need re-skilling by 2025, even those who stay in their current jobs.

So we will all have to change, like it or not, or get left behind. The reality is that change is never easy. Being tuned into new trends and also anticipating them, will now be layered on top of old school basic considerations such as deciding to change function or location.

What do you need to do to handle the pace of change?

1. Stay in touch with the market

It will be more important than ever to stay in touch with trends and market place innovation. In my own case it was evident that the steel industry was in decline. It was a major political issue in South Wales where I lived at the time, so I can’t claim to be an amazing visionary on that one, but I did move early which was probably on the smarter side. It was never going to end well.

Staying abreast of all updates on the future of work, and reading business, engineering and tech articles is going to help you stay in touch with economic trends and business developments. This can allow you make preemptive decisions where you have choice, rather than being forced to make a change.

2. Continuous learning

One of the longest standing arguments for career success has been to commit to your chosen field, pursue excellence and hone your skills. Today, we are seeing a change in that thinking. David Epstein in his book “Range: Why generalists triumph in a specialized world” looks at how generalists survive and thrive in complex and uncertain environments. Generalists often find their place later rather than earlier and experiment with a number of different interests before they settle on a chosen field. This puts them in a better place to be more creative and agile, and to make connections that their more specialized peers can’t see.

In the future of work the ability to learn will be a key skill which will become your ultimate workplace safety net. Heather E. McGowan a workplace futurist, suggests that this skill is our “future pension.”

So no matter what our job, we all really do need to keep learning. We can do this by:

  • Listening to Podcasts, reading, networking, engaging on-line with people who know what they are talking about. Give a hard pass to the ones that don’t. This is where the real challenge lies today sorting out opinion from fact.
  • Taking courses – the upside of COVID is that many organisations are providing training opportunities for free, or at a low cost. Find out what works best for you. I followed the herd to discover that am the only person in the world who didn’t like the Yale Science of Happiness course. It might suit you.
  • Volunteering – Knowledge comes from learning and skills come from experience. Volunteering offers huge options to acquire new experience and therefore skills.

 3. Broaden your experience

Another key skill will be versatility. The ability to switch between functions and challenges, will now be linked to the concept of continuous learning. Having a broad range of experience to give you a holistic view of the way organisations and business are run will become a future helpful tool.

4. Get out of your own way

The global pandemic has forced many of us to review the way we see life and where the notion of work sits for us individually, in relation to our overall goals. But central to that is having goals and a clear strategy to reach them in the first place. This is particularly relevant to women. At a time when women’s participation in the workplace is reducing because of COVID19 a proactive strategy is more critical than ever. Research from 3Plus carried out in 2020 suggests that only 50% of women have career strategies. In a recent international online workshop I ran, only one out of 22 women had a career strategy. The first gold rule of job search is understanding that the universe will probably not speak to you. You are the universe.

Research from Jobvite cited by HCIM in the study “60 Recruitment Benchmarks Every HR Professional Needs to Know” suggests that 29 is the average number of applicants companies receive per open requisition. This is quite a low number and indicates that either the profile requirements are possibly too tight or the recruitment process is limited in another way. The same study also shows that 40% of hiring managers say that the skills gap will be their top hurdle in 2021. (Source: Monster)” There is a disconnect here somewhere.

This means that HR professionals, recruiters and hiring managers are going to have to be more flexible in their approaches to bringing in new talent. That could include involving Talent Development in the recruitment process. Hiring for attitude and potential may even become something more than a social media meme.

For job seekers those who are strategic, look at the market with foresight and are willing to put themselves out there, change will always be possible.

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