Evolving technology is giving birth to new and exciting careers. Gaining the right skills can set you on a path towards a dream job that doesn’t exist yet.
When discussing the future of work, it’s easy to focus on job loss. But what about all the new fields and professions to have popped up in recent years?
It wasn’t so long ago that nobody had even heard of big data architects, app designers, UX experts and social media managers, for example.
Rather than making grim predictions about the rise of the robots, La Trobe Futurist and co-founder of the Australian Futures Project Dr Fiona McKenzie explains how the changing world of work will lead to new and exciting employment opportunities in the future.
The human element
In 2016, CSIRO and Data61 released a report called Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce, in which they investigate Australian employment trends over the next 20 years.
The report speculates about the new types of jobs that may emerge due to impending technological and demographic changes, including ‘online chaperones’, ‘complex decision support analysts’ and ‘personalised preventative health helpers’.
A common theme among these futuristic professions is that they all rely on human capabilities, such as advanced analytics and pattern recognition, interpreting information, tactical and strategic thinking, and good people skills.
According to Dr McKenzie, this could be the key to job security and employability in years to come.
‘A study by the McKinsey Global Institute found that the hardest things to automate are things like social and emotional capability, coordination, and the ability to identify novel patterns,’ she says.
‘While we might not know what the roles are going to be called, we can think about where skills are likely to be needed or what the top skills might be.’
So if routine or repetitive tasks are the most susceptible to automation, what skills are inherently human, and therefore likely to be in demand in the future?
‘A lot of this is actually related to soft skills, or social, emotional and analytical skills. So things like complex problem solving, cognitive flexibility, creativity, negotiation, emotional intelligence, coordination and collaboration. They’re all very human traits, and will be strong skills to have.
‘So I don’t think people should be worrying that jobs won’t exist – there will be jobs. They may be different and the world may be different, but rather than being scared about that, we need to start thinking about how we can make the most of the exciting new opportunities.’
Taking control of your brand
If we’re going to take advantage of emerging job opportunities and remain employable in the face of the changing landscape, we need to be adaptable.
That means being flexible and open-minded in our approach to careers.
‘People need to see themselves as their own brand, and realise that they’re not defined by the jobs they’ve done, but by their purpose and capabilities,’ says Dr McKenzie.
‘If you’ve got a portfolio of jobs, ask yourself, “How do I tell the story of me? How do I take control back and represent myself as someone who’s adaptive and flexible and desirable from an employment point of view?”
‘It’s also about being smart and realising that the capabilities you have can actually go across a lot of roles, which I think is a really positive message.
‘So by having a suite of skills that include some of these more adaptive and transferrable capabilities, you’ll stand a better chance of enjoying more diverse, creative and fulfilling roles in the future.
‘That’s things like being able to deal with complexity, being flexible, being able to work in projects, and being able to work in teams.’
Preparing for the future
The earlier we start building the skills and attributes we’ll need to successfully navigate the changing world of work, the better.
At La Trobe, students can take advantage of programs such as Career Ready Advantage, which is designed to boost their employability and prepare them for working life.
‘If we don’t start having conversations now and understand what the future could look like, we’ll be less able to respond when that future unfolds,’ says Dr McKenzie.
‘The university has a number of programs and undergrad courses that approach future employment issues from a different angle, and show that they are thinking about how to best equip the students to deal with the changing nature of work.
‘That’s what I like about La Trobe – they’re not stuck in tradition.’
Once you’re in the workforce, a continued commitment to knowledge could open up new opportunities and make you more resilient in the face of challenges.
‘University isn’t just a three-year course and then you move on – we need to keep engaging across industry and academia, and to get people to an aptitude where they are able to keep learning throughout life.
‘If you’re taking responsibility for your skills development and really harnessing the capabilities you’ve got, then you’ve got a good future ahead of you.’