The New World of Work
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you will be aware that terms like ‘The Future of Work’ and ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’ have become some of the most click bait-able headlines on the inter-webs.
And you’ve probably also noticed that they are often followed by grim predictions of massive job losses as technology in various forms takes over from people in performing many different types of jobs, even some professional/managerial roles that not so long ago would have been considered immune from automation.
It’s scary stuff, and all too often written in a fatalistic tone that implies, if not openly suggests, we as individuals have limited capacity to respond to these concerns, leaving us and our careers to become the collateral damage of circumstances beyond our control.
Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that this is NOT another one of those grim tales of the coming jobs apocalypse.
Nope. I can’t see the point of that.
But equally I don’t see the point of suggesting that ‘there’s nothing to see here’ and that it’s all just going to work out fine, that humans will simply be liberated from boring, repetitive or dangerous work and enter a new golden era of leisure and abundant creative, interesting and rewarding work for everyone.
So what is my angle on this new world of work?
Well, like many things, I suspect the reality of this new world of work will land somewhere between the two extremes of ‘jobs apocalypse’ and ‘permanent vacation’.
But whatever the truth is, (and we probably won’t know until we get there!), I am confident that an attitude of ‘pragmatic optimism’ is going to be one of the most important assets for anyone navigating this new world of work.
So that’s my angle – ‘pragmatic optimism’ … and I invite you to share it with me!
No, in fact I implore you to share it with me! Not convinced? Read on!
- It’s not all doom & gloom! I’m no futurist, and I certainly don’t have a crystal ball, so I’m not going to pretend that I can predict where it’s all heading when even the experts can’t agree, but there is credible research pointing to the enormous potential for emerging technologies and changing demographics to CREATE jobs, not just automate or eliminate them. If you’re interested in getting a more balanced perspective on the future of work and these future jobs growth scenarios check out some of the recent articles and podcasts from Rhonda Brighton-Hall and the team at mwah.
You can take steps to ‘future proof’ your career in this new world of work.
- Focus on ‘Career Resilience’ not just ‘job security’: Of course, if we love our job and we’re good at it, we would all like to know that we’re going to be able to continue to do it. But as we rush headlong into the new world of work, we need to be awake to the possibility that whatever we do, things can change. So be wary of settling into a comfort zone that assumes your current job will be around forever, and instead focus on resilience and transferability of your skills and personal attributes – you are always more than just your (current) job!
- Have a ‘Growth Mindset’ and be a ‘life-long learner’: There’s a whole science behind these terms but for our purposes here, the simple point is ‘never stop learning’. No matter how good you are at what you do, stay open minded and absorb new ideas and information like a sponge. And the really cool thing about working with this kind of mindset is that it will not only help to ‘future proof’ your career, it can also make you a happier, healthier, more interesting person! What’s not to like about that?
- Know and nurture your brand: There’s a lot of people who are good at their job. There are a lot less people who are good at communicating that fact. Sure people that you work with directly, managers, colleagues and customers for example get to directly experience your awesomeness for themselves and that’s important, but beyond this circle of direct engagement people won’t pick up on how good you are by telepathy, they will be relying on your ability to effectively convey this message. Whether it’s in a network conversation, an interview or on social media you need to be able to sell yourself, and unless you’ve been working in sales or business development, selling anything, let alone ‘selling’ yourself, is going to feel weird. It’s a skill that takes time and effort to master, so the sooner you get started the better!
- Build relationships: Don’t get me wrong, I understand the appeal of the whole ‘lone wolf’ thing, the satisfaction of knowing your achievements are your own, the simplicity of neither giving nor expecting anything from anyone. But at the end of the day we are all better people, and better professionals, when we are connected to a community. So, whether it’s friends, family, colleagues or connections build a network of advisors, mentors and supporters around you.
- Be open to new ways of working: Whether it’s contracting, building a portfolio career, or tapping into the gig or share economy, there are now many different ways of working. If you’ve always been in traditional full-time permanent jobs, it’s understandable that that’s going to be your default option and that’s fine, but don’t cut yourself off from other options that might emerge, you never know where it can take you!
- Be Absolutely (& awesomely!) Human! It seems kind of obvious to say that in order to do our best work we need to be our best self, but with the pressures and stresses of life it’s so easy to forget this simple truth, or at least forget to give it the priority it deserves. And that’s not good for us, or our careers, because apart from being happier and healthier, when we embrace and nurture ourselves and our unique humanity, we are also reinforcing our capacity to do the kinds of things that computers, (and in fact, any other non-human entity) cannot do! Many jobs now, and even more so into the future will require uniquely human social and emotional qualities like empathy, and cognitive capabilities like logical reasoning, creativity and imagination, so being awesomely human is going to be good for you, and good for your career!
Ok, so how to round this all out?
Well firstly I hope you can grab and run with some of the tips I’ve offered here. Make them your own and apply them in whatever way makes sense for you and your career journey.
… And whatever your career journey, I’ll finish by again inviting you to embrace an attitude of ‘pragmatic optimism’ as you, as we all, approach this new world of work. It’s real and it’s happening now, so don’t wait for someone to have ‘the answer’ and don’t be overwhelmed by uncertainty, just keep moving forward, pragmatically, optimistically and humanly!