by Olivia Knutson
You can watch any television show you want, wherever you want. A stranger can pick up food from your favorite restaurant and deliver it straight to your door. You can get a ride to anywhere, from anywhere, at any time of day (or night!). All of this was unthinkable just a mere decade ago. The human experience has become drastically different from anything of the past. There has been massive innovation in all sectors, making our lives easier and simpler. But how does this bode for the job market? Will jobs of the future be more lucrative and engaging? Or will entire sectors go under? One thing is for certain- things will not stay the same.
Economists have established that this time period marks the beginning of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This marks a time of change that will introduce new, life-changing technologies. With this revolution in progress, the basic definition of work is being redefined. In previous eras, work involved tedious, repetitive tasks: sometimes involving back-breaking labor and long hours. As technology progresses, tasks involving manual labor will begin to be phased out. Work will involve more creativity and other innately human skills. This is both good news and bad news. The good news: workers in some positions will be able to reap the benefits of increased productivity and spend less time executing repetitive tasks. The bad news: workers engaged in middle or low-skilled jobs will likely see their jobs quickly transition to automation. Nearly 50% of all companies expect that automation will reduce their workforce. Most jobs in danger of being automated involve repetitive tasks or the gathering of information. By 2022, 62% information and data processing tasks will be performed by machines compared to 46% today- almost a 20% increase in only four years!) Additionally, middle or high-level white-collar jobs that have previously been considered “safe” are now projected to be impacted by automation: this category includes administrative assistants, accountants, and even lawyers.
There are four significant technological advances identified as major drivers of business growth: ubiquitous high-speed mobile internet, big data analytics, cloud technology, and artificial intelligence. These four technologies are likewise disrupting the job market, creating new high-paying jobs that are in high demand. In previous decades, high-paying and well-esteemed jobs included doctors, lawyers, and investment bankers. In the new era, the jobs are data analysts and scientists, software and application developers, and eCommerce and social media specialists. The future workforce does not yet realize the untapped potential in seeking these positions. There remains a lack of qualified applicants which creates a long-standing labor gap. These positions are significant career opportunities. Workers should be aware of these career paths to take advantage of the opportunities these new technologies bring.
While many new jobs involve the mastery of new technologies, there is another trend that may provide relief to workers who are not technologically savvy. This labor trend involves the utilization of basic human skills that cannot be replaced by machines or algorithms. These jobs include: customer service workers, sales and marketing professionals, training and development professionals, and human resource generalists. These jobs utilize innate social skills and communication strategies to interact with customers or colleagues. Even looking to the distant future, these jobs remain some of the safest options, as the skills needed to perform job-related tasks are difficult if not impossible to fully automate. Just as workers should adjust their career paths and education to take advantage of technological trends, workers should also focus on expanding “soft skills.” With the rise of technology, new generations are finding that although they can connect on a cyber level, they are finding less opportunities to connect in person or face to face. Future job-seekers should seek to improve their social and emotional skills. Skills such as these will always be in demand, even in a highly automated work environment.
As industries and markets change, workers must be informed about growing career paths. No matter where the job market leads, those who are informed will often rise to the top. My advice is to embrace new technologies while developing your natural skills. The need for creativity, ingenuity, and genuine human connection will be ever on the rise. As long as you possess these skills, it will be easy to navigate the future job market with relative success.
All data sourced from The Future of Jobs Global Challenge Insight Report from the World Economic Forum.