By Sarah Binney
It probably won’t come as a surprise to hear the job landscape is significantly different from what it was ten – or even five – years ago. Rapid technological change, innovation, automation, generational shifts in the workforce and the economic downturn are just a few factors shaping the ‘new economy’ where new skills and digital literacy are overtaking traditional education and knowledge as employer ‘must haves’.
As a young professional looking to land my dream job, my entire job search strategy has been shaped by the implications of this new economy, where tech skills reign supreme and ‘Internet Explorer’ competencies matter as little as yesterday’s newspaper. This is further amplified by my impending move to the ‘concrete jungle where dreams are made’, a city of intense competitiveness with an uncanny knack for soul destroying rejection. I’m guessing Alicia Keys and Jay Z have never had to contemplate taking on a job that pays as little as $10 an hour just to meet the demands of astronomical rent prices and an overwhelming penchant for gourmet bagels.
Whether in New York or Brisbane, one thing remains the same. Traditional career paths have been irreversibly shaken up and all students and graduates must now consider how to sell themselves to potential employers through knowing their skills, establishing their personal brand and becoming a valuable commodity in an age of decentralised workplaces and digital disruption.
Here are the 10 things you should do now to prepare for the #futureofwork
1. Know yourself
Many people may not realise the importance of self-awareness when planning their career, and how this can assist in their job search. This knowledge is becoming even more important for the future. Primarily, self-awareness refers to your values, your work environment, culture preferences, your abilities, skills and strengths and your interests (or as I like to think, things that would get you excited for work on a Monday). The better you understand yourself and the type of work situations that suit you, the happier and more productive you will be. Furthermore, the stronger your ability to identify and speak confidently about your skills, strengths and values, the more you are able to promote yourself to employers. There are a number of ways you can do this, and the method that resonates with you will likely be different to that of your peers. You can start by reading more about Career Direction on our website, taking a personality test to help match you with potential career paths (I like this one which was formulated on Myer-Briggs and Jung personality typology), and reading books like Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath (which can help you identify and understand your strengths and know how they may be used in the workplace).
2. Become comfortable with digital literacy
One of the biggest things you will need in the future is digital literacy. Digital literacy means keeping updated with new platforms, technology and media, learning how to code, and/or updating your skills to match the technological environment of your field. For example, many journalists in shrinking newsrooms (a product of the digital age) are now expected to have basic coding, photography and video skills along with traditional writing and interviewing skills. Know the expectations of your industry – a degree isn’t always enough.
Tip: Coding was a hot topic at the recent Australian Association of Graduate Employers (AAGE) conference, with Educators Technology calling it one of the essential literacies in the 21st century.
3. Build your social capital
There’s mileage in developing your people skills – your ability to communicate effectively, work well in a team and build strong relationships. Not only is technology yet to replace ‘high touch’, human contact roles – which suggests ongoing job opportunities in these areas – but most jobs are now filled by word of mouth, referral and recommendation. If you want to future-proof your career, keep building your people skills and networks through attending industry events, using LinkedIn and conducting informational interviews.
4. Build your social intelligence
The ability to connect with people and build relationships will remain a critical competency in the future, with deep social skills transcending the culture of automation and outsourcing. Social intelligence – a soft skill – is consistently cited by employers as essential when recruiting future staff. A positive attitude, collaborative approach, self-confidence and ability to time manage, communicate, problem solve and negotiate are critical to succeeding in the workplace and flourishing in your career.
5. Be flexible
According to The Guardian, the corporate ladder is being replaced by a corporate lattice – i.e. a more collaborative and flexible working environment in which companies have ‘flattened out’, losing several layers of management in favour of a more grid-like structure where ideas flow across horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines. This might involve hot-desking, ideas workshops and regularly switching teams, giving employees more freedom to operate under minimal supervision. This model also provides greater opportunities for young professionals and is contributing to multiple career changes and people working for many employers. The Foundation for Young Australians predicts an average career path will now include 17 different jobs. Furthermore, there is a greater capacity for freelancing and remote working models, in which the traditional 9-5 office environment is replaced with greater workplace flexibility and performance measured by outputs, rather than hours. The ever changing workplace and invention of new jobs means above all, you must be flexible. Learning to navigate change itself is going to be a key skill.
6. Learn which jobs will become automated
A study by the McKinsey Global Institute predicted that, by 2025, robots could jeopardise between 40 million and 75 million jobs worldwide. This is a scary statistic, but the upside is that automation has taken over dull, repetitive jobs freeing us up for creativity. The more transactional the activity, the more likely it is to be automated e.g. the self-serve checkouts in supermarkets. This means many areas of manual work are being affected, and some white collar jobs as well. The key is to identify which jobs and skills will exist in the future. Some key examples are healthcare, engineering, writing and anything that requires creativity, imagination and human interaction.
7. Keep up to date with industry changes
It’s important to keep current with changes in your industry to ensure you gain the necessary skills to stay viable. If a large part of your current job involves data entry or anything easily automated in the future, it might be time to think about how to upskill and prepare for inevitable changes. Self-education will be critical moving forward. Perhaps industry trends are predicting increased demand for certain skills in your field? Knowing these things will keep you ahead of the curve and ensure you remain employable well into the future. A great place to start is by joining a professional association, reading online forums and industry newsletters, attending professional development events, following workplace leaders on LinkedIn and conducting informational interviews with key people in your industry to find out what they’re looking for in future employees.
Once you know where your industry is headed, what skills will be needed in the future, and what your long term goals are (once you complete the self-assessment exercises), you can begin to narrow down what skills you want to start adding to your repertoire. You might want to learn video editing, programming or how to devise a social media strategy. It is likely there are short courses in your area, or online courses you can do (like Lynda.com or Coursera.org). Perhaps you’ve decided you want to work in a global company with the opportunity to travel – learning a second language could be invaluable and will always be looked upon favourably by employers. Once you’ve learned some new skills and want to put them into practice, why not try volunteering for a not for profit? There are lots of volunteering opportunities which you can put your skills to good use for a good cause!
9. Personal branding
Personal branding is increasingly important in the digital age, as people move between jobs, freelance and sell themselves as the ‘product’ to employers. Ultimately, your personal brand is what you want to be known for. Articulating this will inform decisions about where you should work and will be represented across your social platforms, such as LinkedIn, and your professional website. Take the opportunity here to tell your story – what makes you unique, what value can you bring to a company and what left of field skills or qualities do you have that makes you stand out to an employer? This Forbes article is a good start to get you thinking about your personal brand.
Maybe one day we’ll get to fly hoverboards to work. And not the kind that catch on fire.