As the pandemic’s effects on jobs and careers become more apparent, many are beginning to focus on what’s next.
As recruiters, we often get asked what the jobs of the future are likely to be. People also naturally want to know what skills they should acquire in order to get these jobs.
Let’s face it.
With the acceleration of digitalisation in the Covid-19 era, many job functions that currently exist may be automated in the near future.
The HR leaders we speak with say that roles such as call centre staff or sales order processing personnel could become obsolete as businesses move towards using tools such as chatbots more extensively.
In the hospitality sector, considering fears of another pandemic, we might see establishments move towards a greater use of robots to deliver room service or cleaning services.
Delivery staff that are in great demand during lockdowns in countries around the world today might, in the near future, be replaced by drones. Sure, more research needs to be done to figure out how to operate drones on a large scale and how cost-effective they are, but could this mean that delivery personnel would become redundant too in the next five to ten years?
While some jobs will disappear, others will be created or at least become more commonplace.
It’s logical that technology will underpin most, if not all jobs in the near future, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that demand for certain tech-based personnel has increased as a result of Covid-19.
For instance, we’re seeing a rise in companies hiring Cyber Security Specialists to be able to safeguard networks as more enterprises adopt remote working arrangements in the short to medium-term.
There’s also a higher demand for Data Analysts, Artificial Intelligence Specialists, Cloud Computing Specialists and Developers and Digital Transformation Consultants.
THE RELEVANCE OF HUMAN SKILLS
There is a fear in some quarters that if technology and AI can take over most functions in the future, human skills will become irrelevant.
When deciding on the next step in your career journey, think about what functions machines are not likely to be able to execute in the near future.
Many companies are looking for people with a mix of transferable and soft skills as they move into a new era. Machines aren’t always perfect and at this point at least, they need to be programmed by humans to carry out various functions.
Human involvement and judgement in problem-solving, design thinking for innovation, project management and leadership are still considered vital.
In determining what’s next, we have to focus on sensory and critical thinking functions that technology alone cannot execute.
For instance, Covid-19 has also shown us that more manpower is needed in the Care sector.
A report published in January this year by the World Economic Forum showed that many of the emerging professions will be in the Care Economy and the People and Culture sector.
These are areas in which some functions can be automated, but the human touch, nuanced analysis and assessment are needed to provide services optimally.
Human Resources is another such area. You might be able to automate payroll, claims, and learning but what about when it comes to customising and creating content for learning or managing conflicts among staff?
AN UNPREDICTABLE FUTURE
New job roles have also emerged as a direct result of Covid-19 including Social Distancing and Safety Consultants and Managers.
A few months ago, who would have thought we’d need these.
This actually shows that we really can’t accurately predict what skills and jobs will be required in the future.
We have to be prepared for a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) future.
This means that professionals and businesses have to constantly reframe, recalibrate and pivot according to changing circumstances and needs.
Therefore, to stay employable, workers need to focus on their attitudes and mindsets rather than skills alone.
The skills you acquire today could easily become obsolete, leaving you rudderless, unless you’re primed for agility.
SELF-AWARENESS AND A LOVE FOR LEARNING
Going forward, what needs to be urgently cultivated is a love for learning. When it comes to picking up new skills, transform your fear into enthusiasm.
Learning shouldn’t just be seen as a means to an end. It’s a process of lifelong self-discovery that gives you personal satisfaction, helps you accomplish your goals and also keeps you employable.
So how can we ensure that people learn continually and not only when their jobs are threatened?
Career coaches often begin with self-awareness.
Think about what you’ve been doing for the past few years. What about it did you enjoy? What didn’t you enjoy? What are your interests? What are your strengths?
Next, look at which growth sectors might benefit from these.
Think about the problems that these sectors are facing. How can you help solve them with your existing skills and additional skills that you can pick up? What value can you offer to a prospective employer? What fresh perspectives can you offer?
Reach out to companies in these sectors and tell them about your ideas.
The economic impact of Covid-19 has been described as unprecedented. It’s conceivable that you may not get your dream job right away. Many might also have to contend with being under-employed for a period. However, even this can be viewed positively. At least you’ll be getting an income in the interim. Also, transferable skills such as problem-solving can be honed at any job.
THE POWER OF BEING A GENERALIST
Vikram Mansharamani, a lecturer at Harvard University and author of the book “Think for Yourself: Restoring Common Sense in an Age of Experts and Artificial Intelligence” said in a recent commentary on CNBC that no specific skill will get you ahead in the future, but thinking like a “generalist” will.
“To begin, it’s important to zoom out and pay more attention to the context in which you’re making decisions. Read the whole paper, not just the section about your industry. Is your primary focus oil and gas? Study the dynamics affecting the retail sector. Are you a finance professional? Why not read a book on marketing? Think bigger and wider than you’ve traditionally done,” he says.
He also recommends thinking about “how seemingly unrelated developments may impact each other, something that systems thinkers do naturally. Study the interconnections across industries and imagine how changes in one domain can disrupt operations in another one.”
This gives you a set of tools to draw from, hone your critical reasoning skills and to “dynamically adjust” your actions as the environment changes.
He cites how organisations like Google encourage “multi-functional” experience. “Employees jump from team to team and from role to role.”
In fact, Lisa Stern Hayes, one of Google’s top recruiters, said that Google values problem-solvers who have a “general cognitive ability” over role-related knowledge.
This allows people to survive and thrive in a continually evolving environment.
In this spirit, when considering the next step in your career, we also recommend not thinking vertically. Lateral moves and cross-industry moves – sometimes even without vertical advancements – can be good for your career.
An unpredictable future requires a different approach. The old ways of ensuring career longevity don’t apply anymore. Having the right mindset about change would get you much further.
(The above article explains in greater detail views expressed by Jaime Lim, Group Business Leader, PeopleSearch Singapore in a radio interview on MONEY FM 89.3)