Future-proofing careers: How to stay relevant for tomorrow's workforce

June 8, 2016

 

 

I am often asked to deliver keynote presentations to educators, career advisors, and executives on the future job market. What jobs will remain, and which ones will soon no longer exist?

 

What we know is that 44% of Australian jobs (5.1 million current jobs) are at risk from digital disruption in the next 20 years. At the same time, 75% of Australia’s fastest growing occupations require STEM Skills - Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. Studies on employees in the UK have shown that more than 93% of workers require at least some level of digital skill (with 56% requiring high level digital capacity), and the demand for such skills is only going to increase.

Yet digitalisation is not the only thing affecting the change in tomorrow’s job market. Population trends both nationally and regionally are redefining Australia. Demographic and social trends, such as emerging cultural diversity, the implications of an ageing population, household transformations, and increased mobility are creating significant changes. Workforce trends such as teleworking, tenure shifts, multi-career expectations, and emerging attraction, retention, and engagement factors are informing the demands on 21st century workers.

 

As these technological, generational, educational, and demographic shifts redefine job demands, it’s more important than ever before for individuals to be innovative, collaborative, proactive, and responsive to ensure they remain future-proofed for tomorrow’s workforce.

Below are my top tips for students to stay afloat amidst the ever-changing job market, and for educators to take on board as they prepare their students for the changing world of work. 

 

1. BE INNOVATIVE

In the next 10 years, there will be significant shifts to the labour market. There is a basic reality around job functions in developed economies with a relatively high cost of labour: everything that can be automated, will be automated, and every role that can be offshored to lower cost-base countries will be offshored. However, technology and business innovation will create new and diverse roles in areas that technology can’t compete. Roles that require creative input, people-focus, leadership skills or high-level communication talent can be futureproofed as they are not be effectively replaceable by technology.

 

2. BE COLLABORATIVE

It’s important not just to focus on academic outcomes but the people skills; not just the learning, but on the ability to work well with others. 1997 was the first year in which we began spending more time looking at screens than in in face to face interaction, and today, individuals spend over 10 hours on screens every day. In tomorrow’s job market, if someone has a good ability to communicate, motivate, and engage – they’ll go far.

 

3. BE PROACTIVE

In today’s flat-structured work environments, people need to be self-leaders and managers and stay self-directed. In previous decades it was the norm to have a very structured workplace with a chain of command where employers were looking for compliance rather than proactive innovation. Today there is the need for a self-starter mentality in every organisation – for employees at all levels to take charge and show proactive initiative.

 

4. BE RESPONSIVE

It’s important to keep eyes on the external environment. Individuals who can not only remain experts at their craft but extend their knowledge to various domain areas will stay future-proofed. A career that is future-proofed may in fact by its very nature change and adjust nearly every year. Be responsive and observe what’s happening around you.

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