3 Ways to Future-Proof your Career and Business
A robot delivered a meal twelve months ago. This automated takeaway, the world’s first, was received by a customer named Simone in the UK. In 2017 we also witnessed Saudi Arabia give the first “robot citizenship” to Sophia, a humanoid robot developed by Hanson Robotics in Hong Kong. The robots are no longer coming; they’re here.
Trend forecasts across the board are citing the entrance of automation and AI into the mainstream as one of the biggest trends for 2018. So what does this mean for work and business? These developments will completely transform the nature of employment. Possibilities that were previously the stuff of sci-fi novels and Futurama episodes are fast becoming a reality. Our generation is witnessing change at an overwhelming pace. Many of the jobs our parents did will no longer exist in a few years. On the other hand, many of the jobs we will be doing in a decade or two may not have been conceived of yet. How do you prepare for a future when you have no idea what it looks like? What is the smart move as an employee or as a business owner?
- Diversify your skillset.
Firstly, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Times are too unpredictable for that. Before you know it a robot will come past and sweep that basket out of your hands, and then how are you going to make an omelette?
The time when we chose a career for life are long gone. To dedicate ourselves, with unwavering loyalty, to one specific profession is an unwise move. As Sheryl Sandberg put it in Lean In, a career is “a jungle gym, not a ladder”.
Restricting yourself to an overly defined idea of what you do, whether as an employee or as a small business, can narrow your opportunities and restrict your own thinking. Pursuits that you consider hobbies may well be the creative skills that will be most in demand in the years to come. Why not be a lawyer who plays gigs at the weekend, an accountant who plans events or a school teacher who learns to code in their spare time? In these uncertain times, it’s all about the side-hustle.
- Focus on the human connection.
People are complicated. We are often too complex to fully understand each other and, at least for the time-being, we are too complex to be fully understood by computers. A study on the future of employment predicts that human-focused career paths are safest from automation. Recreational therapy topped the list of occupations that are least susceptible to computerisation and a large percentage of the professions that are least at risk was made up by therapeutic health professions. Complex human connection is not easy to replicate.
At the individual level, developing your people skills is a wise investment of time. Being able to engage with people, inspire confidence in your work and collaborate with others will continue to be necessary. In the workplace and as a business owner, in almost any field, it’s difficult to over-estimate the value of interpersonal skills. Skills in this area are extremely transferrable and there is not limit to how far they can be developed.
At the business level, offering people human connection or an experience that you can’t get on screen can prove to be a successful strategy. Meetup, an app that facilitates face-to-face connection for people with similar interests, was sold for $200 million this year. Ballie Ballerson, a giant ball bit par in London, has upgraded from a temporary pop-up to a permanent venue due to it’s popularity. Throwing plastic balls at a fellow human is not yet an experience that can be had through the phone or with a robot.
The rise of the experience economy is a trend that will continue into 2018. Incorporating the element of human connection into the service you provide, or facilitating the creation of positive memories engages customers emotions and is a prudent business move.
- Be unapologetically you.
This is much harder than it sounds. It takes a lot of work and a lot of courage. Work, to figure out what is ‘you’ as opposed to what your environment/family/society draws out of you and courage, to actually be you if it happens to be different from what your environment/family/society expect.
This ties the first two points together. Firstly, to pursue your genuine interests will naturally diversify your skillset. In this vast and exciting world, most people are interested by more than one thing. Pursue the interests that excite you the most; be the fullest expression of yourself. Secondly, being your authentic self opens up new depths of human connection. When you’re able to really show yourself to others, and be comfortable with that, you ooze trustworthiness; you attract people who are happy to work with you, buy from you and be around you.
The reality is, as you, you are irreplaceable. As an accountant you can be replaced by another accountant or perhaps eventually by a machine; as a delivery driver, the world has already witnessed a strange wheeled creature being trained to fulfil your role; but as a human being nobody else can be you, not a person, not a robot. You bring something to the world that no other human being in history ever did. Discover what that is and you’ll be timeless.