How to survive — and thrive — in the new world of work
It can feel a little mind-boggling when trying to get your head around these statistics: one author estimates that 65 % of children in elementary school will end up working in jobs that don't exist today (source). Another report says 85 % of the jobs we'll be applying for in 2030 have yet to be invented (source).
The explosive innovations arising from today's technological revolution are changing the world — and the world of work — much like the Industrial Revolution transformed society more than 200 years ago. And, just as a medieval weaver more than 200 years before that Revolution would have been gobsmacked at the thought of a single loom turning out bolt after bolt of cloth, many of us today may struggle to get a handle on the giant technological leaps that are changing, well, everything.
The future of work is coming fast. But how do you prepare for a job that isn't here yet?
The answer may be surprisingly old-fashioned, says Jennie Gilbert, a consultant, corporate trainer and instructor with SAIT's School of Business professional and leadership programs. "Pick something you love and start there," she says. "The fact that the job doesn't exist yet may be a wonderful opportunity for you to design your next job."
The Canadian workforce is transforming into a gig economy at a surprising rate. More often, employers are turning away from hiring permanent employees and instead hire "gigs," or short-term, contract positions, to fill skill and work gaps within their organizations.
"The idea of the '9 to 5' job where you go to an office and sit at a desk and perform the same role for 20 years is gone," says Julian Hallett (BBA '03), Regional Business Development Manager at BOWEN, a Calgary human resources firm. "With the new gig economy and a fluid workforce, people are finding things that they're passionate about and very highly skilled in. We're getting into this 'right place, right time,' on-demand workforce."
For gig workers, this means trading job security, health benefits and predictable income for flexibility, personal growth and control over their careers. In this environment, accepting that change is a constant will help you be successful.
"For so long, we have set change up to be a big hairy monster," says Gilbert. But change doesn't have to be scary. Know that it's coming, be ready for it and take it all step-by-step. As you're navigating change, remember to be nice to yourself. "Don't undermine your own self-confidence, practice self-compassion and set yourself up for success," she says.
Hallett admits it can be daunting trying to stay on top of ever-higher waves of technology. Even Bill Gates can't predict all the precise technological developments that will advance every sector of the economy, from creating code for the latest dating app to producing the solar power you can use to keep your Xbox running. But one thing is certain — it's crucial to stay agile.
"Overall, the general concept for success is having that openness and willingness to learn," says Hallett. "Whether you're in the twilight years of your career or the ramping up phase, stay open to new ideas and new technology."
In a recent Alumni News article on launching your career, An Tran, a career advisor with the SAIT Student Employment and Career Centre, recommends looking for innovative ways to gain new skills.
"Volunteering develops important transferable skills," she says. "Look for opportunities within community organizations and don't forget to add this experience to your resume. It shows that you're working while you're on the hunt for a job."
Tran also recommends widening your job search. "Try expanding your search criteria to increase your chances of finding an opportunity that will jumpstart your career. Be open to entry-level positions, consider jobs other than full-time positions and don't restrict your search to a specific industry," she says. "Sign up for My Career Hub for access to our online job board, career advisors and information on employment workshops, networking events and upcoming career fairs."
Another big factor for success down the road hasn't changed since the days of that weaver peddling his wares: developing and maintaining good, solid relationships. "You can be super connected and have 5,000 followers on Instagram but that doesn't mean you're going to be any further ahead," says Hallett. "You have to find ways to make real human relationships and be able to find ways to add value to the relationship."
Gilbert agrees. Understanding and working with people is your "hidden superpower," she says. People skills will always be an important factor in any career.
"Don't be scared of making connections, of networking and positioning yourself around people who know more about things than you do," says Hallett. "You don't have to be the expert in the room. You just have to know an expert."
He suggests people with different skills and levels of experience can help each other out. An older person who may be terrified of technology can "find a geek" to help demystify a new program or app. And someone who remembers communicating with people before texting can help a younger worker understand "the art of the phone call."
As kids currently in elementary school grow up and move up into junior high, high school and post-secondary, the jobs of the future will also begin to emerge and evolve. But, regardless of these newly invented position titles and job descriptions, it's 100 % certain that tomorrow's workers will still need to adapt to change, embrace new technologies and employ some of the same old school skills their parents and grandparents once used to succeed. "We're high tech," says Hallett. "And we need to maintain high touch."
Written by Jennifer Allford