How to stop robots taking your job

The start of a new decade is the right time to take a look at how you can stay ahead of the game, as AI and automation start to play a bigger role in business says Michelle Gibbings.

I recently had someone ask me how to help them future-proof their job. Interesting question.  The term ‘future proof’ is often used in the technology and medical sectors, where it’s desirable to build products that retain their value and don’t quickly become obsolete. So, in terms of your job, it could make sense to think about how you can ‘future proof’ it. Eventually, all products become obsolete and get replaced by something else. Something that’s bigger, better and more innovative. It’s the same with jobs. Jobs come, and jobs go.

Research from multiple sources confirms that workplace change, largely driven by AI and automation, will result in new categories of jobs emerging, while others will partly or wholly disappear. The 2017 McKinsey Global Institute report found that almost half of today’s available work activities have the potential to be automated.

Their analysis, which surveyed 46 countries representing about 80 per cent of the global workforce, found that fewer than 5 per cent of occupations could be fully automated using currently available technology. However, about 60 per cent of occupations have at least 30 percent of activities that could be automated. Their conclusion was that most occupations will change in some way.

Already we are seeing robots do the work of humans in dispensing prescription drugs, researching judgements and case law, and analysing insurance claims—just to name a few. As a result, it makes more sense to focus on what you can do to future proof your career, because your career is more than just a product to be commoditised, and you certainly don’t want to become obsolete.

Seek new opportunities

What everyone agrees on is the current wave of change is creating new opportunities with new professions appearing. It’s also shifting the emphasis on skills and capabilities. This digital and automated world prizes curiosity, creativity, problem solving, initiative, adaptability and EQ. As well, the fastest-growing occupations will require higher-level cognitive skills in those areas, and 30 to 40 percent of jobs will require explicit social-emotional skills. Those so-called ‘soft skills’ are no longer nice to have, but imperative.

Find your learning edge

Continued career success requires a constant desire to learn so you stay relevant in your profession. You can’t just wait for someone to tell you what you need to learn. You need to be abreast of the latest thinking and ideas from your profession, and also from complementary professions. This requires a desire and willingness to go beyond the norm and what feels comfortable, to learn new things and experiment with the unknown.

Know your value proposition

Being future-ready requires you to deliberately construct and design your career. It’s being open to the inevitable change that is coming down the pipeline by understanding what it means for you and being ready for it. That’s only possible if you are aware of your unique value proposition and what you stand for.

Everyone brings certain skills and ways of operating to the work they do. Think of it as your unique selling proposition. It’s the value you deliver through the work you do, and it’s how you engage and lead. It’s what makes you stand out from everyone else. However, what’s valued by organisations changes over time. It’s therefore essential to be able to clearly articulate that value in a way that is meaningful, current and targeted.

You want to be able to explain how you can help an organisation, business or client achieve their objectives, and to demonstrate that you are ready and equipped for the future. When it comes to your career doing it right doesn’t mean there is only one way or one path to follow. It’s about being proactive and deliberate about the choices you make, so you lead your career in the way you want it to be led.

THE EXPERT
Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian. Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them get fit for the future of work. She is the Author of Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work and Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate your Career.
www.michellegibbings.com