There’s an awful lot of doomsday chatter about the future of the workforce and how all our jobs will be replaced by robots by 2020. A lot of that might be true. The World Economic Forum’s 2016 Future of Jobs Report estimated that over 5 million jobs will be lost to automation by that time — and that number will only continue to grow. Your usual fallback jobs — you know those “safe bets” your parents always lectured you about: manufacturing, law, administrative, etc. — these will probably suffer the most cuts.
But the good news is this: In times of great change, there’s always room for the enterprising and entrepreneurial to clean up. It’s just that there will be new and different skills to master — skills that will be most valuable in a new economy and in a changing world.
Here are some of the top skills you’ll need if you want to get a leg up on the future of the workforce.
Tech skills will of course be in high demand, as will anything to do with “computational thinking.” If the world is being taken over by computers, you’ll need to think like one. Learn to manage and synthesize the massive amounts of data we already process daily — and make sense of patterns.
Jobs that will be fairly secure include: software developer, computer systems analyst, market research analyst and marketing specialist — among other positions. In short: Boost your analytical skills.
2. Soft Smarts
If you’re just not a techie person, never fear. It will take a very long time for robots to be as emotionally intelligent as people, or as socially savvy. Focus on social intelligence and literacy with new media forms and platforms and you’ll be just fine. Sales, marketing, customer service, etc. are all the new “safe bets.”
3. World Building
Virtual reality already feels like a retro technology, but it’s here to stay. And it’s appearing more and more in everyday use. If you have skills that can lead to creating, managing, and manipulating virtual worlds, you’re golden. Also, storytelling skills will prove to be invaluable. It’s not all CGI bells and whistles. Someone has to make the worlds believable.
Unfortunately, “being adaptable” isn’t really a thing you can get paid to do exactly, but it is a skill you’ll need for almost anything in the changing workforce. Expand yourself and your mind, get outside your comfort zone and stay there — comfort zones will be disappearing altogether.
Also make sure to learn and understand how deeply business works. Figure out ways to make a living as an independent contractor, or scout jobs in management analysis, accounting and auditing.
5. Constant Learning
With so much information, data and constant change, those who keep on top of the latest trends and information will have a major leg up. Don’t rest on the laurels of what you know. Keep learning, even if only in 10-minute chunks while commuting. Learn coding. Refresh your C++. Try a new language. And if you can do all this and teach or train, then you’re in great shape to stay employed.
Again, if you’re just not that into business or tech, remember there will always be a need for caregivers — especially as the human lifespan lengthens. You’ll be relieved to know that nearly half of the hottest sectors for jobs through 2025 are health care or caregiving related. Anything in the fields of medical tech, physical therapy, workplace ergonomics, veterinary medicine, etc. Even medical secretaries and medical assistants will stay employed.
7. Shallow Expertise
There will always be a need for specialists. But if you aren’t one, or you don’t care to become one, the new world will also require a host of people who can be ready to be a “shallow expert” on nearly anything at a moment’s notice. The sooner you can become well-versed on a wide variety of software programs, platforms, systems and services, the more likely you are to stay on top.