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How to prepare for jobs that don’t yet exist

Try to predict what you’ll be doing in 20 years and you’ll likely guess wrong; especially when it comes to work. After all, the job you’re doing right now may not even exist in 2040. Do you think anyone in 1994 would know there would be positions available today such as “scrum master” or “data scientist ”?

While new jobs are always emerging, automation and robotics are changing the way we work. The technology is getting smarter and cheaper. No wonder machines are expected to displace about 20 million manufacturing jobs — or about 8.5% of the global manufacturing workforce — by 2030, according to a recent report from global forecasting firm Oxford Economics.

And manufacturing isn’t the only area where the future of work is unclear. “We seem to be building machines that aren’t just about adding muscle or automating routine tasks, but they seem to be doing wholly new different things,” notes McKinsey Global Institute’s chairman James Manyika.

Along with growing concern about job automation and whether there will be enough work left for humans, we continue to  grapple with the impact of artificial intelligence and the ready availability of data. Plus, the structure of work is changing; independent work, outsourced services, remote workers, and the gig economy are all surging.

In this context, then, the question remains: Are you prepared for the future of work? How do you train for a largely uncertain future? Two words: continuous learning.

Training for the Future of Work

Look at Amazon, arguably the No. 1 supply chain company in the world. The company earlier this month announced it will spend $700 million over the next six years to retrain a third of its US workforce. Its “Upskilling 2025” initiative is available to 100,000 workers to develop “more technical skills and an always-learning mindset.”

Focusing on technical skills, alone, isn’t enough. After all, McKinsey estimates “between 400 million and 800 million individuals could be displaced by automation and need to find new jobs by 2030.” Further, “of the displaced, 75 million to 375 million may need to switch occupational categories and learn new skills.”

How do you adapt? By developing soft skills and talents that support your ability to evolve nimbly. Instead of thinking about work from a purely skills-based perspective, focus on developing flexibility and an ability to embrace change. Demonstrate your love of continuous learning by becoming a lifelong learner in your chosen field.

Earlier this year, LinkedIn research suggested “strengthening a soft skill is one of the best investments you can make in your career, as they never go out of vogue . Plus, the rise of AI is only making soft skills increasingly important, as they are precisely the type of skills robots can’t automate.” The career development site identified five top soft skills for 2019:

  1. Creativity
  2. Persuasion
  3. Collaboration
  4. Adaptability
  5. Time Management

Obviously,  these aren’t the easiest skills to learn. You can get a degree in cloud computing or UX design, but some will argue that you’re either born creative or not. Taking that point of view is exactly the kind of change-resistance that is going to see someone else succeeding in the future of work instead of you.

Future-proof your career by accepting and adapting to change quickly. You might:

Develop creativity by bringing your whole self to work and fighting the impulse to conform. Watch Morgana Bailey’s TedTalk on The Danger of Hiding Who You Are.

Recalibrating  your expectations of what a career looks like will also help you reinvent yourself more efficiently when the time comes. To ready yourself for what’s next in your career, start confronting reality that no one really knows what the future holds. Best we can do is stay proactive and keep telling ourselves that it’ll all be OK.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn

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