How to prepare for the jobs of the future: Learning, Love, Collaboration, Design


A little while back I was interviewed for a cover story on the jobs of the future for the Careers section of the Sydney Morning Herald.

Here are the sections of the article that drew on my thoughts:

According to the futurist Ross Dawson, the world of work has always required employees to be on the front foot.

“Jobs have always disappeared and others come up,” he says. “It’s just that the pace of change has become far faster than ever before.”

Dawson say there are two overarching issues to consider when predicting which jobs will survive the next change to the work world: remote work and automation.

Employees with an eye to the future should ask themselves, “Is it is possible this work could be automated?” and “Is it possible that this work could be done by somebody else somewhere else in the world?”, he says.

The answers to both questions may well shape our employment future. Dawson says automation is poised to steamroll forward to a point at which all call-centre work, for example, can be carried out by voice recognition.

Remote work is quickly moving beyond our comfort zone, he says.

“There is [already] mining machinery in the Pilbara driven by people in Perth hundreds of kilometres away,” he says.

Nonetheless, Dawson says that remote work has more positive than negatives for Australian employees.

“It doesn’t just mean you have competition,” he says. “It means you can do your job for anybody around the world, though some jobs will be lower-paid [eventually] than they have been.

“I think we’ll see global work as a fact of life in most industries and types of work with 10 years. We now have the bandwidth, we’re getting comfortable with the concept of working remotely we have the collaboration tools.”

Given the dawning realisation that most children of today will end up in jobs that haven’t even been invented yet, future-proofing one’s career may seem a fool’s errand. However, Dawson says, a successful worker of the future can be profiled. First, they will be someone who has “learnt how to learn”.

He says we should be self-teaching by setting ourselves tasks such as figuring out how to create a website in HTML, or teaching ourselves to read a menu in Spanish. “We’re finding people who have learnt how to learn know how to engage with a community and tap into others for support,” he says.

Dawson says we should find one thing we know and love, and become world-class at it, “otherwise, you become a commodity”. But you’ll also need people to share it with. “One of the absolute fundamental skills [of the future] will be the ability to collaborate,” he says.

When Dawson envisions careers of the future, he points to fields such as sustainability, community and design as safe bets.

“Not just graphic design; it’s about making everything from roads to playgrounds functional and beautiful,” he says.