Could a Robot Do Your Job?

Last night Iwe saw a play called Sweat. It was all about a community of people who had a very decent standard of living by working in factory jobs, but after NAFTA, the factories closed, moved to Mexico, and the parents, the children, and the entire community spiraled into terrible decline. Their quality of life was lost with their jobs when these factories chose cheaper labor in other countries, and it made me think about how technology has the potential to remove or change many jobs as well. The challenges this presents are even more striking today, and can be seen in our various cultural outlets. Artists, media producers, and thought leaders are decrying that working-class, under-educated people are suffering; the middle class lifestyle is disappearing; and that in this rapidly evolving world, we all must find ways to ensure our value.

Recently, researchers at Oxford University did an extensive study examining how susceptible different jobs would be to computerization, and they found that 47% of U.S. jobs “were classified high risk for replacement with computerization or automation, and another 19% of jobs at medium risk.” The workplace of the not-so-distant future will be far different from its current state—are you taking steps to prepare yourself for the inevitable shift?

There are many factors contributing to this shift in the workplace—globalization, demographic shifts, emerging technologies, and others—and all industries are seeing the effects. The notion of traditional full-time, lifelong employment is quickly becoming a thing of the past as the roles of workers and the needs of businesses change to adapt to the evolving economy. It’s up to you to future-proof your career and extend your professional “sell-by-date,” claim development experts Karie Willyerd and Barbara Mistick in their new book, Stretch: How to Future-Proof Yourself for Tomorrow’s Workplace. In Stretch, Willyerd and Mistick discuss the factors forcing change in our economy and outline five practices that will help you take control of your career and ensure the extension of your professional “sell-by-date,” which include:

1. Learn on the fly.

While studying in the classroom and earning a degree is a worthwhile endeavor, most career learning takes place while on the job itself. There is only so much that can be experienced in a classroom, and the experiential learning opportunities that appear at work will be directly beneficial to your professional skill set. It is important to know your learning style so you can take advantage of these opportunities and improve how you learn at work.

2. Be open.

Heads-down focus is useful in many situations, but don’t silo yourself away from coworkers, or you might miss out on potential opportunities to grow your skillset. Be open to participating in various projects and you might find an opportunity to learn something new.

3. Build a diverse network.

Be strategic in your network. One of the #1 habits of successful people is that they hang out with other smart and inspirational people. A well-curated network can be invaluable in learning new skills, building knowledge, finding mentors, and securing new opportunities.

4. Be greedy about experiences.

Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Don’t seek out the same experiences year after year—change it up! Seek out new experiences and opportunities to do something different, that way you can apply and hone current proficiencies as well as learn new, complementary skills. Allowing yourself to stagnate will do nothing to extend your professional “sell-by-date,” and may even push it forward.

5. Bounce forward.

We’ve all heard of “bouncing back” from setbacks, and while it’s healthy to let go and accept that mistakes happen, we shouldn’t just focus on recovering only to end up where we were before. We also need to “bounce forward” toward our career aspirations, learning from our failures and persevering through barriers and blunders with the motivation to achieve our future goals.

It’s up to you to continue your professional development and prepare yourself for the workplace of tomorrow. Whether or not your job can be completely computerized, the professional landscape is shifting dramatically and almost every role in every industry will be affected. By following Willyerd and Mistick’s five practices, you will help to ensure the extension of your professional “sell-by-date” and develop skills that will set you up for success.