In the 1940s, most elevators were manually operated and required an elevator operator to move people between floors in a building. Today, most elevators are self-operated by the passengers pushing buttons which correspond to their desired floor and there are not many jobs for elevator operators. The number of mail carriers dropped by ten percent from the year 2000 to 2010, thanks in part to email. Accounting and bookkeeping jobs are also disappearing, thanks to automation tools such as Quickbooks. Manufacturing jobs are disappearing today, not due to globalization, but due to automation. New computerized tools are making certain types of financial analyst jobs obsolete, jobs that were once thought impervious to loss due to automation.
In their 2013 paper “The future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerisation?” two Oxford University researchers estimate that “about 47 percent of total US employment is at risk.” Artificial intelligence combined with robotics is a reality of life in the 21st century. It is likely to continue to invade every aspect of our lives through automation creep. My point is simple: There are no jobs which are immune to automation, outsourcing, or both. So, what can you do to protect your income from automation creep?
First, assume that your job may not exist in 10 years. If you ever say the words, “They’ll always need my job.” or “They’ll never be able to replace my job with a computer”, you may be kidding yourself.
Here are seven keys to prepare for a future in which your job doesn’t exist.
Knowledge is power has never been more relevant than today. The future belongs to those who understand not only their jobs, but also the functioning of their company, society, and even the world. Narrow minded or closed minded people will be left in the dust of the emerging world. Read books, articles, and blog posts by respected authorities. Read material which disagrees with your beliefs. Read history to avoid repeating others mistakes. Read philosophy to learn critical thinking skills.
People skills in the face of automation
The ability to understand, get along with, and influence people has always given individuals a career advantage. In a world of automation creep, human relationships could well make the difference between just surviving or really thriving. People skills will allow you to learn about new opportunities quickly, to anticipate societal changes, and navigate new career and life pathways successfully.
The ability to tune out distractions in a world filled with them will allow the focused individual to complete tasks and projects more quickly and efficiently than other people.
People who understand the concept of creating value are already at an advantage over those who don’t understand it. Really, if you put yourself in the position of a company or an individual looking to hire someone, you can easily see how candidates who work to create value for current or prospective employers are much more appealing than candidates who believe they’re entitled to a job or a particular compensation package. Always ask yourself, “How am I contributing to profitability and what else can I do to contribute to profitabiity?”
You may have the idea that could save the human race, but unless you can communicate effectively to the right people, it won’t matter. Practice writing and speaking, especially business writing and speaking. Join Toastmasters. Learn how to use proper grammar and spelling (yes, they really do matter).
The most successful people I’ve known are curious about everything. They ask deep and probing questions to gain a broad understanding of a wide variety of subjects. Be curious about your company, including departments other than your own. Be curious about your community, about people who are different from you, about your competitors,
The future probably includes job loss for large segments of the population. That suggests that the ability to rebound from a job loss and rapidly switch to new jobs or sources of income is a critical survival skill in the automation creep world. The ability to adapt, transition, and morph into someone new for the new job market will be essential skills in the face of automation creep.
Automation creep is the gradual replacement of human workers by automated systems and processes. It’s not coming, it’s here. In order to survive and prosper in the age of automation creep, individuals must be adaptable with a thirst for knowledge and education, excellent people skills, a laser-like focus, a recognition of the importance of creating value, outstanding communication skills, curiosity about everything, and resilience in the face of change. Here’s the good news: All of these skills can be learned. As humans, we are amazingly adaptable. We can learn, grow, and remake ourselves to thrive, even in a world of automation creep.
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Will automation creep affect you or your job? What about your friends and co-workers? What do you think?