Image ‘Telling the future’ by everett225 / Deposit Photos
Given what I do for a living – writing books, facilitating and coaching groups and individuals to improve their performance at work, just in case you were unsure – I like to stay informed and follow the trends about careers. Which means hours of fun reading research such as the World Economic Forum’s wide-ranging report, ‘The Future of Jobs’ as well as smaller-scale reports from commercial sources such as consulting firms and recruiters. These 10 trends strike me as being important and interesting when it comes to planning our careers:
1. Ageing population in developed countries
As a Baby Boomer, I’m all too aware of this one. And I’m aghast at any article that begins with ‘As Baby Boomers retire…’ Forget it: we’re not going anywhere. Many of my contemporaries can’t afford to retire, whether that’s due to providing care for elderly parents (who are living longer), funding the effects of Boomers’ rocketing divorce rates, or simply low lifetime earnings and poor pension provision. And many (including me) find meaning in work and don’t want to stop at a prescribed age. An ageing population may block career paths in some cases, but there’ll be opportunities too. Boomers will form a huge market for anything that prolongs quality of life, from breakthrough pharmaceuticals and biomedical engineering, to therapists and assisted living.
2. Rising population in developing countries
The WEF’s report notes the significance of this trend, which will lead to a growing middle class, greater economic power for women and urbanisation. They’ll need all the things we’ve been taking for granted such as education, healthcare, transport, technology and more. They’ll need goods and services – and leisure.
3. Distributed workers
This is already happening and can only accelerate, whether that’s more people working flexibly, from home, or more geographically dispersed teams. More virtual teams will need technological enablers, and the skills to match the nature of their work (see review of Penny Pullan’s book on ‘Leading virtual teams’).
4. Tech growth
IoT, online everything everywhere is already one of / the most visible trends. Employers see tech as a resource for improving productivity and an enabler for sharpening the competitive edge of their goods and services. We’re already seeing retail, learning and medical advice being supported by tech, and the demand for skills in analysing and making sense of all the data will continue to grow.
5. Robotics, AI and machine learning
“Alexa, make me a decaff skinny latte”… We’ve all read the warnings that our jobs will be done by robots or machines (Dubai already has unveiled ‘Robocop’, a robot police officer with face-recognition capability). We can see this every time we pay for groceries using self-scanners, or go through passport control in airports, but bots can’t completely handle critical thinking – yet. Job growth will come in developing and selling these products and services; whether that growth will match the wiped-out jobs remains to be seen.
6. Child care
Would you let your child be cared for by a robot? Not likely, just yet. With greater population growth, more and bigger cities and the rise of women’s economic power will come the associated need for child care. This has historically been low paid work; but as it becomes more specialised and regulated pay will increase to attract and retain the most skilled workers. I also think (sadly) that education will start ever earlier, pre-kindergarten, and that will raise the skills/cost levels. As child care grows and matures as an industry, so will the career opportunities – not just doing the caring, but managing and marketing it.
7. Environmental challenges
Disruptive weather patterns and pollution have all too grim effects on populations everywhere. Planning and preparing for possibilities, whether that’s in the Maldives, the Florida Everglades or the Thames Estuary will need skilled people. Same goes for the development of alternative energy and conservation of our planet. As with many of these trends, there will be obvious specialist employment opportunities – but also more general openings, such as finance, marketing and human resource management.
Developing countries are getting busy installing essential infrastructure: transport, housing and services. Developed countries are also busy – replacing, renewing or repairing the elements that are now showing their age. Obviously this trend will benefit skilled trades (carpenters, electricians, welders, construction workers) and professionals (engineers, architects), but they’ll need business skills too.
‘Geo-political volatility’ is the term used in crystal-ball gazing reports – and we all know, with heavy hearts, what that can mean. Something tells me I’m not going to like it, but there may be changes in our liberties and privacy, with a boom in the tech services needed to monitor them. (And if selling weapons is your thing, you’re probably already being head-hunted to your heart’s content.)
10. Constant learning
‘Must try harder’ figured in many of my school reports – and is still relevant today. What I think these trends signal is that anyone who thinks they’re done with education when they leave college/university is deluding themselves. We’ll all need to keep learning new skills and extending those we already have throughout our lives. From basic to specialist, we’ll all be trying harder as nations strive to stay in the upper echelons of educational achievement league tables, and organisations strive to stay ahead of the changes facing them. I like Workopolis’ take on this: “Digital literacy is the new literacy.”
This list is by no means exhaustive – for more future jobs, Fast Company offers suggestions including ‘end-of-life planner’ and a whole new, ahem, exotic field of coaching.
You may find this blog post useful: 20 self-development resources.
Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’, available now at bookstores and on Amazon.