It is so strange the cloud we now live in. The digital boom has brought about such huge and world-changing benefits, from electric cars to one day Amazon Prime delivery. Arguably it is one of the best times in which to live.
However, there’s a much-differentiated twist to this: the digital revolution spells much doom and gloom for the economy.
As wonderful as such advancements are, globally we’re about to undergo a major employment shift. In the US almost 40% of jobs will be replaced by 2030. 25% of jobs are already at high risk or being automated according to a Brookings study.
Lost jobs, retrenched staff and the increased reliance on automation also puts fear into the minds and hearts of world citizens.
In a high demand, cut-throat competitive global market, those businesses who want to dominate and be successful cannot simply just exist. They have to compete way harder to even be amongst the best.
As a result, organizations are forced to cut costs while increasing efficiency and output. To facilitate this in part, lower-skilled labor will give way to automated processes.
A prime example is in manufacturing. Increased reliance on machinery to perform manual and repetitive tasks is now the norm just to meet quota.
Research firm Oxford Economics concludes that robots will replace up to 20 million manufacturing jobs by 2030.
Machines are now capable of performing dangerous tasks like putting cars together and packing boxes at scale at paces a team of humans just cannot match.
As much as there is a political plea to examine the moral side of this shift, the technology is simply too appealing for businesses to ignore. Even in professions where robots and automated systems augment human tasks, those employees are still at massive risk?
In fast-growing economies like China, automation is becoming at the forefront of how they operate. From government-owned facial recognition cameras placed around the country that catalogs citizen behavior into a large database to fully-automated container terminals in Shanghai.
The very boundaries of what’s possible are being constantly pushed and it’s both exciting and scary at the same time.
While you can’t stop the pace of automation and technology there are a few things you can do to not become another statistic. Sit tight as we go through those.
Don’t Hide from It and Face the Truth
Yes, you read correctly! The very first thing is you need to stop pretending automation doesn’t pose a threat to your livelihood.
It is all around you. From fully automated restaurant waiters in Japan to cashier-less store shopping.
Proposed initiatives such as Universal Basic Income (providing a predetermined monthly salary to everyone) and taxing higher net worth individuals won’t solve much!
Let’s quit making excuses and see things for what they actually are.
I know it sounds negative and painful to talk about but it’s happening rapidly no matter what you and I feel about it.
Across every industry and organizational level, there are sweeping changes to how tasks as normally done.
The heavy reliance on robots in warehouses of distributors such as Amazon, to AI apps that assist executives in performing their duties such as time management and booking meetings and even software (and private Saas companies) that does a company taxes and accounting.
That’s also the case with innovations like smart driving trucks, robotic security guards at school and public institutions and robotic mass farming. The increased ability to meet demand drives prices down thus making human labor less valuable.
More private companies are being formed to compete and take market share away from we traditional grew up to use.
Look at Uber for taxis, Airbnb in the hotel industry, WeWork for virtual coworking spaces, Wholefoods (Amazon) for buying groceries online. Also, customized learning platform k12 as an alternative to traditional schooling.
These are just a tiny few. As the quality of our services goes up, the competition will put traditional and even more established companies out of business.
And that may be where you work as well.
Living in denial is like a shepherd trying to lead blindly. Ignorance isn’t bliss. It is absolutely essential you stop being entitled and thinking that it may not affect you.
Even if it doesn’t directly impact your livelihood, it may be detrimental for those you care about.
Make Sure Your Work isn’t Easily Repetitive and You’re Actually Adding Value
Nowadays it simply isn’t enough to clock in and clock out. Companies do not value employee loyalty anywhere near to the degree they used to as they’re struggling to remain relevant themselves.
Employees may indeed move around a lot more, but that doesn’t mask the real issue of the value they create.
Plus businesses now have several emerging technologies to make their operations more efficient.
Therefore you need to ensure that you’re being an asset wherever you go. You’re not just competing against people, you’re competing against technology.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Is my work repetitive?
- Does it help move the company’s bottom line?
- Can a machine replace what I do easily?
Use those three questions to determine where you’re at and begin looking at things you can do to improve.
Don’t view this as pessimism. View it as staring reality in the face.
Formal jargon aside, the definition of value is simply helping the company grow and make money.
The beautiful thing is that people who are invaluable where they work are never short of it.
Just like a college student who gets job offers before they even graduate, students who get full-ride sports scholarships, or companies changing CEOs.
Sports stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar get traded for hundreds of millions of dollars every season.
Talent is everywhere and companies are starving for it.
It may not seem fair to you but the people who get paid the most are not those who work the longest hours but those whose contributions directly moves the bottom line of the company.
For example, the janitor will always make less than the Sales manager. The sales manager directly brings in dollars while the janitor doesn’t.
Your soft skills like punctuality and discipline are still important to survive and stand out. However, survival shouldn’t be your priority, thriving should be.
Your attitude should be: If they don’t want me, I will do what is necessary to ensure that I’m mopped up quickly by anyone else.
As Cal Newport says: “You need to be so good they can’t ignore you”.
Consider a Career that’s Less Prone to Being Fully Automated
The rising tidal wave of technology forces us to think harder about our career choices.
You need to be extra careful about which college major you pick and your backup plan if things don’t work out.
We all are vulnerable. From low-skilled to specialists, white-collar or blue-collar. Whether you choose to borrow for school or pay in full out of pocket, the decision to even go to college should be heavily scrutinized.
Not only the monies that we’re spending or borrowing but also the time and opportunity cost be looked at.
Remember college is a business. It’s your responsibility to ensure you’re getting value for your business investment too.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are there very viable prospects for my desired profession?
- What is the average salary would I receive at my desired role?
- Would I need a degree for my career of choice?
- How much does the program cost and is it worth it?
- What exactly is my backup plan if I take a long to find work afterward?
On a positive note, humans won’t be eliminated completely. We will always want to interact with people. Better healthcare increased access to vaccinations around the world means people on average are living longer thus securing lots of those jobs.
For instance, Japan has an aging population a sharp decline in birth rate over the years. This is due to improved health practices preserving life. In those countries, the demand for healthcare workers is quite high.
Professions, where you want humans to play a role, will be in demand.
Those that involve caring and nurturing of others: teachers, nurses, baby sitters, caregivers won’t be threatened as much.
Other such as bank tellers, drivers, call center operators, dispatchers, waiters, fast food workers are under threat.
And these lists are by no means exhaustive.
View Yourself More as a Business, Not Just Someone Who Works Hours
Technology and its comfort have gotten so many of us lazy.
Because many of life’s luxuries such as water, apartments, groceries and our jobs are so readily available we often take them for granted.
Until something catastrophic happens.
The recession, a major natural disaster or we lose our job. Our primal survival instincts are once again activated and we’re forced to find a way to survive.
You may not have full control over the events such as a bad economy but you can prepare for it.
One of the best ways to ensure you have the skills to earn a living from multiple vocations.
As I said earlier, employee loyalty is no longer the norm. Most employers will happily replace you with someone who is younger, willing to work for less or with an algorithm.
You take control by making full use of your time.
That could be doing more learning to keep your skills sharp, having a side hustle where you can bring extra income in or simply managing your time better.
If you’re a waiter, that means taking some extra training to make sure you’re warmer to guests. If you are a teacher, you could become a part-time tutor online or creating an online course. Or if you’re an executive it could be getting sales training for your team to increase quota and company productivity.
Of course, you show up and perform your duties as instructed but learn to become more useful outside of work as well.
This dramatically boosts your confidence and also revitalizes your creative spirit and bank account.
Even if it is just $500 extra it could go a long way.
And as your value as an employee goes up, it can greatly help you justify a pay rise.
Also, you don’t need lots of money to begin. Start learning on YouTube, or $10 courses on Udemy.
You’ll be shell shocked at how far your dollar can go!
But you have to take the first step and actually want to become better since no one can do that for you.
You work but no longer fully at the mercy of your employers. Value the business of you because no one ever will.
You Have to be Willing to Adapt to Change
Many proponents of automation argue automation and advancing technologies will create more jobs than it destroys.
Though there are several arguments that unequivocally prove the contrary, one thing remains certain: the majority of jobs will be vastly different from how we’ve known them.
We will definitely require a different set of skills and core competencies to carry out our duties effectively. And this essentially means the majority of us will have to adapt or be replaced.
It is this chasm that frustrates most. Especially the elderly who have been earning a living doing the same pattern of tasks for 20 or 30 years and more. Most people simply want to go to their jobs and do tasks on autopilot and not to be told to do otherwise.
As new professions such as vertical farmers and robotic drone drivers become mainstream, there will be less need for traditional forms of work. E.g. People manually farming land and even manual data entry.
Another way to look at this is with qualifications. The average computer science degree becomes obsolete within three years.
Technology moves so quickly and so do the new demands in order to be relevant. No matter your occupation or level of previous education, you must be prepared to do things differently.
Many public school teachers may be reluctant to fully digitize their classrooms. Architects typically are required to draw house plans digitally instead of by hand. Taxi drivers getting used to taking payments digitally or via an app rather than cash.
The experience though still valuable, is no longer enough.
And it is definitely not enough to just sit on your qualifications or certifications and be set for life.
I get a lot of this may sound jarring and counterintuitive, but it is the truth.
If you are to be competent, competitive and have an actual career instead of a string of jobs, you will be much better prepared to face the real world and thrive.
Thankfully, there is still so much opportunity out there. New jobs, emerging professions, new and affordable educational opportunities.
So please don’t lose hope. I believe in you. It is just even more important you really believe in yourself as well.