The Future of Careers
Understanding the job market for our youth…
The future is not what it used to be. I was recently asked to speak at a High School Careers day. The school had invited professionals to come and speak about their jobs, with the aim to help inspire and inform students of career choices for their future. While the idea is great, in theory, this format has concerned me for a while as the nature of the ‘job market’ is rapidly changing and many teachers, students and parents are not aware of what lies ahead.
This is not a ‘the future is doom and gloom’ article, in fact just the opposite. It is more a ‘let’s show our students the future possibilities’ article and stop exposing our students to the 20th century models we grew up in. Education Futurist, Tony Ryan, in his book The Next Generation, clearly suggests “This is the best time in human history to be alive and the future offers such amazing potential.”
At the 2018 Singularity University’s Global Summit, in San Francisco, Peter Diamandis, described as one of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”, spoke about how the future is arriving faster than you think. He described how in a time, capital, communication and knowledge abundant world with increased longevity, the world is getting faster and the power you have to change the world is getting greater.
Let’s take a step back for a moment to understand the past to put the future into perspective. In the mid 1800’s mass schooling was set up to produce factory workers – employees who would turn up on time, do as they were told, complete the job to an acceptable level and clock out at the end of the day. The exam system was set up to fail fifty percent of candidates to keep the class system and ensure enough manual labour in the Manufacturing Age. A small percentage of students, who passed the exams would go off to higher education, previously only reserved for the rich and the nobility. School systems around the world have perpetuated this model.
Now in the 21st Century, with the Information Age clearly established and the Experience Age emerging, educationalists and futurists are predicting two billion ‘jobs’ as we now know them will be gone in the next 10 years. The list includes; warehouse and manufacturing, customer service, research & data entry, banking & retail checkout, office & administration support, farming/fishing & forestry, construction, legal assistants and the list goes on. Consider the changes you have seen in the past 10 years; the internet, social media, phones, climate change, longevity, artificial intelligence, self-driving cars and so on. Also consider some of the largest businesses in the world do not own anything: The world’s largest taxi firm, Uber, owns no cars. The world’s most popular media company, Facebook, creates no content. The world’s most valuable retailer, Alibaba, carries no stock. And the world’s largest accommodation provider, Airbnb, owns no property. The world is changing. While this makes the future sound scary for some, I promised this would not be a doom and gloom story.
To this end, it is predicted that sixty percent of jobs in the future have not been invented yet and furthermore that forty percent of our youth will need to be self-employed to have any form of income. The prospect of being self-employed requires our teens to have very different skills from the employee mindset schools are indoctrinating. Self-employment skills and capabilities include being self-motivated (no-one knows if you do any work!), time-management, being multi-skilled (not only do you have to do the work, you have to get the work and do the accounts), have great people/communication (written and oral) skills etc, be financially savvy, understand people’s needs and how to meet them, be empathetic, think analytically, a problem solver, persistent, a flexible thinker, creative, leadership qualities, be comfortable with the unpredictable and unknown, did I mention self-motivated, and perhaps most importantly be a lifelong learner.
Students need to know they live in an amazing world where they have the opportunity to change people’s lives and make a difference to the planet. The United Nations have 17 sustainable goals to transform our world and this is a great start for students wondering where to start.
With social media, instant access to information and the ability to develop worldwide networks the phrase ‘the world is your oyster’ is more relevant for our youth today. A current example is fifteen year old Greta Thunberg, making global ripples in the climate change space.
While championing worthwhile causes is important, the self-employed need to be able to make money to live. This is where modern day alchemy comes in. A dictionary search describes alchemy as:
1. the medieval forerunner of chemistry, concerned with the transmutation of matter, in particular with attempts to convert base metals into gold or find a universal elixir
2. a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination
This seemingly magical process is exactly how the self-employed and entrepreneur will monetise their future. By understanding people’s needs, starting a following and monetising that following with products or services that tribe may or may not know they need.
The possibilities for our youth are endless, if they have a combination of the right skills and attitude. As the adage goes, I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy, I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.
I believe one of the challenges our youth have today is watching their parents in jobs they dislike, earning money to buy stuff they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like. Our youth see this and don’t want it. They want to feel their lives are meaningful, purposeful, impactful. They want experiences, happiness and success.
Careers days and evenings need to be filled with possibilities, hope and stretching students thinking to what will be conceivable in the future.