Seismic changes ahead in our world of work - how ready are you?

29 February, 2016

Recently, there’s been lots of doom and gloom about the imminent demise of the work world as we know it. Still, once a “career” issue hits the mainstream press, you know it’s time to worry about it and take action. This weekend’s Career Section

in The Australian is enough to make anyone younger than a baby boomer very nervous indeed. 

The article cited the 2016 Deloitte Access Economics Report but its findings replicated previous predications from other international experts. Just some of their claims make very serious reading:

  • 60% of the roles young people are currently training in will not exist in 10 years’ time.
  • There will be downward pressure on wages as Australian employers are able to access cheaper, international talent.
  • Robots will replace many jobs.
  • IT skills will be critical to most workers and will open up opportunities for future work.
  • Most employees will need more than one job to make ends meet.

But it gets worse!

The report talks about “Seismic” change – exactly the word I used in a recent conversation with a journalist when talking about a similar topic. Unfortunately, anyone who plans to be still working beyond the next 5 years can no longer relax.

The scariest news is reserved for those of us born in 2015, so this is for parents and educators to take on board so that these babies are as well prepared as possible.

OK, so what are these experts predicting for our current crop of babes?

Experts from The UK Office for National Statistics estimate that one in three people born in 2015 will live until they are 100.  (The Australian experts are a little more circumspect, estimating that the figure is one in four.)

 Some of the consequences of this are literally life-changing, as today’s babies will need:

  • 50% of their income to retire comfortably versus 5% needed if they were born in 1980
  • To prepare to work into their 80s
  • To re-educate themselves in their 60s and beyond

Solutions as well as Problems

People often tell me that I’m a natural optimist.  I do like to ponder critical issues; however, I prefer then to tilt the career lens to focus on solutions. 

When I first started working for myself as a consultant all those years ago, I did a personal Strategic Plan. I was used to formulating one for my previous organisation and I was also accustomed to being held accountable for hitting the associated Performance Indicators. 

When I formulated my own Plan, I focused on 5 critical areas and was kind to myself initially with my Performance Indicators.

If we take the core Future Employability issues one by one and look at suggested solutions, you can use this information to construct your own personal Strategic Plan.

1.       Top Jobs will be extremely scarce

Many current senior leaders have considerable gaps in their ability, most often relating to the so-called soft skills. Those days will start to disappear as the balance of power swings to employers. The war for talent will be well and truly over,  and you will have to be quite outstanding in all respects to pick up the top roles. 

  • Soft skills are the hard skills, so focus your attention on these as soon as you leave school. In the first instance, attend face-to-face training sessions on basic skills such as: Communication, Conflict Resolution, Delegation etc.
  • Be nice to people and behave honourably.  In what will be an ever-more connected world, your reputation good or bad will spread rapidly.
  • Jobs that need intuitive skills are the most likely to continue to exist. Identify these and ensure that you have the ability to perform such roles.
  • Focus on education rather than training, especially at the early stages of your working life. 
  • Hone your core selling skills so that you are able to actually convince your prospective employer: résumé and interview skills.

2.       Employability skills become essential not desirable

Many people scorn the basic Arts Degree, yet it allows you to learn how to learn in order to thrive in this Brave New World.  You can then supplement your top-notch transferable skills with specific training that shifts as the world shifts. You’ll need to do more, though:

  • Learn a new technical skill every 2 years.
  • Meet new people and extend your network. If jobs are scarce, you want to be well known in your market place.
  • Stay alert – forever! The all-too-common “babe in the woods” approach will be just too dangerous.
  • Keep yourself at the peak of mainstream IT.  If the marketplace expects you to have advanced Word skills, for example, then make sure that you master it.  Learn a new IT program each year.
  • More stringent health screening is likely to exist.  Maintain health, fitness and normal weight.

 3.       Financial Self Sufficiency will be a challenge

Accept the reality that the days of a regular fortnightly pay packet are likely to be over.  You may need to freelance or have a portfolio approach, where your income comes from multiple jobs and multiple sources.

  • Learn the habits of farmers: put money aside in the good days as there will be no certainty of ongoing employment and income.
  • Salary negotiation becomes critical: if you are going to need 50% of your income to retire, you’ll want to maximise that income at every opportunity.
  • Understand market rates and where you sit in relation to these rates i.e. are you worth the rate, worth a premium or do you need to discount your rate?

 4.       Intestinal Fortitude AND Flexibility will be needed

“Gird your loins” – such a wonderful phrase from years gone by, but a sadly neglected concept with our current generations.   Success will go to the mentally tough who can also bend in the wind like reeds. Comfort with ambiguity and risk will be necessary:

  • Find something that you currently find scary and then just do it.
  • Analyse your basic personality preferences.  Do a Gap Analysis to focus on which aspects will hinder your survival in a more fluid world.
  • Find a Mentor or Life/Executive Coach to help you identify your weaknesses and modify your behaviour.

 5.       Non-monetary values will be more important

We are likely to have much less disposable income as our wages are curtailed and we need to save so much more for retirement.  The frugal approach of the current Veteran generation may need to re-surface.  How can we be happy in the face of such belt-tightening? A starting point will be to re-focus on the essence of life.

  • Access experts who can help you re-shape your thinking e.g. there’s a recent movement to de-clutter our lives.
  • Identify five non-money based pleasures that bring you contentment e.g. a simple walk along the beach, and start to put them into practice.
  • Find a sense of purpose outside of work - this might include volunteer, religion or community based activities. 

Sleep Soundly at Night

Back in the Great Depression in Australia, men would pack their swags and start walking in a desperate effort to find work. Life was precarious and risk was ever present. 

If those days are returning, you will need to lose any complacency and take charge of your own career. The simple Strategic Plan sets you up for success and should allow you to sleep at night. 

Review your Strategic Plan every two years with an astute person or a top-notch career specialist.

As always, complacency is the enemy. It’s now time to start!

 

aBOUT THE AUTHOR

Catherine Cunningham is Adelaide's leading career expert.  She appears regularly in The Weekend Australian Careers section, in The Advertiser's CareerOne, as well as in online publications such as news.com.au, thenewdaily.com.au and womensagenda.com.au

 

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