Five Ways to Future-Proof Your Career

Based on the jobs outlook for the next decade, the only certainty is uncertainty.

In a July 11 article, Minnesota Public Radio reported on the results of a new McKinsey Global Institute study that explores how the role of automation (robots, chatbots, AI, etc.) might change the workforce landscape in the next decade.

The team of McKinsey economists found that almost 40% of current United States jobs are in occupations that are likely to shrink by 2030 due to automation. But they also found that other fields are expected to grow, adding jobs to balance out those jobs lost due to technological advances.

Key findings of the study include:

  • Office support and food service are expected to lose jobs
  • Healthcare is expected to stay in high demand for the next decade, but there could be a downturn after that
  • New technologies (software, information security, clean energy, and so forth) are expected to add jobs

What does this mean for the future of work in America? The authors of the McKinsey study are optimistic:

“Automation and AI have tremendous potential to boost innovation and productivity, but these technologies require an adaptable workforce with new sets of skills,” MPR quoted co-author James Manyika as saying. “We can turn this into an opportunity to upgrade jobs, make them more rewarding, and lift people up.”

Whether you’re in a field that’s expected to grow or shrink over the next decade, it’s worth considering different options to guard yourself and your career against economic turnover. Here are five ideas:

  • Know the trends. Research your industry. Find a reliable site that you like and check it regularly. Changes are happening everywhere, all the time. If you tune out, you’ll miss out. There’s no way to know whether your job will be here ten years from now, let alone a month from now — but by keeping informed, you can keep prepared.
  • Pinpoint your strengths. What are the unique skills and abilities that you know you can rely on, no matter what? Everyone has traits and attributes that robots can’t compete with now, or (possibly) ever. Creativity, compassion, socioemotional intelligence— the list of human differentiators goes on. Maybe you’re good with people, or maybe you’re tech savvy. Identify your competitive niche and nurture it.
  • Diversify your portfolio. As the old adage goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If you have an interest in a field outside your profession, find a way to pursue it in your free time, whether as a side-gig or a hobby. Following your passions is the best way to keep a backup plan in the event that your primary line of work goes south. If you know a lot about a different profession, it’ll be easier to make the jump.
  • Get out of town. You don’t necessarily have to stay out — we’re not saying move away! But next time you’re looking to take a trip, why not scope out a location where you could explore a few job leads and make a few professional connections? The McKinsey report predicts that economic growth will be concentrated in a few different types of locales:
    • “Megacities,” including Austin, Chicago, and Miami, which collectively are expected to harbor more than 60% of net job growth, while only being home to 44% of the population
    • Faster growing smaller cities and college towns
    • Rural communities that have a tourism draw, or that have economies centered on industries connected to their resources (mining, oil, timber, etc.)
    • Communities that attract retirees, and have a lot of health and other care-related jobs to go along with an aging population
  • Keep an open mind. Reports like this latest one from McKinsey are great, but in reality, who knows which way the wind’s going to blow? No one can actually predict how the economy’s going to evolve. (If they could, that person would be very, very rich.) The best estimates can be wildly off, so don’t base big life decisions on studies or hearsay. Instead, keep your eyes and ears open, be adaptable, and adopt a lifelong learning approach. No matter what happens, it’s easier to confront change when you meet challenges with an open mind.
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