As a futurist and company advisor in the future sustainable life, I have summarised what I believe are some of the most critical skills to train already today, if we want to stay fit in the future job market. Because, when artificial intelligence moves into our jobs, when the freelance economy booms and when stress, anxiety and depression are the leading disease burdens, how do we not only survive but thrive as workers?
1. CONTINUOUS LEARNING
The 4th industrial revolution with artificial intelligence (AI) means that 50% of workers need reskilling within the next 5 years according to Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl from Digital Europe. The times where we specialised in one field and stayed in this is over. In the future we will have multiple careers. One way to look at it, is to invest in your own upskilling and learning and make it a habit to dedicate at least 10% of your working week for this. “Life-long learning” is a term we will get used to.
2. POSITIVE FUTURE-IMAGINATION
Robots and AI are bringing out a lot of fear in people. As the Chief Decision Scientist at Google, Cassie Kozyrkov, expresses it: If we are afraid of AI we are afraid of humans. But a lot of our fear is based on made-up, weird science fiction and not hopes and dreams of a better future. But as humans we are basically going to be the trainers of AI, and it is therefore in our power to remember to continuously ask better questions, and dream about better futures and we will be able to create this with AI as our new power tool.
3. EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
AI and machine learning will increasingly take over more of our logical tasks. Look at AI as your future personal assistant. If you are a doctor AI will e.g. help you examine x-rays with much greater precision and speed than a human person can ever do. This leaves you extra time and attention to the critical aspect of patient care, human touch and empathy. Therefore, EQ will be a sought-after power skill for the future across industries. That said AI is certainly able to mimic emotional intelligence, which you can see already today in some service jobs. For example, in some Pizza Hut Restaurants you can meet a very friendly service robot as your waiter.
4. CRITICAL THINKING
AI is in a nutshell a reproduction of human behaviour by a machine, which is taught by examples. These examples are past data. Therefore, AI is only as good as the examples (data) that the algorithms are based on. Many of our future jobs will therefore involve our critical thinking and our abilities to use human judgement. It will be a critical skill to remember to bring in different human perspectives from our colleagues and collaborators to challenge our own preconceptions to avoid biased AI.
5. CREATIVITY AND ART THINKING
With machines as our intelligent assistants it doesn’t mean that we will stop working. Instead, this leaves us with future jobs that will have critical elements of creativity. It is much harder for our intelligent robot friends to take over our creative skills, as they don’t have our 6 (yes, 6!) senses. For example, are aesthetics and branding much harder to put on a formula as this may be highly subjective and feelings-based. Our gutfeel and 6 senses often tell us if we like something or not.
One way to foster more creativity is through diversity. At Unilever, they are already today using AI to foster diversity, as they have started to use a robot to do candidate screenings and interviews. This has according to their European President, Hanneke Faber, increased their diversity in terms of ethnicity, gender split and study backgrounds, as their AI recruiter is trained to not being biased in the same way as a human. On top of that, they are cutting cost and reducing recruiting time from 3 months to two weeks.
As the next 15 years will bring enormous changes to our job market a critical skill to foster is our risk-appetite. Instead we should think of risk as something positive. At Etel Spa they help their employees expand their comfort zones by creating a pro-failure culture, where they deliberately promote their employees’ lessons learned from failure. Be aware of the difference between failure and mistake, where the latter stems from carelessness. Futurist, Gabe Zichermann, uses Netflix as a great risk-taker example as they have a positive KPI for failures, which is the number of program cancellations. If they don’t cancel enough programs, they simply don’t experiment enough.
As Darwin said, “It is not the most intelligent of the species that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”. Therefore, nurturing your own flexibility, openness, curiosity and most importantly your ability to see the changes from a positive perspective will be some of the best places to start, when our jobs will be increasingly affected by the transforms that AI brings about. Also, becoming pro at receiving feedback and adapting to it, will be a key skill for us to train.
9. THINKING “WE” INSTEAD OF “ME”
Our job market is getting more fluid and the gig economy is starting to take off these years, which means that more people will be working as self-employed or engaged on short-term contracts. It gives us a lot of flexibility, it will be easier and more accepted to change job more frequently, to work for multiple employers at once or to take out a few months to travel and explore the world. We will work more project-based and some companies will even phase-out the classic job titles, as these will be too rigid for the type of work their employees do. Therefore, your ability to create trusting relationships with the people you interact with (often on a remote basis) will be a core asset.
10. CONTINUOUS ENERGY RESTORATION
Our careers are going from sprints to marathons to even ultra-marathons in the future. Most of us will be connected to the job market in one way or the other until very late in our lives. Taste the word retired. At the time you get retired, you will likely be too tired to live the life you enjoy, as Mark Van Der Heiden, promoter of remote work points out. Moreover stress, depression and anxiety will be the leading disease burdens in the industrialised countries by year 2030, according to WHO. Therefore, a key skill to train is your ability to restore your physical and mental energy on a continuous basis. One place to start is to assess your screen-life-balance. I had the honour of speaking to bestselling author Cathrine Price about this topic, and I can highly recommend her book “How to break-up with your phone” as a way to restore your energy balance in the future.
11. ASSESSING YOUR PURPOSE
What’s your purpose? This is a hard question for many people to answer. But in the future, we will begin to ask each other this question. Stress and burnout which are related to lack of meaning will be a serious issue to tackle. And when AI forces many people to reskill or move into new job types, this will be a critical question to ask ourselves. Finding people that you enjoy working with, projects that make you tick, or plainly having a job with flexibility are examples of purposes. And rest assured, you don’t need to get an answer straight away to this question. A purpose is an evolving thing, and if we are courageous enough to start to ask ourselves this question, this is an important start.