Figuratively the 2020s is a huge catapult. A catapult decade that will accelerate the changes that have already started. Megatrends, such as artificial intelligence, the climate crisis, ageing population, mental health issues and purpose at work, will create strong waves in the ocean of how we work.

Progressive people, businesses and organisations at all levels will lead in defining the new and smarter rules to play by – new rules for the way we work, organise work, lead ourselves and each other, and live and design our personal lives.

In this article, I cover some of the changes that will affect our jobs and the way we perceive career and job development.


1. AI redefines our jobs

In the 2020s we will see intense progression for technology and science. The fourth industrial revolution, led by the new artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies, will bring about an almost seismic change to the global workforce. According to McKinsey Global Institute1, half of all current work activities can be automated with existing technology.

It is estimated that approximately 50% of all jobs in the US are at high risk of disappearing or undergoing radical change between 2030 to 2040, according to World Economic Forum2. Lawyers, sales reps, secretaries, brokers, etc are examples of job types that will most likely disappear in its current form.

For some people, implementation of AI will cause a feeling of fragmentation in their daily job. If they have been used to ‘owning’ the entire work stream, they will instead become a ‘coordinator’ of the automated parts in the workstream. I had an accountant at a seminar last year who expressed her frustrations because she didn’t have the ownership of the key tasks any more. These parts were outsourced. With the changes resulting from AI, we can get the same feeling of fragmentation, and we will need to move up into a helicopter perspective and find joy in our job in new ways.

For other professions, AI will be a warm welcome, as it replaces the mundane, routine tasks. This leaves space to focus on the more creative and intellectually stimulating parts of our jobs.


2. A decade of reskilling and upskilling

When some professions disappear completely due to AI, it means large groups of workers will be forced to step outside their comfort zones and reskill completely, or upskill.

All professions will need continuous upskilling to accommodate the new needs triggered by AI technologies. We have entered an era of reskilling and upskilling.

If we ask the millennials, only about one in five believe they have all the skills and knowledge they’ll need for a world being shaped by Industry 4.0, according to Deloitte Millennial Survey 20193. This means that AI triggers a feeling of insecurity that many of the older generations may also recognise. But more democratic access to learning online and more free learning platforms gives more people new opportunities.

We will also get used to the terms micro-learning and just-in-time learning, as well as de-learning, where we learn to let go of past skills that no longer serve us.


3. Re-evaluation of your purpose

The changes to our ways of working caused by AI combined with the increasing number of global crises, eg, climate crisis, political instability, etc will mean that many people will be redefining their professional purpose this decade.

A professional purpose is a topic we will discuss and talk much more openly about. We will recognise that becoming clear about our professional purpose is an essential part of thriving at work.

We will acknowledge that purpose is highly individual and unpredictable. For some people, a professional purpose is to have an intellectually stimulating job. For others, purpose is to work on a larger agenda and ‘save the world’.

Purpose is an ever-changing ‘beast’ that needs to be re-evaluated with our changing life circumstances, changing priorities or values. Burnout due to lack of alignment with one’s purpose is a phenomenon that will be normal, and we will learn to react accordingly. It can, for example, be the international sales representative who burns out as his purpose has moved out of alignment with his current job when he gets children.


4. Topic over title

‘So, what do you want to become when you grow up?’ This will be an outdated question to ask a child during the 2020s. Instead, we will ask what topic the child will want to work on. Hot topics will be to work on the climate crisis, mental health issues, animal welfare, etc.

To many young people, a topic instead of a title will be their main motivational driver in a future job. Forget the fancy title4.

Also, with the fast progression in AI technologies, many classic jobs will disappear in the current form, for example, the lawyer, as AI technologies can do this job faster and more precisely.

We may not even be able to imagine what future job titles will be created in the 2020s. Fifteen years ago, before Facebook, how many of us were able to imagine the wealth of new jobs that the social media industry has created?

Moreover, with the fluidity of the way we organise our work, many companies will move away from the current use of titles, like Marketing Manager. A title will often be too rigid and constraining for the future job functions we hold. Instead, many companies will use more project-based titles.

Do you shiver by hearing this? Identity crisis from the loss of a job title will not be unusual in the 2020s. But instead, we can see it as a welcomed opportunity to move into more flexible job roles.


 5. Multiple careers

Today many of us see career development as a linear upward sloping path, where we progress within the same field or specialism and gradually take on more responsibility. It can be hard to change specialism or industry, if we lack existing job experience in the new field. But the future is bright here. It will become easier to make horizonal, jumpy career movements. Why will this be possible?

a) Experienced, skilled workers will be in shortage. Deloitte estimates that in 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be millennials, those born between 1983 and 1994.

b) We will look more holistically at skills and experience and recognise that intrinsic, but non-nurtured skills, can serve better than past experiences.

c) AI will push us into jobs the robots are not as good at, making soft skills including creativity sought-after skills. Our abilities to challenge our preconceptions can be much easier with a fresh perspective.

d) Early pension age will be phased out with the global ageing population. Our job market will have to absorb five generations at the same time. We will be having multiple careers, and we will be using our skills and experiences in new ways.

We will also recognise that there is a hidden potential in the older generations. It can, for example, be as school assistants, where they can pass on their acquired life skills directly to the children. Walmart has also recognised the potential in the older generations, as they are often more patient and good at customer service. So be prepared for a decade of jumpy career moves and multiple careers.


6. The gig economy

According to World Economic Forum, 50% of the asked companies expect a reduction in their full-time workforce due to automation before 2022. The gig economy is on the rise, meaning that more people will go from employed to associated with a company.

The incentive for the companies is that it fits the increasingly project-based ways of working; it is more agile and it brings economic savings from the scalability. Increased market transparency and a globalised pool of workers make it easier to match talent with task.

Eighty-three percent of millennials find the gig economy appealing according to Deloitte3, because of (1) the opportunity to earn more money/increase their income, (2) working the hours they want, and 3. achieving a better work-life balance.

However, there is a backside to the freedom of working temporarily. Job insecurity from the worker’s perspective and an erosion of the traditional relationship between workers, businesses, and clients are just some of the downsides. How do we ensure a culture in sync with an ever-changing workforce of new people entering and leaving the team? How will we as individuals quickly fit into a culture and create strong working relationships? These are some of the questions we will face.


 7. Self-actualisation to transcendental experiences

Occupational historians pinpoint how the development in our occupations through times has followed Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs5. Historically, work used to be a way to fulfil our basic human needs for survival. Then in the last decades work has for many people become about achievements and fulfilment of the underlying need for esteem. Looking to the future, the next phases are according to Maslow’s Revised Pyramid of Needs, a move into self-actualisation and the fulfilment of one’s talents and potentialities. What I find particularly interesting is that Maslow’s latest, revised version of the Pyramid has fulfilment of transcendental experiences in the top.

I think this shift in occupational need satisfaction towards transcendental experiences is very likely, also taking AI, as a megatrend, into account which accelerates a shift towards soft skills and services delivered by real humans. This will also be aided by the growth of the experience economy and a consumer change away from purely materialistic consumption.

It means, that in the future, we can expect more focus on occupations that offer/contain self-actualisation and transcendental activities. The latter being activities that takes you from one level of consciousness to the next. This will be aided by the growing demand for occupations offering assisted self-help, personal development, psychologists, teachers, coaches and mentors across fields, but particularly, related to experiences, mind, body, nature, art, etc.


8. All talents count

In this decade it will become much easier to create our own unique jobs with titles that we can’t even imagine today. We will be able to turn our passions into a way of living and to utilise our unique talents.

The globalised and flexible job market, new global job platforms, and price transparency will make it easier.

Perhaps you already know, today, that you would like to become self-employed one day, but you just haven’t figured out what your unique talent or passion is. We all have unique talents, but often these are unrecognised. One way of finding your talents is to identify your strengths. I can recommend the VIA survey, which is free, as a starting point. Another way is to ask yourself, honestly, what triggers a feeling of envy from others. This can be a sign that you have an unrecognised desire to move into that particular area or to use that unique skill or to work with that topic.

Article references:

  1. McKinsey Global Institute 2017 Report: ‘Jobs lost, jobs gained: What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages.
  2. World Economic Forum 2018: The Future of Jobs Report.’
  3. The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019: ‘Societal discord and technological transformation create a generation disrupted.’
  4. Soulaima Gourani 2019: ‘Design din fremtid’
  5. Lars Tvede 2019: Super Trends.

This is an article in the series of the future of sustainable work life by Karina Kaae, who is a sustainable work-life consultant, work futurist, and keynote speaker.
Would you like to know more about the future of work and personal sustainability? You can follow Karina Kaae’s LinkedIn page Sustainable Lead  or subscribe her the newsletter.



About the Author, Karina Kaae

Karina Kaae is a sustainable work-life consultant, work futurist, and keynote speaker*.

Karina does targeted consulting and helps companies identify and address unproductive and unhealthy ways of working and adapting to a long-term sustainable working culture.
She also offers seminars and training for employees and leaders, as well as individual coaching.
Karina works with organisations such as Carlsberg Denmark, the IT Industry (IT Branchen), Dynamic HR Network and PEJ Gruppen, among others.
Karina is also a keynote speaker on topics related to the future of personal sustainability.

She has a background as a management consultant with McKinsey & Co., where she has worked with organisational and cultural changes for companies in Denmark and Europe.
Karina holds a MSc from Copenhagen Business School, specialised in organisational communication & business administration.

*What is a sustainable work life?

In a sustainable working life, the individual has optimal conditions for long-term sustainability and viability. The worker is able to create value in the workplace and perform a job well, while getting optimal conditions for taking care of his or her own well-being and energy.

The resulting benefits from personal sustainability is better physical and mental health, social well-being at work, and individual performance.

The workplace may have a desire to ensure a better work-life balance; reduce working hour, tackle a high sick leave, social dissatisfaction or distractions, and lack of focus.

Ultimately, personal sustainability can help reducing employee turnover, increasing employer branding and increasing the company’s bottom line.

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