02 Mar 2020 19:17 IST

Want to stay relevant at workplace? Watch the trendlines

Some employers invest in reskilling but it’s up to the individual to acquire the right competency

Will your course last the course of your educational phase and career entry? Companies are recalibrating at such a rapid pace that a big fear among new job aspirants is that what is current will soon become passé.

It’s now common to see news of companies letting go of mid-level and senior employees, as their skills are deemed irrelevant, and seeding the firm with fresh talent that is conversant with newer technologies. There were reports, for instance, of Cognizant letting go of 10,000 to 12,000 mid-level staff last year even as this year, the company is planning to hire 20,000 freshers.

As automation makes inroads everywhere, companies are no longer interested in pure mechanical engineers, especially when there are mechatronics graduates available. Similarly, mainframe programmers are losing out on the jobs stakes. It’s not always possible to reskill existing employees, so a wholesale refresh of talent is happening at many organisations.

Artificial intelligence and immersive reality will further change the nature of jobs. The year 2020 began on a futuristic note with an artificial human displayed at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Samsung Labs’ Neon which looks surreally lifelike and is a virtual being, can fill in for a teacher, a financial advisor, a yoga instructor and more, though the company says the intention of the digital assistant is not to replace jobs.

However, the point is that it’s not just repetitive jobs that are being replaced by machines but even goal-assisted tasks that are going away. Also, as more and more companies from diverse sectors — be it education, healthcare, auto, manufacturing — are experimenting with immersive reality, it will become paramount to add these skills to survive in the jobs market.

So, here’s the question. How do your future-proof your career? Here are some pointers:

Keep track

At the office of Dr SR Senthil Kumar, the Principal of Sona College of Technology, Salem, a massive chart that catches the eye is one that maps tech trends till 2030. It gives you an indication of innovations that are already in use, and the technologies that will probably go mainstream by 2030. The chart is relevant not just for colleges that have to keep an eye on what courses to introduce but for job aspirants. From urban air, food, and space research, to science and technology, a host of trends are outlined in nowandnext.com that are worth looking at.

Several business leaders believe in keeping track of social, environment and political trends too as that impacts industry. Former Starwood CEO Fritz van Paasschen feels protectionism, climate change, growing inequity, and urbanisation could all have as much of a bearing on jobs as tech shifts. Indeed, green jobs are emerging as the next wave.


Everyone talks about the skills gap. But a wider problem is the skills mismatch issue. According to a BCG report released last month, skills mismatch affects 1.3 billion people worldwide and imposes a 6 per cent annual tax on the global economy in the form of lost labour productivity.

Technical skills, says the report, get outdated in two to five years. While some employers invest in reskilling, the onus is firmly on the individual to acquire the necessary competency or skill to stay relevant.

Be an all-rounder

The old era was all about finding your niches early on and specialising quickly. Early specialists got the plum jobs and pay. In today’s age, many believe it is better to pick up general skills and specialise later. That’s because when whole functions disappear, generalists stand a better chance of being able to fit into any groove.

David Epstein in his book, The Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, mentioned a study on serial innovators which finds that most creative contributions come from people who zig-zag through their careers. Having said that, it is good to find a core competence that is matched to your aptitude, and then hone your skill in that area.