24 Dec 2016 16:17 IST

Will you have a job in the future?

Technology has endangered mechanical and repetitive jobs in the market

In my earlier column, I had written about sharpening the saw. Another question you can ask yourself is whether you should sharpen your saw at all or swap it for some other tool.

Let me share an anecdote to illustrate the point.

Back in the days…

Till the late 1980s, one of the important professional, or rather vocational, skills used to be typing. There would be typing institutes at literally every corner of any locality, packed with young people eagerly learning the skill so they can get certified based on how fast they type. This was such an essential part of the landscape in cities that many films have had romances blossoming at such institutes!

But by the mid 1990s, computers came to be widely used and typewriters slowly faded away. Today, barring a few places where these devices are still used, typewriters are mostly extinct. The interesting fact is that while computers also use keyboards and typing as a skill is required for using the same, formally learning typing is no longer a focus or even the priority.

Forget typing institutes which went out of business; consider the career prospects of a person who might have become a very good typist. His/her professional value eroded very soon!

End of jobs

Similar examples can be seen all around us. What will happen to drivers when driverless cars become mainstream? A leading private bank in India has introduced a robotic software that will start handling repetitive tasks, replacing humans. The advances in technology, especially with regards to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT), have multiple ramifications for the future workforce.

The common theme across all these technological changes is that repetitive and mechanical work will soon move into the domain of machines.

Also read The future of jobs

Mechanical need not be limited to just manufacturing — it can include any task which does not require too much thinking. On the other hand, AI might enter the space if basic or minimal thinking is required.

The question therefore is whether you would have a job at all in the years to come.

How to protect yourself

The answer is actually quite simple. If a person focuses on gaining expertise and experience in human-specific skills like creative thinking, personalised service delivery and the likes, they will have a job. But if the same person is caught in a rut of performing mechanical and repetitive jobs, no amount of expertise will save his/her job in the future.

Unfortunately, education merely teaches about what has worked in the past and what was useful or relevant in the past. Therefore, a person who relies solely on what is being taught as part of their syllabus and in classrooms, might find their career prospects shrinking.

A simple example is with regard to sales. Very few institutions teach their students sales and how to sell. Instead, students are taught concepts like sales force design, and planning. How long will it take for the design and planning of a sales force to become automated? Trust me, it is happening even as you read this column!

Therefore, go out and learn selling even if no one is teaching you that in your institution. Learn about newer avenues and skills that may be required in the future, and focus on mastering those.

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