Rumor has it that times are a-changin’ in the job market. If you look around and see your friends still toiling away at their jobs, you’re sure to think that the hype is overkill and that robots are not in fact, rushing to send you on an unpaid, one-way vacation. Think again.
In my opinion, the future is already here, but it’s still just fraying the current state of work at the edges. In real-time, it’s hard to connect the dots, because the progress isn’t consistent. When people say there will be no more work — what we need to understand is that work may not exist as we currently know it, the nature of work will change and move into a whole new phase.
On the one hand, even today:
- There are people looking for jobs and finding it hard, even after long and successful careers.
- There are people whose fields of work have gone through a shock in the last few years — and after switching career tracks are now working in a limbo between being self-employed and traditionally-employed, in a few different fields at the same time.
- There are people working in crazy high-demand jobs, they’re considered “talents” and can switch jobs at a whim.
- There are people still living and breathing the old paradigm. They do the same job in the same office and will look puzzled when you mention the future of work.
On the other hand:
- Everyone is trackable. Almost everyone has a digital signature. People can learn more about us than ever before — without us being involved.
- Sourcing and data mining technologies are more sophisticated and advanced than ever before. Computing power, cloud technologies and data analytics enable us to find the right employee more easily, quickly and inexpensively than ever.
- You can learn anything and everything from your couch at home.
- The world is flat: Work structures, communication tools provide us with new tools and options.
- The idea of work is changing: It’s possible to create value, regardless of location or job title.
So what’s happening here?
Hypothetically, the challenge of sourcing and hiring should have been solved already. Technologically, it’s possible. We are living in a transitional period. Some of us are already experiencing the future labor market; some of us aren’t, yet. The lack of efficiency in the labor market should be completely resolved, allowing anyone to be exposed to opportunities and either find employment or offer their skills in the right way for them. The ability to make a living will no longer be the sole derivative of jobs/employers, but a by-product of the person’s value at the market at a given moment.
How a career looks like in the future — or, actually, in the present:
While nowadays, there’s a unity of time and place at work: one employer, one job, linear progression of one job at a time- In the future we’ll see people working in various jobs and capacities at the same time and at different frequencies — some of them will yield a salary, some won’t. They will get a different value from each of those channels of occupation- for example, earning a living from one channel and getting a sense of purpose from another. Sometimes those values will be complementary. They could be both employed and self employed.
Everything will be much more flexible, and people would express different sides of their skillset in different times and on different platforms.
A person’s professional identity will rely on their professional history — but not solely on it. People will be able to create their own experience by participating in entrepreneurial projects, partnerships, communities. Every person will on their own professional brand and will be able to deploy it to the best of their judgement, for better and for worse. The responsibility for professional development will belong to the individual, and the shelf life time of each “job” will be shorter — requiring a lifetime of ongoing education.
What this means:
Even today, the responsibility for an employee’s professional development belongs to the employee. Where in the past, this was a joint responsibility. Today, an employee who does not invest in learning, building relationships and finding opportunities — will find themselves marginalised. We’re past the era of an employee as a passive player — this can only be relevant in professions with the upside of huge demand. To be successful in this day and age, one needs to be proactive, to understand market needs, have the ability to promote oneself and create value.
Even today, those who look for work passively, meet a very restricted set of opportunities. Furthermore, the pace of change is accelerating, those who will not be actively creating opportunities, networking, developing themselves while working- might realize it is already late.
Efrat Dagan is a A Staffing Lead at Google , a mom of two boys and a proud design geek.