The “future of work” is often considered an issue of automation. Technology is improving and making our lives more accessible and convenient; yet this technology is able to do tasks that were formerly exclusive to humans. We’re streamlining our ability to perform repetitive, manual tasks with ease. The job market as we know it is changing as a result.
We’re replacing workers in jobs we considered commonplace, but we’re also seeing how technology can augment our productivity and increase opportunities for human workers. Whether we see it as a positive or negative, the future of work is filled with changes in who’s working, how we’re working and where we’re working.
Everyone brings something special to the table, no matter what field they’re in. Even when the job market changes, what makes your professional abilities unique won’t change. When considering what makes you stand out in your current position, consider your soft skills. Are you a particularly great listener? Do you communicate well? If you’re confident in what makes you unique, you can bring that skill anywhere you might work, regardless of what happens in your current career.
The ultimate gap in machine ability is emotional intelligence. Even though artificial intelligence is improving, nothing can replace highly emotionally intelligent people. Those with high emotional intelligence have great empathy, listening skills, and awareness of their own and other’s emotions. While we might think of emotions as personal, emotional intelligence is crucial to our professional lives in our task performance, interactions with coworkers and the way we communicate with our clients.
On seemingly the opposite side of the professional field, critical thinking skills focus on the gathering and processing of information. While machines might be helpful in either of these two facets, they often lack the ability to choose the most effective or efficient solution. Being a critical thinker means you can understand the circumstances of each problem, evaluate the information, offer a variety of solutions and finally discern which will be the best move for the company. If you’re strong critical thinker, this innovation and inventiveness, along with strong judgment skills, will be integral to a work environment.
The future of work is frightening because what we’re used to is changing. If you’re an adaptable worker, you can stay on top of the trends and welcome change rather than run from it — or worse, be tackled by it. Even if you don’t decide to participate in the gig economy or work remotely, learn the skills and strengths needed to make those changes if you need to. Staying on top of and ahead of the curve gives you an advantage when your industry changes and prepares you for when the future of work finally “arrives.”
As technology becomes so integral to our everyday lives, it’s nearly impossible to avoid using a digital or media platform. Yet these platforms can be and are extremely useful, both professionally and personally — so why hide when you can welcome the change with open arms? The ability to use the platforms to your advantage will only benefit you in the long run. Developing your technical skills now solidifies a foundation to give you media and digital literacy for years to come.
With the trends shifting toward remote work, learning how to communicate virtually is more important than ever. We won’t always be able to make it into the office for face time, especially if there is no office to go to! Knowing how to successfully navigate remote communication is an integral skill, whether you decide to work remotely now or will in the future. Learn how to interact with coworkers virtually can help build your remote teamwork skills and increase productivity even in front of a screen.
Creativity is key — especially when you’re competing against technology. Like emotional intelligence, creativity is hard to come across when you’re using artificial intelligence. Creativity comes in all forms, so don’t worry if you’re not a painter or a dancer. There’s creativity in problem solving, organizing and even managing. Understanding and compiling your creative skills will make you indispensable and an integral part of any team.
The future may seem scary, but it doesn’t have to be if you’re informed and prepared. Understanding the trends in the workforce can propel you to take action and lock down your skills and take charge of your professional future — no matter what comes your way.
Zoë Kaplan is an English major at Wesleyan University in the class of 2020. She writes about women, theater, sports, and everything in between. Read more of Zoë’s work at www.zoëkaplan.com.
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