Monday, January 12, 2015

The Future of Work and You

I have the unique opportunity to work alongside some very smart people where we conduct research, collect data, analyze and write about it.  Our focus tends to be on technology and its impact on people, businesses, societies and economies.

As a result of many discussions with technology and industry leaders, it is my firm belief that it has never been more important to engage in a lifelong pursuit of education and skills development. Education is not something you complete, rather it is a lifelong activity - a lifestyle.  Technology innovations, fast changing business models, transforming economies and evolving markets mean it is highly likely you will have multiple careers, with different companies and in different industries during your working life.  In order to enter and remain in the economic winners' column you will need to constantly prepare and train to compete for new career and emerging business opportunities.

I understand that many people don't like change, and many more would rather not invest in continual education.  Change is often uncomfortable, stressful and distracts from more pleasant pursuits.  I share many of those feelings, but those feelings don't change reality.  The blustery winds of change are  in the air, and they forewarn of global economic transformation and turmoil.  Transformations that can open up many doors to opportunities for those prepared, but pummel those that are not.  There will always be winners and losers in a competition, and the global economy is most definitely a competition.  In a global economy with finite resources and jobs, the winners will be those prepared and with the best playbook to compete at the highest level.

Today entire industries are emerging, while others are disappearing.  Everything is in motion.  Workers must recognize this as the new norm, not an exception.  Jobs, markets, companies and careers are temporary.  Competition for jobs is not a local competition, but a global competition.  Factories, service companies, retail stores, call centers and businesses of all kinds are competing for business against companies in the Philippines, Malaysia, China, India and in many other regions.  Your skills, work ethics and education, and those of your peers, are constantly being considered and compared with other competitors in the global work force.

It is important to think globally today.  Jobs, careers, opportunities and competition are global.  This is great news for those educated, trained and mobile, but a real challenge for those that are not.  In a relatively free and capitalistic global economy you are able to compete for business and jobs globally. Your skills can now be marketed, sold and utilized in a far bigger market.  Your opportunities to make money are greatly expanded. There are far more employment and business opportunities to consider, but the numbers of competitors are also greater.  This is welcome news if you are prepared to compete, but discouraging if you are not.

College graduates must recognize this new reality and plan accordingly. The financial plans and career strategies of your parents are no longer applicable.  Careers and incomes will likely be far more volatile thus requiring one to save more and spend less.  Workers need to constantly monitor industry trends and job markets and be prepared to move and retrain to remain competitive.

In the past your employer managed your career, in the new reality you must "own" the management and development of your career.  You must hone your skills, share your knowledge, and build your personal and career networks.  Never before in history has the ability to write and communicate been more important.  In a digital age, your reputation and presence will be framed by your ability to effectively represent your knowledge, skills and character using digital ink.

Many have scoffed at social networking as a waste of time, or even worse a narcissistic pursuit, but your ability to both discover, and compete for emerging employment and business opportunities in the future may be directly determined by your skills, proficiencies and investments in these areas.

Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Senior Analyst
Digital Transformation, EBA, Center for the Future of Work Cognizant
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.