Thanks to a variety of factors, from new technology to globalization, the economy and the workplace are changing at a rapid pace. With the rise of automation, jobs may be created or require new skills to manage the demands of new technology. With the right research and training, you can prepare for these changes and your future employment prospects.
The occupational outlook
Your first step should be understanding which professions are likely to be in demand. One great resource is The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which projects the 20 fastest growing and fastest declining occupations. Growing job opportunities exist in tech and data analysis-related professions, such as statisticians and operations research analysts, as well as nurses, physical therapists, and other jobs focused on an aging population. Emerging types of employment will offer other opportunities, like clean energy occupations or cyber security experts.1
You’ll make yourself more marketable if you can build expertise in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). That can include mastering such areas as programming and electrical engineering to meet the growing demand for robots, or civil engineering to anticipate the need for water management as the climate warms. Also useful is the ability to apply technical concepts in a range of contexts to solve problems. For example, people with strong math backgrounds can apply their skills across engineering, machine learning and artificial intelligence, big data management, and probability analysis — all growing fields in need of talent.
The importance of agility
People who fail to learn, adapt and change can become obsolete as fast as eight-track tape players. The key to preparing for your future job prospects is agility and adaptability.2 That means being open to new ideas and, as a result, having the ability to adjust quickly to whatever changes occur — ensuring you’re not in the horseshoe business while Model Ts are roaring down the street. One study found that companies with the greatest number of agile executives produced 25 percent higher profit margins when compared with peer companies.3 According to a second study, highly agile learners are promoted twice as quickly as those with low learning agility.4 It may not come as a surprise, then, that recent research shows HR directors increasingly value recruits’ ability to deal with change.5
Interestingly, learning how to acquire new skills is itself an exercise in agility. At the same time, agility is something you can develop, like anything else. Through repeated effort and practice, you’ll find over time that agility will come more naturally. One way to develop the skill — and prepare for the future workplace — is to make the most of a variety of learning opportunities:
- Seek on-the-job learning experiences through different projects and employer-sponsored classes that will expose you to new ideas and approaches.
- Focus on self-directed learning by reading, conducting web research, and taking free online courses.
- Pursue continuing education and certification programs, or even your next degree.
As the economy undergoes dramatic and rapid change, you can prepare yourself for the future job market by adapting now to the skills that will be in demand later. Perhaps most important is developing your agility, an essential skill that can help you compete and thrive in today’s fast-changing job market, no matter how it evolves.
1 Lindsay Dodgson, “9 'future-proof' careers, according to the world's largest job site,” Business Insider, May 25, 2017.
2 Quentin Hardy, “The New Workplace Is Agile, and Nonstop. Can You Keep Up?,” The New York Times, Nov. 25, 2016.
3,4 Pat Galagan, “The Quest for the Agile Learner,” Association for Talent Development, July 18, 2015.
5 Shirley Tan, “How Well Do You Handle Change? The Benefits of Being Adaptable,” Business.com, Feb. 22, 2017.