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A is for Automation: A book to prepare your children for the future of work

Bárbara Abbês for Quartz
By Dan Kopf, Bárbara Abbês
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Here’s how it works, kid
When you’re young, you just play,
But things will start changing,
You’ll start working one day

Sure, the future is murky,
The job market’s unclear,
But if you can stay nimble,
You have nothing to fear

Let’s review the future of work,
From letters A to Z,
It won’t be so frightening,
Just you see

A is for Automation,
That great destroyer of jobs,
In the olden days,
It brought out the mobs

It can also be great,
Something people can dig,
The agricultural revolution for example,
Farming was a really hard gig

The effect is complicated,
It creates and it ends,
Is it going to hurt you?
Hard to know, it depends

B is for Benefits,
‘Cause pay is more than just a wage,
Healthcare, parental leave, pensions,
These perks are the rage

If you want a lot of time off,
You should get into education,
Though not the best salary,
You will get tons of vacation

C is for Computer science,
A very good subject to study,
You should understand code,
Learn Java with a buddy

Computer science is fun,
Also highly paid,
Unless software makes coding too easy,
You’ll have it made

D is for Data,
It’s everywhere now,
It can be hard to make sense of,
You’ll be in demand if you know how

Python, R, and Excel,
And how to make charts,
Your career will be off to the races,
Or at least a good start

E is for the Elderly,
They will need a lot of care,
Since the world’s population is getting older,
Ninetysomethings less rare

There will be jobs in nursing,
Helping the old live a good life,
Sadly these jobs are low paying,
But at least they’ll be rife

F is for Fossil fuels,
Buried deep in the soil,
Jobs are growing faster in renewables,
So we stop pumping all that oil

Solar panel installers, for example,
May be the US’s fastest growing occupation,
It also has a decent salary,
And might save us from devastation

G is for Gig economy,
Like working for Uber or Task Rabbit,
It’s more common to have a side hustle,
You might consider that habit

The gig economy is growing,
But, so far, the job market’s still stable,
Full-time work hasn’t vanished,
If you are willing and able

H is for Holacracy,
Where no one’s in charge,
A flat structure with no titles,
To help innovation so the company lives large

But you may not love it,
With no leader it’s confusing,
Particularly if you like decisiveness,
Too little action, too much musing

I is for Inclusion,
Companies want a staff that’s diverse,
They are hiring managers to make that happen,
In some industries, it could hardly be worse

As you enter the workforce,
Make sure you treat all with respect,
Try to understand your biases and differences,
So your actions will be correct

J is for Job search,
It’s getting easier to find a match,
You’ve got job sites like LinkedIn,
Companies will know you’re a catch

It might mean you stay longer at a firm,
You’ll have better job satisfaction,
And when you look for a new gig,
You will surely make traction

K is for Kiosks,
Retail jobs are changing,
People can easily order and pay themselves,
Which means roles rearranging

If you work in retail,
You will have different tasks,
Not just sitting at a cashier’s desk,
It will be more about customer’s asks

L is for Lifelong learning,
You’ll need to always add a new skill,
As technology moves faster,
You can’t just stay still

New software and work styles,
You will have to be open,
Take lots of online courses,
You’ll have no trouble copin’

M is for Middle-skilled jobs,
They are quickly disappearing,
Become an educated knowledge worker,
Or low-skill work is the future you’re peering

This is mainly true for cities,
Where middle-skilled jobs are automated or leaving,
This means either high- or low-skill work,
So urban inequality is what we’re receiving

N is for Non-compete clause,
An agreement you must sign,
It means you can’t work for opposition,
Can’t take what you learned and resign

But since that stifles competition,
Some places are rejecting the clause,
Too few startups are launching,
And non-competes might be the cause

O is for Organized labor
Bargaining as a group for your wages,
In many part of the world,
The share of unionized workers has fallen for ages

But as inequality increases,
Unions might see a resurgence,
As labor’s share of profits declines,
There could be a worker insurgence

P is for Pay gaps,
Women and people of color make less money,
But that’s slowly changing,
The future might be sunny

But at the top of most firms,
It remains male and white,
To achieve true power,
It’s still going to be a fight

Q is for Quarantine,
A virus may bring work to a halt,
You may lose your job,
And it won’t be your fault

You can do your best to save,
Or find a firm that’s financially secure,
It’s good to have a nest egg,
The future is never quite sure

R is for Real estate,
Local job markets can stay healthy,
If they are affordable for everyone,
Not just the wealthy

Certain cities are too expensive,
It’s hard to find housing,
You’ll have to move when you have kids,
You’ll find distant suburbs arousing

S is for Space
You might work on Mars,
Or you could be in a space station,
On the moon, in the stars

For now it’s mostly about satellites,
But the space economy is growing,
Tourism and maybe terraforming
Who knows where it’s going?

T is for Transparency,
Companies making their plans clear,
Salaries, strategy, and finances,
Privacy no longer held dear

This can be reassuring
But also a little scary,
Knowing your colleagues earnings,
Can be a little hairy

U is for Universal Basic Income,
It’s money you get,
Just for being a citizen,
So your basic needs will be met

Some worry it will make you lazy
You’ll play video games all day,
But it could unleash creativity
Since you won’t worry about pay

V is for the Venerable
The old and the wise,
More work in their seventies,
And their number will rise

You could work 60 years,
To stop could be rash,
Unless retirement benefits are expanded,
You might need the cash

W is for Working from home,
An increasing number don’t commute,
They can work from their houses,
It’s lonely, but it saves you some loot

If 9-to-5 in your pajamas,
Sounds like a very nice perk,
Become a computer programmer,
They’re unusually likely to remote work

X is for Xenophobia,
A potential turn from globalization,
Your work may not be with other countries,
But only within your own nation

The current nationalist turn,
Could just be a moment in time,
Perhaps trade and migration,
Will continue to climb

Y is for Young children,
A barrier to careers,
The huge cost of childcare
Could leave you in arrears

You might try to live in the Nordics,
Like in Iceland or Sweden,
They have family friendly policies there,
They’ll provide what you’re needin’

Z is for Zzz,
The importance of sleep,
If you want to be productive,
Your rest should be deep

But regardless of work,
You should take time just for you,
Your future will be successful,
If work isn’t all that you do

An audio version of the “A for Automation” read by Anne Quito is available at the link below.

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