Work—the very meaning of the word—is undergoing metamorphosis. In a few years’ time, traditional office employees all over will find themselves suddenly working for themselves, working freelance, or perhaps out of work entirely and seeking a new path forward.
What’s a person to do? To answer that, the Institute for the Future, a California-based think tank, paired up with the talent-management software company Cornerstone OnDemand to identify certain core traits and attitudes that workers will need in order to prepare for the next wave of “work,” whatever it means and however it comes. Five skills recommended in their Feb. 22 report—broad, but helpful as launching points for further thought and consideration—are summarized below.
1. Make yourself known
“Brands aren’t for celebrities anymore,” the report notes. One’s résumé need not stop at a piece of paper: A digital presence, engagement inside and outside of one’s desired industry, and a distinctive voice or perspective are all ways a person can catapult themselves from one job to the next.
2. Make sense of loopy, complex systems
The nebulous jobs of the future will require mental flexibility like never before. Traits like “thinking outside of the box,” “coloring outside the lines,” and “connecting the dots” will begin to crop up as requirements. So workers should flex their creativity as much as possible. (That’s one reason why liberal-arts degrees are still excellent college paths.)
3. Befriend the machines
Coding skills will not necessarily be a requirement for every job, but a thorough understanding of computing—even just on an abstract level—is almost a guaranteed prerequisite. You don’t have to know how machine-learning algorithms work, but you do have to understand the general ideas of automation and artificial intelligence, and the benefits that they pose. Rejecting digital devices is out of the question at this point.
4. Build your tribe
No matter how rapidly industries and institutions change, personal networks do not. Keep an awareness of your community and stay involved in what’s going around you, whether that means maintaining advantageous social connections or reaching out to new people, particularly if they are involved in businesses related to your preferred realm of work. Contrary to popular belief, automation will actually make human relationships more crucial than ever.
5. Keep it going by building resilience
Commit, and recommit. The “safety net” of employment may be “frayed,” per the report, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be rebuilt. Leaving an outmoded role must be thought of not as a loss but as an immediate opportunity for another, newer role. Workers in the new economy must recognize that the upside of job insecurity and impermanence is that, potentially, anything is possible.