Hidden Figures - Digital disruption and your career

Philippa Flowerday, Career Transition Partner

We are in what is being called ‘The fourth Industrial Revolution; the era of digital disruption. It is estimated that 40% of jobs that exist today in Australia will be replaced by technology by 2025. Automation is nothing new but the pace at which technology is developing makes it very hard to predict exactly what the future of work will look like.

Within primary and secondary education coding programs are leaping up all over the place so that our children can embrace a world where digital dominates. There is a lot of talk about millennials being more tech savvy than previous generations. Well yes and no I would argue. Using the latest technology is not the same as designing or coding it. The point is, it is about exposure and familiarity. Yes we are uncertain about the future but we can prepare so that when changes do occur in our fields we can embrace them.

Get up close and personal

Further automation and AI* means that some jobs will become redundant but it is also likely that new jobs will be created whereby we will be required to work alongside technology. A great example of this can be found in the (based on a true story) film ‘Hidden Figures’ where the IBM computer was introduced into the NASA space program. Prior to this important calculations were done manually by a group of women ‘computers’. The supervisor of this team investigated this new machinery and discovered that it still required human intervention to be used. She therefore embarked on learning everything she could about the IBM, passing on her learnings to the team and thereby making them indispensable going forward.

Rinse, repeat learning

Related to the point above, education cannot be viewed as something that is done to enter the workforce; that is just the starting poin,. We all have to disrupt ourselves and get into the habit of continual learning. “Nano degrees” or short technical study courses are likely to be increasingly useful, as is focusing more on developing the ‘softer skills’ that computers cannot compete on. It is an interesting time for tertiary institutions as they will have to work harder to show how they prepare graduates for the job market.

Macro not micro

It’s really easy to develop tunnel vision or forget about why your job exists and what it means to your organisation or developments in your field. There are numerous example of organisations that took their eye off what their competitors we doing and it became their undoing (think Kodak if you are old enough, like me). The danger at an individual level and in career transition is you aren’t likely to stand out above your competition. It is much harder to articulate “why you should be chosen for the job”. Get reading and look at the macro trends impacting on your area of expertise and the industry you work in.

Getting ‘Giggy with It”

Now is the time to consider flexible and mobile job and careers; welcome to the gig economy. Years ago talent management was performance and potential; now it’s performance, potential and mobility. A job for life and ‘9 to 5’ working is really becoming obsolete as globalisation equates to 24 hours ‘on’. In career transition we regularly talk about portfolio or ‘slash’ careers. It makes much better sense for some businesses to resource up with temporary workers, across the generations we are all looking for more flexibility in our lives and we are going to be working for longer. Its not all plain sailing; there are huge implications for financial security and lending and potential for abuse of working rights but still we would advise all workers to ‘think like a contractor’ not about securing the next job.

Ask what you can do for yourself

Career management comes down to you. This statement has never been so relevant. Yes organisations wish to engage and retain their staff but not as they used to (even engagement surveys are moving away from annual unwieldy events to ‘real time’ pulse checks). It is retain within reason as we flex to meet the market. Therefore you have to be the pilot, not the passenger, to fly your career plane.

Now this might seem counterintuitive, but in order to move forwards, you need to look back. Take a look at what you have achieved, what you have enjoyed, your learnings thus far and your skills, capabilities and talents. What are your transferable skills? Once you understand the essence of you, the planning begins.

*A good read: I recommend ‘Don’t worry about the Robots’ by Dr Jo Cribb and David Glover. Career transition insights from prominent NZ professionals embracing this new world order.

If your employees need a gentle prod to take charge of their careers you may wish to talk to us about Career Builder, a ‘no age limits’ approach to career management today. Email