Jobs of the Future: Further to the conversation

Three weeks ago, the headline here read: “Jobs of the Future…Today?” The column began with the statement that, by 2025 (just eight years from now), 25 percent of the jobs in the American workforce will be ones that don’t exist today. Never mind that fully half of all jobs by the mid-point of the century will fall into the same category; let’s just deal with the mid-point of the next decade, which is only slightly farther down the road than your next job (or two).

So unless you’re absolutely, positively sure you’ll be totally retired before then (that’s maybe about ten percent of the workforce, five percent of the population), pay attention. This applies to everyone else. No exceptions.

I’m returning to this issue so soon – and will deal with it again, you can be sure – not just because of the high volume of responses, but because of the types of responses, and because of who responded how.

To keep this fire stoked, let me remind you of one of the article’s themes: depending on your attitude, this revolution is either a threat or an invitation to a party, and that your ticket to the dance comes in the form of continuing learning, development, and growth.

Now to the responses. Best I can tell, readers who either rejected or denied this condition were in what they had long planned on being the last ten years of their careers (we’ve already covered this one: careers are longer now) and clearly showed that what they really had hoped for was to casually, comfortably coast home to the finish line and call it quits. Nice thought.

But it’s also a deadly one, and it most resembles one of the seven cardinal sins: sloth. Best definition of sloth I’ve seen? Habitual disinclination to exertion. Or, as Mahatma Gandhi categorized in his 1925 essay – “Seven Social Sins” – wealth without work. Interesting, is it not, that Gandhi published that exactly one century before the year we’re talking about?

The reality of the job market is that it will go through major, structural change on a continuous basis from now on; it will require ongoing, unending learning and development; and the capital you built at the beginning with your degree(s) will be used up much earlier than you thought, demanding that you continue to build more. In other words, no coasting home. Like it or not, that’s the deal. For those who accept it, the party’s on; for those who don’t, you’re going to miss one helluva party. Habitual disinclination to exertion (inertia) is a killer.

And if you think these seismic changes will take place only in high-tech or biotech or space travel or something else in the realm of fantasy, think again. For example, a Congressional Research Service report released early last month, showed that in manufacturing, workers with graduate degrees increased by 35 percent between 2000 and 2016, while workers with just a high school diploma decreased by one-third. Further, research from Boston Consulting Group shows that robots perform about 10 percent of manufacturing work worldwide, and by 2025 (there’s that magic year again), they will be at 25 percent (there’s that magic 25 percent again). Factories, it’s easy to see, will be run by high-skill workers managing sophisticated processes, rather than narrowly-trained manual laborers plying one skill.

But it’s still manufacturing, that “old line” sector of the labor market about which we’d been writing funeral dirges – unnecessarily, as it turns out, if we get with the program.

The point is that the very nature of manufacturing has changed dramatically, but it’s creating some spectacular new jobs (emphasis on “new.”) Oh, and that robot thing? No, robots won’t eliminate jobs, just like computers didn’t, as everyone feared 40 years ago, or as the assembly line didn’t, as everyone feared in Henry Ford’s day. They will create jobs, change jobs, shift jobs, elevate jobs, refocus jobs, and so on. Will some jobs disappear? Sure. Just ask the buggy whip makers of pre-World War I America. But the net-net will be a very large growth.

If we get with the program.

If that’s the case with manufacturing, it’s the case with everything else, no doubt. And as the requirement for learning and development will change employment in manufacturing, so will it change employment in every other sector. No doubt.

Which makes your decision on how to manage the rest of your career extremely simple. Not necessarily easy, but strikingly simple.

But then, “easy” is never guaranteed.

Career Coach Eli Amdur conducts workshops and one-on-one coaching in Job Search, Career Planning, Resumes, and Interviewing. Please email him at or 201-357-5844 to be placed on his mailing list for his weekly blog.


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