I’m reading and listening to a lot of podcasts at the moment about the future of work. We’re in the early stages of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), a term coined by Professor Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum – an organisation that looks at issues surrounding education and the world of work. You can check out their recent podcast series here.

The 4IR is characterised by a bunch of innovations in a number of areas. With technological change such as increasing automation, the rise of robotics and Artificial Intelligence gathering pace, what are going to be the implications for us, not only in the workplace, but also across education and other areas key to our lives as humans?

It can be fascinating and somewhat scary to think about what this might all mean for us. One thing is for sure, there will be massive disruptions to the way we work and the potential exists for many of us to find ourselves displaced. These disruptions are already happening across a number of industries.

One of the books I’ve been reading is by New Zealanders Dr Jo Cribb and David Glover, called “Don’t Worry About the Robots.” You can listen to Jo here.

A fascinating and timely read, which I highly recommend, it has certainly made me feel more committed to helping people prepare for “what might be.”

A passage from the book that really resonated with me and might give some comfort is:

“Canadian learning consultant Harold Jarche foresees an encouraging new direction for us as human beings: “We cannot become more efficient than machines. All we can do is be more curious, more creative, more empathetic. The fact that automation is taking away jobs once designed for people means that it is time we focus on what is really important; our humanity.”

The book outlines so many ways we can choose to take onboard this message and to prepare ourselves for what may lie ahead in the world of work. I’ll attempt to summarise a few of my key takeways here.

We’re going to need to cosy up to a longer and more winding career. A “3 stage” life of education, followed by work and then retirement is on its way to being a thing of the past – we’re going to need to keep up-skilling, re-skilling and adapting what we do regularly throughout our working life. We might have to get used to having periods of time when we’re working part time, self-employed or retraining and re-educating ourselves, and our retirement might be more delayed or phased-in over time rather than a straight break from work. All of this will require a greater degree of flexibility and adaptability along with a desire to keep learning and changing throughout our life.

 We’re going to need to be more entrepreneurial and proactive in the way we manage our careers, so being able to motivate and manage ourselves and our time is going to be key.

Cribb and Glover also suggest that there are four important things we can do to give ourselves a helping hand towards the new world of work:

 

Know yourself

We can get to know ourselves well so we can think about the direction we might choose to head in, understand the skills we might need to develop and make informed and relevant decisions.

Finding out more about who you are and makes you tick and how to potentially connect that to work is going to become even more important if we’re going to have to manage our working life more proactively. Of course this will come more easily to some of us than others – this is the daily bread of what I help people with as a career coach. I’ve created a resource for young people to help with this, if you’re interested, you can learn more about it here.

 

Know what’s around you

As much as we sometimes might like to bury our head in the sand about the change that’s happening, there are potentially serious problems this might cause. Would you want to waste headspace, time and money earning a qualification likely to be of little relevance? Whilst it’s great to learn about things for pleasure and for their own sake, when it comes to investing to develop skills for your work, it’s worth your while getting your head around the context you’re likely to be living and working in. Doing your research, keeping up with what’s happening “out there” and challenging yourself to think and plan beyond the status quo are all important focuses to ensure employment relevance. Of course we don’t have access to a crystal ball to tell us exactly how the future is going to look, but a bit of curiosity and exploration can go a long way in preparation.

 

Have a plan AND take chances

I love this as a concept! All planning without any room (or courage) for chance or opportunity is likely to lead to an overly narrow focus, lack of curiosity or headspace to pull in new data to help your decision-making. Similarly, living a haphazard life of totally going with the flow (in other words living only by chance) is also going to limit your potential to create bigger picture, longer-term opportunity, so a blend of planning and chance is no doubt the ideal way to go. Knowing what goals to set (e.g. a study goal) and planning how to get there will be critical if you want to create a direction towards what you want in life. However, opportunities and setbacks – the unforeseen, both positive and not so positive – will also present themselves from time to time, so being able to adapt is important.

 

Look after yourself

This section of the book pulls together those things that are most important to help us stay in shape both mentally and physically to be able to keep feeling good and functioning well to make our life and work something that is enjoyable and sustainable. The things we talk about all the time: healthy food, adequate sleep and movement as well as continuous learning, building our resilience – these are essential.