This is a guest post by Somi Arian.
Career success today looks nothing like it did a few decades back when our parents and grandparents were entering the job market. Machine learning algorithms are quickly chipping away at the tiny tasks that make up most jobs—or taking over jobs entirely.
Before the pandemic, I thought we had at least five to 15 years to prepare for this new career landscape. But this timescale has sped up as more businesses turn to machines—rather than vulnerable humans—as they reopen for business.
There’s no time left to sugarcoat it: we need to prepare, and we need to do so fast. All evidence is pointing to a shrinking job market. There will be fewer and fewer opportunities for unskilled workers, as those jobs will be automated by algorithms and machines. But there are ways to increase your prospects of securing work in the coming years. Here are two ideas to start:
Understand the digital economy
Many people fail to realize that AI is creeping up on us and invading our tasks, one at a time. What’s even more fascinating is that we’re all contributing to this process; we’re literally putting ourselves out of work by training these algorithms. How? By using the internet, social media, our smartphones, and wearable technologies.
Take your smartphone, for example. Every time you use it to take a selfie or record a video, you’re providing a “training” opportunity for the machine learning algorithms built into the software. As millions of us use digital devices daily, these algorithms gain the masses of data they need to become more efficient. All of a sudden, you go from needing to hire professional photographers and videographers to finding out there’s so much you can do with the camera built right into your smartphone, which is always with you.
The result? Millions of professionals are slowly seeing a reduced demand for their services. Social media also amplifies this. For example, the combination of digital cameras and Instagram put former photography giant Kodak out of business. Kodak used to employ 145,000 people. Instagram, on the other hand, was built by a team of 15 people.
The digital economy needs fewer people with a higher level of technical skills. But before you rush to join the next computer science course online, let me explain that having technical skills is not enough. You also need human skills.
Develop these four essential human skills
Now, you may hate this idea at first, but please give yourself a minute to consider it. In the past, we used technology to extend our abilities and complement our skills. But as we enter the age of artificial intelligence, the tables are turning. We now complement technology, and technology has found a life of its own.
Although we don’t yet have human-level artificial intelligence, the aggregate power of the AI applications we already have is extremely powerful. Rather than trying to compete in the domains in which these applications excel, we should instead focus on developing the unique human abilities AI can’t match. This will allow us to have a successful human-machine relationship—and survive and thrive in the coming decades.
So, what are these human abilities?
Emotional intelligence. The term emotional intelligence was pioneered by Dr. Daniel Goleman, who describes it as “the ability to motivate oneself and persist in the face of frustrations, to control impulse, and delay gratification; to regulate one’s moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think, to empathize, and to hope.” I break this ability down into a subset of skills:
- Differentiating between truth and subjective experience
- Understanding our own emotions, and how to respond to them
- Understanding how others feel and how to respond
- Developing self-control
- Gaining psychological resilience
- Developing a healthy relationship with technology
Critical thinking. As we merge with technology and integrate it into all aspects of our lives, it’s more important than ever to think critically about our decisions and be aware of how machines impact them. When we think critically, we can make better choices. But to think critically, we need to know what we don’t know and recognize when our minds are deceiving us. Learning to think critically helps us:
- Develop foundations of good decision-making
- Recognize our own biases, such as overgeneralizing and anchoring
- Know when we are impressionable
- Avoid creating stories to explain events
- Know when to turn to scalable or non-scalable business models
Contextual creativity. Technically, computers can be “creative.” They’re able to generate art and music that are indistinguishable from what humans create. But they aren’t able to add context, a subjective human experience.
Simply put, contextual creativity means understanding the context of a situation and finding creative ways to solve the problem or enhance the experience. As humans, improving our contextual creativity helps us:
- Connect the dots when they’re not obvious
- Be an outsider on the inside
- Be open to contradiction and ambiguity
- Improvise, fail, and recreate
Mindfulness. Our brain is never dealing with just one thought; it’s always home to a committee of judgments, emotions, and stories all vying for attention. Practicing mindfulness helps us observe this constant stream of thoughts—and then ignore them to bring our focus and attention to what matters.
You can see how this is important when you’re trying to think critically, or when you want to respond to a situation with emotional intelligence and critical thinking. The two main modes of mindfulness practice are:
- Focused attention: choosing a subject and following it closely
- Open monitoring: becoming aware of your thoughts without judging them
Make friends with AI and its human side
Artificial intelligence and its groundbreaking subfield of machine learning are here to stay. But so are we. Make friends with AI. Get to know its technological side and shortcomings. This contextual understanding is what will give you the upper hand in your career.
About the Guest Post Author:
Somi Arian is a tech philosopher, international speaker, award-winning filmmaker, and LinkedIn Top Voice influencer. She specializes in the impact of technology on society and the future of work. Her new book is Career Fear (and How to Beat It): Get the Perspective, Mindset, and Skills You Need to Futureproof Your Work Life. Learn more at SomiArian.com.