How you can adapt to the changing world of work

Hanna-Barbera's 1960s animated sitcom, The Jetsons, envisioned a world of one-hour workdays, with machines performing routine, "mundane" tasks for humans. Jane Jetson could kick back while "Rosie," the family's robot housekeeper, took care of the chores.

While the hyper-condensed work week and humanoid robots might not be on the horizon just yet—rapid technological advances —the "Fourth Industrial Revolution"—are happening now.

As more jobs are automated and increased connectivity diversifies the workforce, the types of work we do and the way we work is changing.

As more jobs are automated and increased connectivity diversifies the workforce, the types of work we do and the way we work is changing.

The changing work landscape

The World Economic Forum's The Future of Jobs Report 2018, which surveyed 12 industries, finds that machines perform 29% of tasks today. By 2022, this will jump to 42%.

Warehouse Robot

Image courtesy of Pixabay

As more jobs are automated, some roles will be eliminated, while wholly new ones will emerge.

Specialist roles focused on artificial intelligence (AI) and big data will manifest, while demand for technology-based roles (i.e., software developers and social media specialists) will increase.

What about the jobs requiring uniquely human traits, such as compassion and creativity? Interestingly, as machines do more, the report finds that demand for these "soft skills" will also increase.

For example, while data automation might aid in patient tracking, a machine can't critically think about the data the way a human can, nor can it provide the compassion required to be an effective care provider.

Holding infant hand

Image courtesy of Unsplash

With machines taking over routine tasks, this will free up time to devote to creative and complex endeavors. Researchers will have more time to think about their data and "connect the dots," instead of collecting and compiling information. Teachers can focus more on fostering relationships with students and less on taking attendance and other banal activities.

Workplace diversity

Image courtesy of Pixabay

In addition to increasing automation, the workplace will diversify as global connectivity brings us closer together and enables remote work. This means collaboration with colleagues with different backgrounds and cultures will be essential.

What skills do you need in this evolving landscape?

With the move towards more creative and critical analysis roles, as well as collaboration with diverse colleagues, three key skills to thrive in the evolving workplace stand out:

1. Creativity

As AI and machine learning take over routine tasks, there will be more time for creativity and critical thinking. With the complex problems we face, from environmental degradation to refugee crises, imagination and inventiveness will be essential.

2. Compassion

As the world becomes "smaller" with increased connectivity via high-speed internet and the use of social media platforms, we have the opportunity to connect, learn, and share information like never before. Per the World Economic Forum, more than 30% of the global population uses social media platforms.

The quality of these increasing connections will depend on the level of compassion and open-mindedness we possess.

In addition, as remote work increases and workforces diversify, the ability to collaborate with colleagues from different backgrounds and with unique perspectives will be essential.

3. Lifelong Learning

Maybe Walmart will replace cashiers with A.I. What does this mean for current employees?

"Agile learning" is key, according to the World Economic Forum, for current workers to shift to "new, previously unimagined futures."

The rapid speed of technological changes we're experiencing also means that students and young professionals will need to adapt and be open to continuous learning, as well.

How can you acquire these skills?

One of the best ways to develop these skills is through a cultural exchange program.These programs offer you an opportunity to nurture creativity, compassion, and adaptability.

Bangkok traffic in the evening

Image courtesy of Pexels

Whether you're a Minnesota native navigating the streets of Bangkok as an English teacher or you're a manager with a new cohort of interns from Romania and Indonesia, immersing yourself in new environments forces you to adapt to new surroundings and perspectives.

In a recent survey of more than 40,000 InterExchange alumni of a Career Training or Work & Travel program in the U.S., 91.4% reported increased intercultural communication skills and 72.9% reported increased flexibility.

"My experience abroad," Elizabeth G. said of her Teach English program in France, "has given me self-confidence, cultural awareness, and the experience working with a diverse student populace. I believe my working abroad experience will differentiate me from other applicants in the professional workplace and scholarly fields I plan to pursue."

A work life a la George Jetson will mean more time to spend with family and friends, hopefully on this beautiful earth—not in the stratosphere like the Jetsons—if we can tackle our complex environmental issues. Harnessing the creativity and collaborative skills essential for this, plus committing to lifelong learning, will shape the quality of our futures both inside and outside the workplace.

Ashley Lulling

After earning a M.A. in Diplomacy & International Relations and teaching English in South Korea, Ashley joined InterExchange to promote cross-cultural understanding and help others have amazing experiences abroad.

U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
Exclusive partner of the Erasmus Student Network for J-1 Visa sponsorship of internships in the U.S.
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Generation Study Abroad
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation