As technology continues to impact our lives, workers in today's ever-changing labor market need to be prepared with skills to adapt and succeed in the workplace. Job opportunities in technology are growing up to three times faster than other career fields in the U.S. Long gone are the days of a linear education and career trajectory as technology continues to reshape the world's education and workplace landscapes. Nowadays, the career paths of most individuals resemble a scaffold rather than a conservative straight line.
Changes in the education and workplace landscape not only impact job seekers, but educators and employers as well. It's estimated that by 2025, we could have 20 million jobs without enough qualified people to fill them. Before you start thinking that there will be no jobs for humans to do in the near future, first realize that technology has always eliminated jobs. What we're experiencing now is nothing new. Even in the 18th and 19th centuries, new advancements in everything from textiles to railroads to mail delivery to manufacturing caused jobs to disappear. The difference is that the change used to be slow. It took a long time for those jobs to disappear, so there was time to adapt.
But today, thanks to the three change accelerators of exponential advances in processing power, bandwidth, and storage, we are experiencing rapid change -- or rather, transformation. Because processing power is creating a digital explosion in our tools' ability to do more with less at a faster rate, and bandwidth is increasing exponentially, and storage is moving to the cloud, over the next five short years we will be transforming how we sell, market, communicate, collaborate, innovate, train and educate. As a result, we are going to see many jobs disappear, yet at the same time, many current job definitions redefined as technology gives us new and more efficient ways to do our old jobs.
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The key is to get ahead of the curve.
Ask yourself, 'Do I do a repetitive task?' Obviously, advanced automation and robotics is going to take over those jobs quickly, if they haven't already. Similarly, do you have a well-defined procedure that you do every day, or do you have rule-based skills? Intelligent systems are going to be able to do those procedures for you.
Ask yourself, 'What knowledge and skills can I learn that will supplement my current strengths?' What are the new areas of learning that will make me more relevant in a world of rapid change?" It's time to ask new and better questions, because we used to have a lot of time -- in some cases, a lifetime -- to prepare for job and career changes. Today the time frame to prepare for change is extremely short.
The problem is, we live in an uncertain world, and because of the high levels of uncertainty we all face, people of all ages and career levels are finding it difficult to know what new skills to learn, what courses to take, and what degrees to get that will provide them with the most opportunity going forward. Uncertainty keeps us stuck in the present.
Certainty, on the other hand, gives us the confidence to make a decision, to move forward, to invest time and money to learn new things. Over the past 30 years, I have developed and proven the power of the science of certainty. The science of certainty involves a scientific method of separating Hard Trends -- trends that will happen -- from Soft Trends – trends that might happen. This method is currently being used by many Fortune 500 companies including IBM, Deloitte, and Pratt & Whitney to name a few, to provide an accurate road map of the opportunities that are ahead.
That's why I'm launching a list of 12 Certainties that will transform every career, and create new ones. By providing an accurate road map for anyone from CEO to sales superstar to auto mechanic who wishes to increase their personal career relevancy in a world of transformative change, you now have a new tool that you can use to make career and education decisions with confidence. The list highlights technologies that are here now, and will continue to transform present and future careers. As you read through the list, ask yourself how each one will play a key role in your industry and your personal career path.
1. Mobile hardware, software and services will continue to rapidly evolve, creating many new careers, as all phones become smartphones, and our primary computer and tablets continue to evolve as our laptop replacement. This new level of mobility will allow any size business to transform how they market, sell, communicate, collaborate, educate, train and innovate.
2. Remote visual communications will become a primary relationship-building tool for businesses of all sizes as employees use smartphones, tablets and laptops, in combination with current video conferencing systems, to communicate at new levels with customers, partners and employees.
3. Social business enterprise management will grow rapidly as organizations shift from an Information Age "informing" model to a Communication Age "communicating and engaging" model. New careers will emerge as social software rapidly grows -- with applications to enhance business relationships, collaboration, networking, social validation and more. Social search will increasingly shape careers as marketers, researchers and those on Wall Street create applications and services to tap into millions of daily tweets and Facebook conversations, providing real-time analysis of many key consumer metrics.
4. Cyber security and forensics careers will grow rapidly as we become increasingly connected and dependent on computer systems and machines using intelligent sensors connected to just about everything. Careers in data and information forensics will grow rapidly as the need to solve cyber crimes increases.
5. Additive manufacturing (3-D printing) will create many new careers in manufacturing as this revolutionary technology allows any size company to manufacture quickly, locally and with far fewer costs. Additive manufacturing builds things by depositing material (typically plastic or metal) layer by layer until the final product is finished. Examples of final products today include jewelry, iPhone cases, shoes, car dashboards, parts for jet engines, prosthetic limbs and much more.
6. Gamification of education will create many new careers as corporations and educational institutions at all levels accelerate learning by using advanced simulations and skill-based learning systems that are self-diagnostic, interactive, game-like, and competitive, all focused on giving the user an immersive experience thanks to a photo-realistic 3-D interface.
7. Cloud services and virtualization will be increasingly embraced by businesses of all sizes, as this represents a major shift in how organizations obtain and maintain software, hardware, and computing capacity. IT is rapidly becoming an on-demand service that is rapidly transforming all business processes resulting in a rapid evolution of current careers as well as creating new careers in every functional area.
8. Big data and real-time analytics describe the technologies and techniques used to capture and utilize the exponentially increasing streams of data with the goal of bringing enterprise-wide visibility and insights to make rapid critical decisions. This new level of data integration and analytics will require many new skills and cross-functional training in order to take advantage of new opportunities as well as break down the many data and organizational silos that still exist.
9. Intelligent e-personal assistants using natural language voice commands was launched with Apple's Siri, which was rapidly followed by Google, Microsoft, and others all offering what will become a mobile electronic concierge on your phone, tablet and television. The technology will rapidly evolve and soon every profession from retailers to maintenance workers will have a Siri-like assistant. Adding an e-personal assistant to support an existing product and/or service will create many new careers.
10. 3-D web will transform today's Internet experience (which is like looking at a flat piece of paper with a few photos, embedded video, and a few hyperlinks) to a true 3-D experience, similar to today's video games, where you can virtually walk into a showroom, look around and both listen to and see the new car you are interested in, or whatever the website is trying to show you. This will employ many new graphic artists, designers and programmers.
11. Connected intelligent objects using chips, microsensors and both wired and wireless networks will create a rapidly growing "Internet of things" sharing real-time data, performing diagnostics and making remote repairs. Many jobs will be created as we add intelligent connected sensors to bridges, roads, buildings, homes and much more. By 2020, there will be well over a billion machines talking to each other, and people will install them.
12. Advanced robotics and automation will take a giant leap forward, thanks to networked sensors, artificial intelligence, and Siri-like voice communications, taking the next level of repetitive jobs from humans. This will create many new career opportunities from design, programming and installation to service and maintenance, to name just a few.
You don't have to know the physics of a telephone in order to use it. You do have to know it exists and how to creatively use it to accomplish your goal. Don't wait until next year, or the year after, or until you're laid off. Invest the time to identify what you need to learn right away so that you will thrive both now and in the future, either in your current career or a new one.
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world's leading technology forecasters and business strategists, and is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous untapped opportunities. He is the author of Flash Foresight.
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