Most people are myopic when it comes to thinking about their work. They think about their job today and maybe the next one they want. But building a career requires a longer view, including an idea of where markets and employment are heading. You don't want to be the equivalent of the young person who decided to apprentice in making buggy whips in 1905.
Building a long-lasting career means at least thinking about what might be ahead in the next 10 to 20 years. So what lies ahead? A good question. We checked with the work of futurists, career experts, and technologists to see what might happen. Some of what they envision is downright scary; some of their predictions might give you hope. But any and all of them should at least get you thinking about what you should do in the near- and mid-term future.
1. Half of all jobs today will disappear by 2030
Futurist Thomas Frey says that the world of work is going to turn upside down as 2 billion jobs -- half of all employment on the planet today -- will be gone by 2030.
Why: This prediction hinges on massive change happening in some major industries. In the power industry alone, moving to renewable energy and decentralized power generation will mean many job demand in areas like coal and ethanol production, overhead power line maintenance, power plants, and even railroad transportation (to haul the fuel) we drop significantly. Self-driving cars, already a technical reality, could put a lot of taxi, bus, limousine, and delivery drivers out of business. Manufacturing and retail jobs could take big hits as 3D printing eventually lets consumers make many products at home without the need to buy from a store.
The opportunities: There will be new areas of hiring. Corporations and communities will run their own power facilities and need skilled workers. Replacing the national grid will create jobs in construction and in recycling. Solar, wind, geothermal, and other alternative energy systems will need installation crews. People will have to design 3D products, repair printers, and sell the manufacturing "ink" they use.
The risk: Jobs may not be replaced at the rate they disappear.
2. Robots will become your coworkers and competitors.
Why: If you think of robots as something out of an old science fiction film, time to reconsider your views. They already help farmers and could take over fast food jobs. Between 2011 and 2012, employment of robots was up 40 percent worldwide. There are already general purpose robots that cost not much more than a year of minimum wage salary. The move toward robots will only increase as technology pushes productivity by eliminating more of those finicky and unreliable people who need sleep, time off, and salaries. They're just going to take a lot of different forms, given them the advantage in many types of work. Virtual avatars -- faces on screens and voices on speakers -- are coming to a point that they can handle many customer service interactions. Medical centers are already testing them to greet physical therapy patients in multiple languages, ask questions about their pain, and teach people appropriate exercises, using electronics to monitor how well they follow the patterns, according to Technology Review. Futurist Mike Walsh says prepare to see avatars at customer service desks in retail, hotels, and banking by 2010, as Mashable reports.
The opportunities: As the working world moves towards using robots, virtual avatars, and other devices, someone will have to keep the tin can clan doing the right steps. There will be an increase of jobs in design, engineering, and systems management as well as a need for technicians to keep our metallic co-workers up and running.
The risk: Expect the service sector, which has been one area of job growth, as well as manufacturing to be hit hard. Furthermore, by 2100, experts say that robots will be more intelligent and capable than humans, according to the LiveScience blog, and so able to perform many jobs that have been beyond their reach. Welcome to The Matrix.
3. Some good-paying professions will be begging for job applicants.
Why: One irony of the future is that there will be plenty of good jobs that go begging for applicants because young people often have limited views of what job opportunities to pursue. A recent U.K. survey of 13- to 16-year-olds by the non-profit Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development showed that their career aspirations had "nothing in common" with what job markets will want in the future. They will struggle to compete in areas and, by their choices, make getting a job ridiculously harder for many. More than a third of the teenagers interviewed were only interested in one of ten different careers: "teacher, lawyer, accountant, actor, police, IT consultant, doctor, sportsperson, army/navy/airforce/fire fighter and psychologist." The interests of half of all respondents fell into only three of 25 different sectors.
The opportunity: When you consider the takeover of new technologies, remember that someone still has to be able to open a lock, fix a leak, and install a new circuit to charge your new high tech domestic help.
The risk: This disconnect is already having an effect. "I am seeing an increasing labor supply-demand disconnect in hard-skills areas such as electricians, plumbers, engineering technology robotics, and I don't see this ending any time soon," said Karen Siwak, Executive Director of Resume Confidential, in an interview with Forbes.com contributor J. Maureen Henderson. In other words, there will be plenty of jobs, many of them paying well, which go wanting. Scarcity could drive pay up even further.