Barbara Fish Counselling Services ... helping your life work

The Future of Work

Helping Your Life Work

Volume 9, Issue 9

September 2013

Dear Reader,

This month, my guest columnist is Judy Libman, an educational consultant with over 30 years experience in educating and counseling students. She is a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the Higher Education Consulting Association (HECA), and has completed the Harvard Summer Institute on College Admissions. A recipient of York University’s highest teaching award, she was the Director of Student Development for York’s Faculty of Science. Since 2001, Judy has operated Ambitions Educational Consulting, a counselling service for students planning their post-secondary education. She specializes in applications to professional and graduate programs both here and in the U.S.

I recently heard New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman speak to a group of educational professionals. His message, in equal parts inspiring and terrifying, was that (surprise, surprise) the world has changed. The digital revolution has spawned a hyper-connected reality where jobs will never be the same.

So what’s new? No one retires with a gold watch from a 45-year job any more. We all know about the supposed seven different careers we will have in our lifetime. Heck, the OED even defines “career” as “to move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way.” We get it. Or do we?

Friedman cautions, the traditional “top” professions are no longer secure. In the new hyper-connected world, many are in fact being automated. And in a global environment, someone somewhere else may be able to do it faster, better, or cheaper – and it won’t matter where they are.

At this moment, a tech guru somewhere is designing a web-based do-it-yourself lawyer app, while law school grads can’t find jobs. Medical diagnosticians may see their work farmed out to pattern-recognizing software. Bankers are replaced by web-based services. Teachers and professors are being edged out by on-line courses. The old reliables are not so reliable any more.

Seven years ago, there was no Facebook, Twitter, Skype or LinkedIn. Nor were there sustainability experts, green architects, or artisanal cupcake shops. Can you guess what’s coming seven years from now? No? Neither can anyone else.

Unless you’re a part of making it happen.

So what’s Friedman’s prescription for career success?

1. The real skills of the future are Creativity, Communication and Collaboration built by actual engagement, risk-taking, and connection.

2. New grads are not likely to find a job – rather, they will need to invent one. Whatever your major in university is, you need to “minor” in becoming an entrepreneur. Take a business course, study economics, learn to spot an opportunity.

3. Invest in yourself. What’s your brand? What is going to be your unique value contribution? You’ll need to define your “extra” that justifies your worth in whatever you are doing.

4. “Think like an immigrant.” Friedman explains that immigrants never assume they are entitled to anything. He calls them “paranoid optimists”: Things will end up well, but I’d better be on my toes because someone might be gaining on me. Stay hungry!

And, I’ll add three ideas of my own.

5. Don’t outsource your curiosity. There are more reasons to be curious, and more places to scratch that itch, than ever before. Don’t wait for your teacher/professor/boss to rev you up about something you don’t yet know. It’s your job to use your own imagination, figure out how to do something old in a new way, think of how you can do something new that solves someone’s problem.

6. Your parents might not be the best source of information about careers in the hyper-connected world. Plan for the future, not for the past. Start reading. Become aware. (And bring your parents on-board by sharing your discoveries with them.)

7. And, by the way, the “passion fairy” doesn’t exist. You can’t get passionate about something by waiting around. Pick up something new and try it. Start somewhere and see where it leads. Same thing for “motivation”: You need to make it happen.

One final point: Friedman says, think like a Silicon Valley starter-upper. If you ever think you are finished – learning, doing, creating – you are finished. Live your life in “beta”… always be a work in progress. For the rest of your life, success is going to come from continuous, self-directed learning and relearning.

Barbara Fish, M.Ed.
Personal and Career Counsellor
“Helping Your Life Work”

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