The Future of Work: How to Thrive in an Automated World

Automation, AI, and robotics are altering and disrupting the workforce. Economists predict that, by 2022, workplace productivity will increase 40 percent. AI stands to double economic growth rates. And, driven by automation, the makeup of the workforce in manufacturing or administrative roles will evolve — or, in some cases, could be replaced altogether. McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) research indicates that six out of 10 jobs are made up of 30 percent or more tasks that can be automated. 

Far from acting as the bellwether of a declining workforce, task automation signals a radical and positive shift, instead — one rich with opportunities. When repetitive tasks, like emailing, data processing, automating data, and physical labor are automated, workers who have prepared for this shift in the workforce will find themselves with more opportunities for success than ever. 

In our latest Future of Work installment, we explore key skills and opportunities to help workers thrive in an automated world. 

The Human Touch Matters

While AI can help automate repetitive tasks, creativity and critical thinking are still fully in the domain of the human brain. And in fact, jobs that require critical thinking, decision-making, and creativity are poised to grow by 19 percent by 2030 in the United States alone. 

Soft skills, like those that are social and emotional in nature, will also increase in demand by more than 26 percent by 2030. Focusing on improving soft skills like relationship-building, communication, time management, adaptability, and listening can help workers stand out and thrive in an automated world. 

Tom Mitchell, professor and interim dean of Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science, puts it simply: “The truth is, I still like interacting with humans.” While many tasks may be subject to automation in the coming decades, the fact remains that, in many situations, humans are simply better equipped to help other humans. 

Future-Proof Jobs

Searching for the right job that won’t be replaced by automation? Consider computer sciences and IT. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates 1.4 million open computing jobs this year but only 400,000 computer science graduates to fill them. 

Keep in mind that one-third of new jobs created in the last 25 years in the United States were jobs that didn’t previously exist. These kinds of jobs — such as IT development, app creation, and IT systems management — will continue to see growth in the coming decades. And many jobs that will see huge growth in the future are in emerging industries — so keep an open mind! 

The BLS also reports fast growth through 2028 in the following occupations: 

  • Information security analyst (32 percent growth)
  • Statisticians (28 percent growth)
  • Software developers, applications (24 percent growth)
  • Computer and Information Systems Managers (11 percent growth)
  • Management analysts (14 percent growth)

The arts and creative pursuits will also see continued growth, as those skills are not easily automated or replicated by AI or automation. The high-growth positions and industries listed above, however, offer several benefits, like flexibility, high paychecks, and opportunities for upward growth and leadership. 

Where (and How) to Upskill 

With the rise in high-quality, affordable online education to meet the needs of today’s learners, it’s easier than ever to work toward a degree while juggling the demands of work, family, and personal life. Many universities, like CSU Global, offer stackable credentials that allow learners to earn career-boosting certificates and then apply those credits toward future degree programs. 

If a particular job in a high-growth industry is of interest, consider job shadowing or speaking with a professional career counselor about strategies for entering the industry. Volunteering can also help you make unexpected connections and assist in upskilling or searching for a new career

Thriving in an automated world is possible with future-focused skills and a flexible mindset — the world is changing, and changing with it is the key to success. 

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