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How to future-proof your career in an era of automation

How to future-proof your career in an era of automation

With a recent overflow of AI and Automation related content circulating the business sphere and an even more recent lovers’ spat with my GPS on a road trip; I’ve started to reflect more and more on where our human capabilities actually fit in an increasingly automated world and workplace.

Should we be concerned about the potential antagonism between man and machine? Two entities that are fundamentally foreign to the other — can they successfully coexist, with the right measures in place?

How can one stay relevant in an era of automation?

What are some of the key ‘human skills’ to foster that will ensure a rewarding career without the threat of automation?

The WHAT & HOW’s

1. Creativity & Curiosity = Innovation

What: It is true; the word innovation has been abused more recently in pseudo-intellectual corporate EVP campaigns. However, the production of ‘out of the box’ ideas through novel thinking is a must for any organisation to stay competitive. Especially in a rapidly evolving business landscape, true innovation in any organisation starts with people and their ideas.

How: Investigate! Speak to colleagues in different areas of your business. Be curious! Speak to senior managers, as well as your own peers. Think critically about the individuals you are surrounded by, their talent, skills and approach, think about your own and then connect it to the business’s short term/long term vision and strategy.

Knowledge is power – the more you know, the more effective and innovative your ideas will be to your organisation, making your contribution invaluable and more importantly irreplaceable.

2. Cross-Cultural Rapport

What: Globalisation has seen the advent of automation, outsourcing and more widely a power shift from Western economies to other emerging markets. This shift has and will continue to demand organisations and their staff to have a culturally inclusive approach when creating and implementing business strategies, especially at regional or global level. Displaying cultural sensitivity and establishing robust cross-cultural relationships to deliver successful results is and will continue to be a key asset, especially for people in positions of influence.

How: Explore opportunities for international or cross-functional secondment. If a physical secondment isn’t up for grabs, volunteer your skills for regionally or globally focused projects. Enquire how your skills can be of use; more importantly, ensure your contribution will be mutually beneficial to the project prior to approaching the right stakeholder.

Remember, empty enthusiasm and a weak business case never leads to a win-win situation.

3. Learning & Development

What: Learning and development is becoming a key HR initiative due to an increasing focus on retaining employees and subsequently the IP associated with the business.

How: Think about your daily responsibilities. What are the duties that can be automated or performed by a machine? Do some micro-level outsourcing and cast a more critical lens over your skill sets. It is not enough to ‘transmit’ acquired knowledge —the key is to transform the knowledge you have acquired to influence successful business outcomes, which will then increase your commercial credentials.

Tailor your personal learning and development, embark on a path of critical self-assessment so you can identify and bridge any skill-gap that may be needed to achieve progression.

Your mind is your most valuable asset; be selective about what you feed it.

Learning transfer video:

4. Resilience & Change Management

What: Resilience is not just about dealing with challenges; it is also about keeping up to speed with rapid, multifaceted changes occurring in your business. Businesses today value an agile approach to deciphering business challenges. Your ability to implement and influence the solution whilst managing a range of multi-level, cross-functional stakeholders will set you apart from the rest.

How: Change is not easy — it is uncomfortable, so work on being okay with the discomfort. Develop the ability to learn and unlearn knowledge as and when needed. Your fluid approach to change will naturally lead you to take on more and in turn open up opportunities to be promoted in your organisation.

5. Empathy & Humour = Authenticity

What: These are truly basic, innate human characteristics that cannot be replicated. The Oxford dictionary defines empathy as ‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’. If you can truly implement this in your daily business interactions this will cement in your value, especially if you’re a leader in your business, responsible for setting the tone for your organisation’s culture.

Having a sense of humour, I feel is equally important. You are more likely to be remembered and liked for having a light-hearted approach to building relationships than referencing a Wikipedia fact. And people want to work with people they like. It’s that simple.

How: Empathy is not about crying at someone’s misery and humour is certainly not about being a stand-up comedian. What it is about is, authenticity. Be present and genuine in your interactions with people. See the bright side of a challenging situation at work, listen to a co-worker experiencing a difficult day, this will inarguably assist in building trustworthy, authentic relationships.

6. Side hustle

What: A side hustle is about having a “life” outside of work, a passion that may or may not pay. One of my colleagues’ belly dances outside of work and another is an avid photographer. These interests add to who they are at work; adds to their individuality, instigates multi-dimensional thinking and perspectives when they make workplace decisions.

How: Step one: Think about what get’s you out of bed, other than your alarm! Think about how much time and resources you have, what are you willing to compromise on. More importantly, what are you truly passionate about, what fuels you as a person? Step two: Make a plan. Step three: DO IT!

7. Purpose & Personal Brand

What: In a homogenised world your purpose will define your personal brand. Purpose is realised when you understand your end goal and what truly motivates you. Aligning this to the authentic way in which you approach your work and business relationships will create your personal brand.

Without meaning to sound morbid, I always think about my eulogy. If someone were to write about my life, what are the things they would write? What would I want to be remembered for? And then I apply this daily to how I approach my life, work and people.

How: It is imperative that your primary effort is on ensuring a connection between your purpose and your employer’s long-term vision and goals. The marriage between the two will define true success in the future. Daily actions and interactions will then be a direct result of the above, helping to reinforce your personal brand.

Remember, it is more important to design the life you want to lead, than the house you want to live in.

Having a future fit career isn’t about competing with an algorithm. It is about critically assessing the skills and attributes that are innate to you, hence cannot be imitated or automated.

Worrying about your job being absorbed by the ‘bots’ will not future-proof you, investing in your development and the areas of your life you have control over is.

So, what’s your plan for a future with automation?

For further reading:

https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/issues/the-economy/assets/world-in-2050-february-2015.pdf

http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/opinion/article/2075503/globalisations-not-dead-it-just-has-new-powerhouse-asia

https://www.forbes.com/sites/amyanderson/2013/06/28/people-do-business-with-people-they-like/#4a4ac974309f

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