Fill a need and you shall earn a living: How to secure a job of the future

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There are a few retrenchments happening around us, in the lead up to Christmas. That’s very tough, but a reality for many businesses trying to stay afloat and remain effective, profitable and stable for the majority of employees.

Small business owners and even larger organisations’ leaders are questioning everyone’s roles.

Which two jobs can become one? Which of these three people can go? Who is not contributing effectively? Do we really need this function?

Lots of people are losing jobs, while new professions and ways of doing work are being created.

What does the future hold? Where do you turn if you are back to thinking about finding a new job or a totally new career? How do you find something paid well enough and in an area that will expand instead of peter out?

Where are the future jobs?

If higher pay and growth areas are the criteria, then the focus should probably be healthcare and tech jobs. In the US, a recent study shows the largest growth in solar photovoltaic installers and wind turbine technicians, then followed by home health and personal care aides.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics said future jobs lie in health care, personal care, social assistance and construction. Add software and apps programmers, private tutors and accountants to the mix, and the top three areas are:

  1. Healthcare and social assistance, not surprising given the longevity and increased aging population;
  2. Professional, scientific and technical jobs; and
  3. Education and training.

Growth areas in Australia

Areas of job and industry sector growth during the next 20 or so years are generally projected to include personal and health care (for example, occupational therapists, medicine), clean energy and brain research, aged care, data analysis, education (though teaching will take new forms with the advent of technology), engineering and architecture and financial services.  

Food (growth and preparation) is perennially important. With traditional manufacturing experiencing a significant decline, the demand is growing for skill areas which can’t be easily outsourced to other countries or automated. Reskilling our aging workforce also provides great opportunities.

At the end of 2017, a report by SEEK put mining and construction as runaway leaders of job opportunities, followed by trades and services, science and technology and engineering.

An Australian Future Outlook report predicts the top industries over the next five years will be:

  • Health and social assistance;
  • Construction;
  • Education and training; and
  • Professional, scientific and technical services.

They also predict growth in arts and recreation industries, supporting more leisure activities. And the jobs they predict to grow the most are aged and disabled carers, registered nurses, child carers, software and applications programmers, waiters and education aides.

Doesn’t sound especially radical, does it? You don’t need to be a futurist to forecast these projections. They boil down to whether some jobs can’t be automated and therefore require human labour, and also where the demographic bulges are likely to be. Do they amount to making a decent living? It could depend, in part, on the gig economy.

Fill a need and you shall earn a living

An excellent New Yorker article makes it clear the gig economy isn’t for the faint-hearted. Gigging is another name for freelancing, in many respects, but with added stress, not to mention more competitors. Gig economy advocates are too frequently guilty of dressing up low-paid work as the chance to make a quick few bucks, with little mutual obligation or safeguards beyond getting the job done.  

Renewable energy jobs

Explore the renewable energy growth area. There will be a lot of new jobs available in the near future. A report titled Jobs in Clean Energy estimates one million jobs will be created in Australia by 2040.

What do people need to make a living?

Instead of thinking what job will I get in the future, think about the skills you need to develop. There are core skills required by a wide range of jobs. Consider a portfolio of skills to help you be more employable.

What skills do we need?

Whichever way future jobs pan out, here’s what the majority of people will need in order to make a decent living during the next 20 or so years.

1. Digital literacy

Fluency with apps, programs and online strategies is essential and most millennials take these skills in their stride. But not all!

We weren’t told some law student graduates lamented when confronted by the news digital literacy (in addition to shiny university degrees) is required if they want to get ahead as lawyers. Yes, for so long law was a hierarchical, pen-pushing career choice that required bright young grads to do time moving papers around and filing, but not anymore.

2. Good communication, comprehension, critical thinking, creativity and research skills

A large number of jobs want people who are ‘creative’ and have good critical thinking skills. These require a solid foundation in basic communication skills. There will be a need for reading, writing, numeracy, research and verbal presentation skills.

3. Reading

This means being literate in as many areas as possible (including visual design and digital literacy).

4. Writing

This means not only proficiency at expressing yourself on paper but also writing persuasively, succinctly, accurately and logically for a wide variety of platforms and contexts.

5. Mathematics and numeracy

These are valuable for programming, coding, spatial sciences, data analysis, economic and financial modelling, business basics and so on.  

6. Research

You need to know how to tell the difference between guff and the truth, and where to look if you’re not sure. This is vital, with so many opinions and so much ‘evidence’ jostling for our attention.

7. Verbal skills

You must be able to present, articulate, and argue your case.  

You’re better off if you plan your finances along the lines of simultaneously juggling a job, a career and a vocation.  The three may be synonymous if you’re lucky (such as actors who keep landing great lucrative roles), but increasingly they won’t be. Develop a wide range of skills and recognised accreditation in fields ranging from the practical to the academic.

8. A readiness to be mobile

In work and location terms, mobility, agility and flexibility will be highly valued, but conversely, we will see mass migration as some countries’ economies suffer and bottom out. This will continue to pressure more settled city and regional populations and resources.

A final thought

Changes often catch us by surprise. Never assume smooth sailing in life or your career. Circumstances change so one thing to think about every so often is: ‘What would I do if I didn’t have this job?’

NOW READ: Wellbeing managers and full-stack developers: Here are the 30 best jobs of 2018

NOW READ: From Atlassian and Canva to Salesforce, here are the 50 best places to work in Australia

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