How to always have a job in a fast-changing world

By Paul Milano

In the next 10 years, the world will change more than in the past 100 combined. Are you ready? Here’s the best way to make sure you are always employable and can keep a job.

Have you seen the movie Hidden figures?

If you haven’t, it tells the amazing true and previously untold story of the African American women behind NASA and putting the first man into space.

The women are “computers”, meaning they perform mathematical calculations and checks manually on paper. (It’s hard to believe nowadays such a time existed). Modern computers actually got their name from this.
Halfway through the movie, rumors start being heard through the team about a new IBM machine which can do their job in fractions of the time.
Most of the women assumed their time was up and they would be replaced.
In an amazing example of leadership, Dorothy Vaughan, the lead of the women “computers” group see’s the inevitable and takes action. On her own time, she starts reading and learning about the new IBM machines and how to program them and makes sure her team does as well.

Dorothy Vaughan in Hidden Figures – Copyright 20th Century Fox

Dorothy Vaughan: The IBM 7090 data processing system. It has the capability of solving over twenty-four thousand multiplications per second.

West Area Computer Woman #1: Holy Moses, that’s lightning fast.
West Area Computer Woman #2: They’ll never get that to work.
Dorothy Vaughan: Oh, it’ll run eventually, and when it does, we have to know how to program it. Unless you’d rather be out of a job.
West Area Computer Women: No, ma’am.

Their current jobs were going to be replaced but it didn’t matter.

She learned new skills and made her and her team more valuable in the process. They all switched from being computers to “programmers”. In the next 10 years, it’s predicted the world will change more than in the past 100 combined.

Are you ready? Will your skills and job still be around?


The coming wave of change

Working in the tech field and currently living in San Francisco (Silicon Valley) is both a blessing and a curse.

It’s frustrating to know that some things I worked on a mere one year ago already are outdated. At times you wish you could hit the pause button so you can catch up for a bit. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

However becoming used to and adaptable to this rapid level of change is a blessing and sets you up for future success.

We don’t live in a world anymore where you can learn one skill and do it for the next 20-40 years

In reality, if you start a 4-year degree nowadays, the curriculum you learn will most likely be outdated by the time you graduate. (Yes I know how depressing that sounds, but in many fields it is true). A lot can change in 4 years time and how much and how fast things are changing is only increasing and happening faster than ever before.

We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate)

Ray Kurzweil

By 2030, AI is predicted to be as smart as the human brain. By 2060, AI is predicted to be as intelligent as ALL human brains combined.

The other day when I was out walking I had an interesting thought. My sister recently had a baby girl and by the time she is old enough to learn how to drive it will be 2032.

It’s entirely possible with how fast self-driving car technology is moving, that she will never even need to learn how to drive.

I see self-driving cars being tested on the streets of San Francisco basically every single day now.

Uncle Paul, you used to have to DRIVE your car to go places? You’re so old.”
I look forward to that day.

More technology does not mean fewer jobs.

A lot of people think that more technology and automation like self-driving cars causes lost jobs. While it is true that SOME jobs will be lost, the overall net amount of jobs is not decreasing.
As some jobs are lost due to tech advancements others are created leaving the same amount or usually more jobs still overall. This has held true for the last 100 years.

A study of census results in England and Wales since 1871 finds the rise of machines has been a job CREATOR rather than the typical fear-driven mentality that working humans are becoming obsolete. Gartner as well has done a study showing that while AI will wipe out 1.8 million jobs, it will actually create 2.3 million, meaning 500,000 more jobs that didn’t previously exist.

By 2020, artificial intelligence (AI) will generate 2.3 million jobs, exceeding the 1.8 million that it will wipe out. – Gartner

Looking back at Hidden Figures and the women of NASA’s computer group. Their jobs as “computers” were lost but because of their actions, they became “programmers” instead. Total net job losses for those women was zero in that example.

Jobs are not being lost today, they are just “transitioning” to other jobs.

How can we make that transition to keep ourselves relevant and employed so we don’t become someone left behind?

It’s up to us. I don’t think there’s any one single solution, but here is the best I have seen that has withstood the test of time.

Step 1: Embrace & plan for change instead of fearing it

Evolve or Die – Ray Dalio

Humans are curious creatures.
We all have the mental capacity to know that change is inevitable.
Yet at the same time, we tend to resist and fear it.

Many people react think that jobs being lost due to automation is a new phenomenon but it’s not. It’s actually been happening for hundreds of years.

In the 19th century, Luddites, a group of textile workers in England were protesting the use of a new weaving machine that threatened their work. They decided to smash the machines… it didn’t work.

Henry Ford’s lawyer in 1903, confidently predicted: “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad.”
He opted not to invest in the Ford motor company. I’m sure he regretted that one…

Technology moves to fast and you want to keep up. You don’t want to be this guy in the horse-drawn carriage amongst the cars.

The #1 reason most people reject change is simply fear.

  • Fear of the unknown.
  • Fear of their place in an ever-changing world.
  • Fear of becoming forgotten or irrelevant.

Looking back to Dorothy Vaughan in Hidden figures, she could have reacted the same way most people would.
With fear and anger at the world and NASA for bringing those machines in.

Or, she could have reacted with an ego as some of her co-workers did, “those machines will never replace us”.
After all, it’s much easier to react like that, and that’s why most people do.

Instead, she took the harder path, accepted the inevitable reality, put in the effort to learn new skills and was rewarded because of it.

It’s the difference between having a proactive and reactive stance.Reactive is blaming change and job loss on others or the world being unfair. Proactive is taking action and responsibility for yourself.

Now I understand it’s easier for me to say this. Having been born in Canada and living in San Francisco, I’m coming from a more privileged place then people from many other parts of the world. However, being open-minded, progressive, taking responsibility for yourself and open to change will always propel you further in life than the opposite, no matter what your circumstances.

Step 2: Take Responsibility - How to get ahead

The first step to ensuring you are always employable is to develop a mental model to embrace change as inevitable and take action to do something about it.

You and only you are responsible for keeping your skills up to date and applicable. Good employers will also recognize and encourage this. (If your employer doesn’t actively encourage the learning of new skills and training, I would consider changing jobs).

Change happens fast, but it doesn’t happen fast enough that you don’t have time to be proactive and prepare for it.

For example, if you a truck driver today, the writing is on the wall.

However you probably still have at least 5 years before anything drastic happens. You can learn a TON in that time.

Think of it like inflation. Most people know that keeping lots of money in a simple savings account isn’t the best as your interest rate percentage is less than the rising cost of inflation. (Meaning your money isn’t even growing at the rate of inflation, so it’s actually declining).

By holding onto the same skills and not learning new ones, you are also declining as your knowledge is not keeping up with the world’s rate of change.

Anybody can learn new skills and the access to do so is easier now than ever.

There are amazing groups out there, like Bitsource, teaching former coal miners how to code and giving them a skill set relevant for the 21st century.

After you’ve developed this mental framework, here’s an exact action plan to upgrade your skills and value to the next level.

Step 3: Your action plan to stay employable

Most people choose not to take action until it’s too late. That’s not you though, here is how you are going to stay ahead of the game and learn new skills quickly at pretty low cost.

Action 1 – Find the skill.

What are the best companies out there looking for in candidates? Recognize and look for trends in the industry.

Look at job postings for leading companies and see what skills they are looking for. Do you have them? Even if you’re not looking for a job, do this just to see where you stand. Skills change fast and you want to keep up to date.

This doesn’t just include tech skills. There are a lot of reports we can look at to identify which positions or fields there is a shortage of people for. For example, nursing is known to be in demand over the next few years as the population ages and the number of workers needed increases.

Once you’ve identified the skills you want to learn or improve, do the following.

Action 2 – Buy the top 5 rated books on Amazon for that skill.

You may also use Audible for this. Personally, I mix reading books and listening to them on Audible. If you’re not on Audible, get it if you are truly serious about increasing your personal growth. Time spent walking or commuting is valuable time to learn.

Action 3- Check for online courses.

Accessing information to learn new skills is now easier than ever. Any of the following sites have courses on more skills then you could ever hope to learn in a lifetime. The best part is, they are either free or very low cost when compared to traditional education as well.

 Learning platforms like these also tend to update what their teaching much faster than traditional schools.

Udacity is currently running a course on how to program self-driving cars. You can bet that is in high demand.

Action 4 – Show off your new skills – Start a side hustle or project

What’s the best way to get experience and show off these skills? Start a side hustle, little project, freelancing or an internship if you have the time.

For example, EverProductive, my online course on helping people build a productivity system to get more results and stand out started as something I did in my spare time.

Using the steps above, I managed to learn the following skills:

  •  Growth marketing
  •  Web development
  •  Email marketing and automation
  •  Content development & writing
  •  Customer journey software
  • Messenger and AI driven bots

These are all super valuable and highly sought after. They were also completely different then what I was learning in my day job, broadening my experience.

You can do this with anything too. I have a friend who loves Formula 1. He wanted to expand and show off his skills in big data and data visualization using Tableau. He created this interactive chart about Formula 1 history.

He’s built out a number of these, added them to a portfolio which has now gotten him job offers from Lyft.

Action 5 – Start networking.

Look up groups on Meetup and other platforms like Eventbrite for the skill you want to grow and start attending them. This will have two immediate impacts, you will start learning more about your topic and you will begin networking and meeting like-minded people in the business.

Great for not only finding out about potential opportunities but also meeting potential new friends.

Action 6 – Find two professional conferences on the skill you want to grow.

Make an effort to attend them. This is last on the list as it is the most expensive but investing in yourself is the best investment you can make and will yield the highest returns.

Out of the whole list above, this is the least important but if you have the means it is worthwhile. You are sure to meet like-minded people who can help you on your journey and potentially open up opportunities as well.

Change is far less scary when you are prepared and ready for it.

If you’re now thinking, how can I find the time and energy to take on these actions, then check out our free EverProductive course.

WHAT IS  EverProductive?

Everything you need to know about building your most productive life. Simplified in an easy to follow system in this master course. 

  • Van Harber says:

    Your blog is a treasure trove of valuable insights and thought-provoking commentary. Your dedication to your craft is evident in every word you write. Keep up the fantastic work!

  • Gia Anderson says:

    Your objective perspective was much appreciated, made for a trustworthy read.

  • […] How to Always Have a Job In a Fast-Changing World by Paul Milano | Paul Milano It is unlikely that robots will steal your job. BUT, you have to change your thinking and strategy. There are six very concrete steps you can take to make sure you stay employable. Make sure you block time for them! […]

  • Jenna Lee says:

    Great article!

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