The world as we know it is changing rapidly and we’ve recently seen that job security is becoming a thing of the past. There are three reasons why job security is going to erode even further, and why your job may not exist by the end of the decade.
We all know that technology is advancing at a rapid pace and it’s causing the destruction of many jobs. It’s pretty obvious that more repetitive tasks are going to be replaced by machines, as they increase accuracy and safety in many job areas, yet we have to ask ourselves how far this will actually go. I believe that thanks to technology, many service industry roles will disappear in the future. Replacing human workers with technology simply saves money and increases the effectiveness of many roles.
In the future we’ll be able to walk into an unmanned supermarket where machines handle all the tasks such as processing transactions, restocking shelves (if shelves actually exist) and answering customer questions. That’s if the entire supermarket doesn’t just go straight to operating online where we get our groceries delivered to our door as required.
The same will happen for most retail stores as shopping online increases in its interactivity and experience (Amazon and Zappos show the start of this trend). Right now, the vast majority of the first-world population works in the service industry, but when technology can deliver better service at lower cost, there are going to be a lot of people out there looking for jobs.
When there are fewer people working in a company you simply need less management. Common management wisdom states that you need 1 manager for every 6-7 direct reports—reduce the direct reports and we no longer need as much management.
This means that company sizes will drop dramatically as more and more of their workforce is replaced. Middle management will become a job that involves watching over the machines. Perhaps this is a good time to be working on our IT skills for the future shifts that are coming.
The roles that remain will be those that require human creativity on a day-to-day basis, such as graphic design, writing or teaching. There are some things that our brains are simply better at doing and it will be a while before machines can ever replace us completely. In these areas we need to look at globalization and the challenge it presents. There are now literally billions of highly skilled people living in areas of the world with lower living costs than us. If we think outsourcing will stop with just call centers and factories, then we have another think coming.
The reality is that there are increasing numbers of highly educated students with Bachelors, Masters and PhD degrees graduating from universities all around the world. You can find an amazing graphic designer in India right now… and she’s willing to work for a lot less money than US graphic designers.
We used to compete in a world where we simply had to be the best in the local economy of our city or town. Then it became the country, and now it’s become the world. If you want to be truly safe then you need to become the best in the world at what you do (at least in the eyes of your target market).
The reality is that not everything is about price: the new Pepsi branding package cost $1,000,000 and Accenture paid $100,000,000 for theirs back in 2000. It pays well when you’re at the top of your game.
I believe the most important question you can ask yourself is:
How much value can I deliver to the largest number of people?
If this value is seen as unique, you will always have a source of income providing that you keep it that way. If you can be replaced by a machine or somebody less expensive, then you’re in for a tough time.
From a quote where the source is not definitely known:
“People can be divided into three groups:
Those who make things happen,
those who watch things happen,
and those who wonder what happened.”
So go ahead and choose your group.
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