How to Protect Your Job Against the Machines

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By Wim Dodson


It’s tough to think of the threat the next wave of automation is posing the jobs market. Whereas the last great wave was beneficial to the office place in developed countries, it decimated manufacturing. Manufacturing jobs by the millions moved to developing countries like China, India and Bangladesh to become part of global supply chains. Though the previous wave of automation hit blue collar workers in the Midwest and Rustbelt states hard, the next wave is color blind. Also, it won’t care about ethnicity.

Making small, long-term investments in one’s professional development with an eye to the future is paramount if most workers want to continue generating income consistently for the coming decades.


How “The Job” is in danger

Rapid developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, device miniaturization, and service personalization will impact jobs in two ways: complete eradication of some jobs and dis-integration of others. Lower-skilled jobs like brick-and-mortar retail worker will go the way of the coachman, while higher-skilled, white collar jobs like financial advisor will be the ones that will see various functions plucked away, like the legs off a spider.


How to Prepare for an Uncertain Future

So whether you’re preparing burgers in a McDonalds; serving up a half-caf, half-soy, three-quarter latte with artificial sweetener in a Starbucks (I’m an espresso man myself); an actor; or even a doctor, your work is set to change dramatically.

The question is, then: are you ready to change with it?

The three key things you can do to surf the wave of disruption lapping at the shores of our work and lives are:

  • Understand that Diversity matters: develop your people skills

  • Network like mad

  • Develop Entrepreneurial skills


Diversity Matters

Diverse professionals have always felt they are swimming against the tide for developing their careers or businesses. For the first time since the Great Migration of the 1920s (when black folks in the millions moved from the southern United States to the north for manufacturing jobs), automation is leveling the field of opportunities for mainstream Americans and for those the mainstream has marginalized.

As automation takes chunks out of job markets that the mainstream has always relied on, mainstream workers will look with relish at opportunities and markets it has ignored. While various ethnic groups, peoples of color, and women have spending power in the billions, mainstream America will eye the potential dollars to be made from products and services it has little knowledge about.

This is where it is critical that diverse professionals learn people-skills that take them deeper within their groups AND cross over to developing relationships with other tribes. So, instead of trying to run away from your diverse background, embrace it and run with it. It is a part of your competitive advantage over the mainstream.


Network Like Mad

Despite the pronouncements that the United States is a meritocracy, who you know still matters the most in getting a job and progressing along some career path. Today’s workers, no matter their age, need to make goals to reach out to people and groups they don’t know. They need to build bridges across which they can share information, skills, and talent. The individuals who have personal experience with what you have to share beyond the professional world become your allies when you help them unconditionally.


Develop Entrepreneurial Skills

Work will occur when opportunities overlay the patchwork of skills and abilities you offer. Once we let go of the concepts of the 9-to-5 job and the lifetime occupation - or even career - then a universe of opportunities opens up that we can exploit.  

However, we have to learn how to seek, recognize and even create opportunities that will fulfill us, develop our skills and promote our financial goals.

Though none of this seems easy, hoping the tide will pass you by presents a far more difficult challenge to overcome.