If you could gaze into a crystal ball and see the rest of career right now – even if it will look completely different from what you’ve experienced so far – so different, in fact, that you’d also realize how unprepared you are for it – would you: (a) Look into it and act on what you see? (b) Refuse to look at all? (c) Look but not heed what you see, and just try to keep on keepin’ on until your career is over?
If that were a multiple choice question on a test, everyone would write down the correct answer. That’s easy. But life is not a multiple choice test with hypothetical questions, and the right answers usually aren’t staring us in the face.
For nearly a decade, I’ve been writing on and speaking about a topic for which I have developed a fierce, consuming passion – “The World in 2050” – and challenging anyone who will read or listen with this question: “Are you ready?”
The essence of this is, simply, that the future is coming at us at an unprecedented speed, and our future is more different to us than any future was to any other generation before us. It’s astonishing. By the middle of the next decade, for instance, as many as 25 percent of all jobs will be ones that don’t exist today; spectacular technologies will be commonplace (nano, for example); half of all technical knowledge you learn in any year will be out-of-date two years later; vertical farming will be, of all things, an urban occupation; robots will be everywhere and within the financial reach of most of us; and the first person to live to 150 will, most likely, have already been born – not by next decade, but today, as you read this.
There will be so much more.
Well then, if the changes we’re facing are that dramatic, then a major component of my job as career coach, consultant, and teacher, is to make lots of people aware of it and prepared for it. Yet there remains so much resistance from so many people – obviously because this concept is way, way out of our comfort zones.
But accept it we must, so I’ve taken up the mantle. I’ve written numerous pieces, done countless presentations, built the concept into both of my graduate leadership courses at Fairleigh Dickinson University, and even did a recent TEDx Talk about it.
Why am I so passionate about the world in 2050, two workplace generations from now? (And at my age, some might impertinently ask, why should I care?) It’s simple. Not only is this so compelling, it is also so incredibly intriguing. Furthermore, with major changes happening at warp speed, 2050 is not as far away as you think.
Which brings us to the first of two critical points today: that many people well into their careers are not, by their actions, demonstrating that they’ve chosen (a) as their multiple choice answer. They either refuse to look altogether, or choose to look but then turn away. One 53-year old late Baby Boomer said to me, “I don’t want to think about 2050. I just want to work another 12 or 15 years and retire.”
Sorry, but it’s no longer that simple. That might have been OK for your father, but then, maybe not: your grandfather, for sure. But in 2014, as the first Gen X-ers turn 50 (Yikes!), ignoring the future no longer makes sense. On the contrary, it’s now not only mandatory to look that far ahead, it’s urgent.
So at this juncture, I’m going to ask you to pause reading this, go to YouTube, enter my name, and click on the clip called “The World in 2050.” Then come back here.
Welcome back. Now you know why I’m so passionate about this. All those "future" things are happening right now, already putting us in the middle of a future most of us didn't see coming. Even if we have what we think might be only a dozen years left in our careers (or fewer), we have to pay attention to this. It's the new world order and it’s not really about 2050. It’s very much about this decade. It’s about now.
Which brings us to today’s second critical point: the skills gap, a growing phenomenon about which I’ve often written. There are more than 3.9 million open jobs that employers would fill immediately if candidates with the right skills would show up. And you’d figure, with more than 10 million people still unemployed, that it should happen right now.
But the jobs remain open, and here’s where we connect today’s two points. It’s not today’s skills employers are looking for or today’s job’s they’re filling, but tomorrow’s. That’s why it’s important to think into the future. It doesn’t help if you refuse to think about 2050, no matter your age or the number of years you think remain in your career.
Looking ahead, you realize that 2050 is a lot closer to 2014 than 1950 was to 1914 or, certainly, 1850 was to 1814. Thus 2050 is relevant for everyone.
If you concur, then welcome to the rest of your career. Let’s think about it together.
Career Coach Eli Amdur conducts workshops and one-on-one coaching in Job Search, Career Planning, Resumes, and Interviewing. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 201-357-5844. Please visit www.amdurcoaching.com and "like" him at www.facebook.com/AmdurCoaching.