Future Proof? Not Really!

is your career future proof? not really

Recently I was reading an article that talked about “future proof” jobs you can train for; that reminded me that I have a book in my office called The Future-Proof Workplace. Although it is full of great tips for what workplaces and individuals can do to help their careers, its title gave me pause, as did the title of the article. I don’t think we can future-proof anything!

Why? We don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow.If you woke up in Mexico City today your future is very different than what you thought it was going to be before the earthquake hit. Those people that had lives disrupted by hurricanes Harvey, Irma or now Marie did not know exactly what their future held.

So you cannot “future-proof” your life or job. What you have to do is prepare for possible futures. The goal of a good “futurist” is not to predict the future but to determine alternative futures in order to be prepared to deal with different possible outcomes. As in building a house to be earthquake or hurricane resistant you can build career tracks that can help make you resistant to technological unemployment.

No Lack of Guidance

There is certainly no lack of guidance on what you need to do to build a plan for alternative careers or alternative paths for a company. One author, Mark Samuels, writing for ZDNet, says that there are four skill sets that every CIO needs to have to be successful in that role. These are applicable to everyone and they include:

  • Being a storyteller
  • Being a futurist
  • Being a team player
  • Being a networker

You learn more about what these skill sets mean by reading my article, Future Friday: The skill sets needed for the HR professional of the future.

A second author, futurist Graeme Codrington, strategy consultant at TomorrowToday Global, writes about the same concerns. His advice points out the skills that humans will need to be relevant in a future world include:

  1. Creativity and ingenuity. It will yet be awhile, so we think before machines will get to this point.
  2. Sense-making. Machines are great at producing data but are not all that good at determining what that data means. However, they will get there.
  3. Unstructured problem-solving. Machines need rules, people can operate without them.
  4. Common sense. Common sense can be rule-based, but as the saying goes “common sense” is not all that common.
  5. Ethics and morals. Choices are not always obvious. There are subtleties often necessary that machine code cannot handle. As Codrington says: “An intelligent machine’s ‘moral code’ is only as good as the data it receives from humans – it doesn’t have metacognitive awareness itself.”
  6. Identifying errors. Since machines are coded by humans it is humans who will have to identify the errors, at least for many years to come.
  7. Empathy, love, care, and compassion. This is the most human of these skills. Not all humans are very good at this, as we have spent decades turning workers into machines. Many will have to relearn these skills. But as Codrington says “The human touch is indispensable for most jobs…”

Both of these authors have good advice but that advice only goes so far. Applying these “skills” will help you create a “future-resistant” career by making you more versatile, but nothing can make you “future-proof.”

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Mike Haberman

Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, speaker, writer of HR Observations, and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc. After over 30 years in HR he got tired of the past and focuses here on the Future of HR. Connect with Mike.


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