How to Stay Relevant in an Increasingly Automated Workforce

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How to Stay Relevant

This post originally appeared on the Vail Centre blog.

It might surprise you just how fast technology and automation are replacing workers, both in America and globally.

According to a recent study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 38 percent of all jobs based in the U.S. could be automated in the next 15 years. The study also found that jobs in the U.S. are facing a higher risk of automation than many other advanced nations, including Germany, the U.K. and Japan. Even more surprising, this study discovered that a number of white-collar jobs — not just those in the blue-collar sector — are at risk for automation, such as jobs in transportation, retail and financial services.

Due to this increase in automation in the workforce, it’s no longer a crazy idea that your job or position could be replaced by something resembling a robot in the near future. Even outside of industries like manufacturing, new technologies can be a boon to one industry and a bust for another.

Remember travel agents?

When search engines for flights and hotels like Expedia, Priceline and Orbitz burst onto the scene, travel agencies and travel agents themselves quickly became obsolete. What was once a stable — and necessary — function of the travel and hospitality industry declined rapidly in just a few short years.

Why Staying in the Same Job Can Be a Sign of Stagnation

While feeling some level of panic or anxiety about automation in your industry is understandable, there are many ways mid-level professionals can stay current and relevant in their jobs. In fact, this is something all mid-career professionals should focus on to advance their skills and get ahead.

Professional development is one of the key ways to ensure that you’re not just doing your best in your current position, but you’re also prepared for constant shifts and changes in your industry.

Much has been written about how quickly younger workers, particularly Millennials, change jobs. Current statistics say that Millennials will change jobs an average of four times in their first decade out of college. However, what’s more interesting about recent job stats is how much longer U.S. workers — both young and old — are staying in their current roles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, all working professionals in the U.S. have been in their current job for a median of 4.2 years. This number is actually higher than in the past, as employees are now staying with the same job for a longer period today than they did 10, 20 and 30 years ago.

The reason for this isn’t a good one. Some economists think that more people are staying with the same job because they’re stuck in a rut. Rather than advancing their skills and moving up the ladder at their company, employees are growing complacent.

Different Challenges for Entry-Level and Mid-Level Professionals

Often these stuck-in-a-rut workers want to move up to a better position, but they feel like there aren’t many ways they can pursue leadership and management roles. Add to this the rise of automation in the workforce and it’s easy to see why many professionals are struggling to stay competitive in their field and feel valued at their company. Even mid-level and upper-level executives face increasing pressure to diversify their skill set and set themselves apart from their colleagues.

Unlike younger workers and entry-level employees, mid-career professionals are also dealing with a different challenge: embracing change and overcoming fears about switching jobs. Some mid-level workers report that they have trouble pursuing professional advancement because they’re afraid to step out of their comfort zone and admit that their skills are lacking in some areas. It’s these mid-careerists — the ones who resist change — that could possibly end up being replaced by younger workers or automation in the workforce.

Companies that are Giving Employees the Professional Development They Need

Some companies acknowledge how quickly the global economy is changing and do everything they can to train employees for the next phase of their industry. Apple runs an in-house, year-round training program and invites faculty members from Ivy League universities to teach development courses to employees. While the classes aren’t required, they have become extremely popular.

Luckily for its employees, Apple has the funding and resources to offer multidisciplinary courses to help workers grow and advance. However, not every company can compete with Apple on such an in-depth training level. As one of the largest corporations in the world, Apple can set the standard, but it’s up to other business leaders to foster an environment of continuous learning at their own companies.

Certificate Programs Designed for the Future of Business

Companies like these are smart to offer in-house professional development programs. Even if you work at Apple, there’s a chance a mechanized robot or perhaps an artificially intelligent software program could be doing your job someday. Technology changes so fast these days there’s no way of knowing which industries or jobs will benefit from these changes, or have to adapt quickly to keep up with the competition.

Regardless of what technological advancements lie ahead, professionals who are constantly looking for new opportunities, challenging themselves and learning new skills have a far greater chance of continued success in their industry. Mid-career professionals who want management or leadership roles must advance their knowledge outside of training programs offered by their company in order to thrive in a constantly shifting corporate landscape. Many mid-level and upper-level executives are already looking for more professional development opportunities tailored to the needs of their industry.

Vail Centre strives to be a leader in continuous education for entry-level, mid-level and executive-level business professionals. Vail Centre offers certificate programs taught by esteemed professors from Yale University, Cornell University and Duke University designed to help working professionals learn new leadership and management skills and advance their careers. Certificate programs for 2017 include Essential Skills for Leadership in Hospitality from Cornell University and a course on Nonprofit Management from Duke University. Contact Vail Centre to learn more about the benefits of professional development and how companies can create a work environment focused on continuous learning and ongoing success.