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The Lifelong Learner’s Guide to Success: Future-Proofing Your Career, Part Two

The Lifelong Learner's Guide to Success_

Last week, we talked about higher education and its relation to the American workforce. The most important takeaway is realizing that societal and technological trends can have drastic short-term and long-term implications in your career. The societal and technological trends that we are addressing today are in relation to automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

Automation, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Sought-After Skills

The scare around machines taking our jobs has been around since the ’80s when Terminator introduced Skynet. Machines and automation have been lurking over the shoulders of worried workers for decades, and now in 2019 we actually use AI in our everyday lives. Nearly every tech giant uses AI or machine learning with their products and services. Entire industries have become more sophisticated and are more and more automated. So, why is the unemployment rate only 4% when there is already so much automation and artificial intelligence out there?

Take a look at the transportation industry.

“70 years ago, more than 3% of the workforce was employed by the railroad industry… and today, only 0.1% is involved in the railroad industry.”

Automation has taken jobs away from the railroad industry, but technology has filled that gap. Uber and Lyft currently employ 2.15 million drivers in the United States. That means that two tech companies account for 1.36% of the entire workforce.

Even though innovative technologies and societal advancements can replace certain jobs or aspects of those jobs, that doesn’t mean people will be out of work. New technologies don’t just replace jobs, they also create opportunities for new jobs. Since 2013, Indeed.com, a job board, reported a 29% increase year-over-year in the demand for data scientists – a 344% increase today! Indeed.com also reported that data scientists looking for jobs only grew at a rate of 14%.

Referring back to last week’s article, we know that sought-after skills will affect the demand and supply of certain workers. When a college degree was the essential ingredient in the recipe for success, we saw a vast increase in the number of college graduates. It is important to realize these trends while they are happening because we are already seeing another ebb and flow in the demand for this new cognitive task occupation.

What Are These Trends Telling Us?

We know that trends come and go and basic economic principles like supply and demand are proven truths. The simple fact that from 1980-2000 workers with a college degree were almost guaranteed a higher paying job is the reason student loan debt is now at an all-time high. The demand outweighed the supply and in time, the natural economic order balanced itself while placing millions of young professionals into financial hardship. Societal norms defined a process which virtually required people to attend college, so the vast majority of people did and still do just that. However, with more than one-third of the population holding a college degree, you can no longer expect to stand out with just that. The same will probably be said for data scientists in the not-so-distant future.

As industries and sectors continue to evolve, new skillsets will be highly coveted by employers, as we’ve seen with the data scientist example. Whatever career you are pursuing today, it will be beneficial to choose a path that allows for growth and development of new skills, rather than pigeonholing yourself into a corner. Joining a professional association is a great way to expose yourself to more opportunities. Not only will you be able to explore new learning opportunities in your field, but you’ll be able to stay up-to-date with your industry’s trends, learn and share best practices, and network with people all over the world.

Stay tuned for Part Three, which will conclude this series, where we will talk about best practices for joining the right association as well as a more in-depth look into the added benefits an association can provide your career. Lastly, we’ll go over some techniques to create or strengthen your lifelong learning mindset.

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