We are inundated with headlines telling us that our jobs are under threat by technological advances related to artificial intelligence, machine learning and the internet of things. These headlines are usually illustrated with pictures of angry looking robots ready to make you and your job redundant. Industry, businesses and work will change because of technology; this is inevitable. Routine tasks will increasingly be automated. However, we cannot be certain as to how these changes will affect our working lives. Some speculate that machines will improve our quality of life; others believe they will create more uncertainty and inequality.Whether you are an optimist or pessimist, there are reasons why you should not be afraid of what is coming:
- Fear and similar mental states, such as anxiety, trigger our threat response. The longer we stay in that state of alertness to danger, the harder it is to find the confidence, willingness and emotional resources necessary for us to take positive action to adjust to a different work context. Fear impairs our ability to learn and be creative. So, it holds us back in a state of fight or flight – impacting our ability to adapt. In times of uncertainty, it is important to let go of our natural response to ‘danger’ so we can access our resources to cope and act.
- Adaptability has been considered one of the main qualities needed to thrive in a complex and volatile world. It is more than being resilient; adaptability also involves being proactive, creative and self-aware. Career theorists have long been highlighting the importance of adaptability for successful career development, adjustment to transitions and being able to manage uncertainty. In the context of work of the future, in the era of artificial intelligence, the ability to continue to adapt has never been so pertinent.
- Career Construction Theory offers a compelling framework to assess and develop our career adaptability. These are composed of 5 Cs: Control, Curiosity, Commitment, Confidence and Concern. The dynamic between these components increases our ability to anticipate change and plan how to manage our future in changing contexts. Control refers to the principle that we are at an advantage when we are able to self-regulate and adjust our behaviour, emotions and thoughts to fit the needs of different settings. Likewise, it refers to self-regulatory strategies we might use to exert a degree of influence and control over the context. Curiosity is about exploring possible selves and social opportunities to broaden horizons and generate future options and potential new paths. Commitment means being focused on our development and our life projects rather than a particular job. Career indecisions and moments of doubt help us to continue experimenting with new and different activities, being proactive even in times of uncertainty. Confidence is being able to stand by our own aspirations and goals even in the face of obstacles and barriers. It includes having self-efficacy to achieve our objectives. Concern is the tendency to have an optimistic and positive attitude about the future.
While these elements might not all come naturally, an awareness of how we are doing with each of them helps us know more clearly which qualities need attention, and so enhance our adaptability. On the whole, this is a better way to deal with the uncertainties around automation and the future of work than succumbing to our fear of change.
by Dr Tatiana Rowson