It doesn’t take Robby the Robot flailing his arms around — or even some shrewd intern nipping at your heels — to signal that your job might be in jeopardy. The biggest threat to your job is how easily it could be done by a machine who doesn’t require bathroom breaks or healthcare. Yep, it can be just that simple. So how can you tell if your job is in danger? There are, in fact, warning signs (and ways to protect yourself).
No Industry Is 100 Percent Robot-Proof
Computers touch nearly every aspect of our daily lives, and with technology’s foothold come certain efficiencies that could lead to your job getting outsourced to an electronic brain. Look at self-driving cars? Once a sci-fi fantasy, they may be on the verge of putting your local cabbie out of work. Think overly intellectual work is immune? A recent study showed job losses in the tens of thousands in the legal sector in the U.K., thanks to automation, and in part, specifically thanks to a new legal research tool called ROSS which is powered by IBM’s supercomputer Watson. So don’t think just because your job involves a physical presence today, it will always require one.
How Predictable Is Your Work?
If you do the same thing over and over again, you might be in trouble. Think about your local assembly line (and how robots dominate many positions now). Any task can be done faster and more accurately by a robotic arm who absolutely doesn’t care about how boring it is to connect that widget to a screw every three seconds. If you can define your job by very specific parameters, then a computer program can be programed with those rules and follow them to a T, like sorting mail in a postal center or auditing tax returns. Have a job where anything can go wrong and small adjustments might be needed? You might be safe as that surgeon who’s doing a delicate procedure on your heart.
Minimum Wage Could Mean Maximum Chance of Automation
Unfortunately for those who make minimum wage, a 2014 study showed that many jobs that fall in the lower end of the salary scale have a high probability to become automated. Just think about that self-checkout lane at the grocery store and how many fewer employees you see scanning your cereal each week. Jobs that were less likely to get automated were often the top of the food chain, so to speak, in the executive suites. Where does your industry stand in the income scale? Check the PayScale Salary Report to get your numbers and see where you land on the scale.
Want to peruse your chances at getting automated (as some calculate them)? Try this robot job guide from Planet Money at NPR.
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