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Prepared for Jobs of the Future, Are You?

Topics: Career Advice
Future Work Skills
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Not even the most powerful Jedi Masters can predict the future. But when it comes to future-proof jobs, we know which American workers feel more confident about the future and which “have a bad feeling about this.”

According to 425,219 U.S. workers polled by PayScale between June 15, 2014 and June 15, 2016, Americans largely feel good about the future of their jobs, with almost 60 percent reporting overall optimism. But given the lightning speed with which the professional world is changing, and given the ways those changes impact specific areas of the labor market more than others, some workers have more cause to feel hopeful about the longevity of their careers than others.

“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

An oft-cited concern when it comes to the future of work is the rise of automation and artificial intelligence (AI); in essence, we’re afraid robots will take our jobs and replace humans in the workforce, leading to massive “technological unemployment.” Historically this fear was most deeply held by manual laborers like manufacturers or warehouse workers, whose jobs have been done by robots for some time; think of the machines that assemble cars in an auto plant, for example. More recently, however, software has been replacing office support workers like receptionists and secretaries, and workers in the sales and service industries, like cashiers. And computers and AI are now becoming so advanced that knowledge workers like journalists, lawyers and even doctors are starting to feel the heat.

Fears of human workers being replaced by machines have existed since at least the early 19th century; in 1811, English textile workers started the Luddite movement and violently protested the advances of the industrial revolution by destroyed weaving machinery that was making their jobs obsolete. Of course, while the industrial revolution caused the end of certain types of jobs, it created many new ones, an outcome that gave rise to the phrase “Luddite fallacy,” the thinking that innovation could have lasting harmful effects on employment.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Will history repeat itself in the future, as another technological evolution massively disrupts the labor market? If so, which jobs will disappear, and which will thrive? And what new jobs will be created?

“R2 says the chances of survival are 725-to-1.”

PayScale’s research identified the top 10 jobs held by workers who feel optimistic about the future. Based on expectations about which jobs are less likely to disappear as a result of technological innovation, we tend to agree that most of these workers have reason to be optimistic.

Jobs like chief executive and religious clergy require a level of creativity and emotional intelligence that’s hard — if not impossible — for machines to imitate. At least, so far. Even workers in the medical field are required to possess a certain amount of humanity and interpersonal skill; medical droids might be good at healing us, but they don’t have much of a bedside manner.

We were also able to identify the 10 jobs in which workers are most pessimistic about the future, and we agree that several of them have cause for concern.

Many of the above jobs involve repetitive manual tasks, and could easily be performed by machines right now, let alone in the future.

So what kinds of jobs are least likely to be impacted by technological innovation and most protected from automation? Jobs that require a high level of creativity, right-brain thinking, empathy and interpersonal connection.

“Sometimes I just don’t understand human behavior.”

As reported by Forbes magazine in the wonderful 2015 article Humans Are Underrated:

The McKinsey Global Institute found that from 2001 to 2009, transaction jobs (bank teller, checkout clerk) decreased by 700,000 in the U.S., and production jobs decreased by 2.7 million. But jobs of human interaction—doctors and teachers, for example—increased by 4.8 million. All those trends have continued. The institute reported that interaction jobs have become “the fastest-growing category of employment in advanced economies.”

The same article predicted that the most important and valuable skills of the future work force will be, “the most essentially, deeply human abilities—empathy above all, social sensitivity, storytelling, collaborating, solving problems together, building relationships.”

In PayScale’s report Leveling Up: How to Win in the Skills Economy, in which we analyzed which skills were most often reported missing in the workplace, we actually found many of the skills managers reported lacking in new hires were exactly these kind of “soft skills” that Forbes predicts will become more valuable in the future: critical thinking, communication, leadership, and interpersonal skills, to name a few.

Is the future here already?

Workers cannot compete with computers when it comes to the tasks that machines do best. Instead, the most secure and valuable jobs of the future will require skills we have been refining over the course of millions of years.

Turns out the most valuable skills of the future may actually be skills of the past.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you expect your skills will translate to the future job market? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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