How To Prepare For Jobs That Don’t Yet Exist in a Multi-Stage Life

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85 per cent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet, estimates a Dell
Technologies report, written by the Institute for the Future (IFTF) and a panel of 20 tech, business and academic experts from around the world.

So how do you prepare someone for a job that doesn’t exist yet? How can we prepare the young people who will be entering the workforce in the next five years? How can we prepare ourselves?

Wave Goodbye To Your Three-Stage Life

Multi-Stage Life

Before we talk about preparation, here’s a contributing factor to consider: The three-stage life we’ve been accustomed to is coming to an end. What are the three stages of life? The first stage is education, which can last up to 25 years. The second stage revolves around work and lasts 40 years until we retire. And retirement is the third stage in life, which lasts between 15 and 20 years on average.

Yet life expectancy is increasing and health care is advancing. Over the last 200 years, life expectancy has increased consistently more than two years every decade. This trend indicates that a child born today has more than a 50% chance of living to 105! And they won’t simply stay alive—but can actually live a healthy life in those years.

A lifespan of 100+ years doesn’t fit well into the three straightforward stages of life we are used to. For example, an education gained in your 20s won’t sustain you for 60 years of working. Saving up for a retirement that lasts from age 65 to 105 (40 years!) is unlikely if retirement age remains the same.

Meet The Multi-Stage Life

Multi-Stage Life

Instead, people will adopt multi-stage lives. What will that look like? Based on trends we are seeing now, it would include education on a reoccurring cycle to accommodate career shifts based on technology advancements or personal choice. Remaining relevant for 40 years is hard enough—how about 60? And perhaps the stages will vary in focus—one stage for building financial resources, another for focusing on work/life balance, another for flexibility in order to build a family or care for aging loved ones, etc.

The implications of multi-staged lives are vast. Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott put it wonderfully: “These multi-stage lives require a proficiency in managing transitions and reflexivity – imagining possible selves, thinking about the future, reskilling and building new and diverse networks. At its best, it offers people an opportunity to explore who they are and arrive at a way of living that is nearer to their personal values.”

I agree. A multi-stage life requires flexibility, a drive for continuous learning, and the emotional intelligence to transition into ever-changing and diverse work relationships. And I propose that these are the very skills needed to prepare our employees, our youth, and us for jobs that don’t exist yet.

Preparing For the Unknown Future of Work: Four Essential Skills

Let’s take a closer look.

  1. Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

A person with a high EQ is curious about people they don’t know, aware of their strengths and weaknesses, skilled in active listening, and aware of their own emotional states, enabling them to respond rather than react. This is a skill that can provide balance, insight, and flexibility when facing responsibility shifts, career changes, and life stages. It doesn’t matter what job you’re in—if you have emotional intelligence, you can navigate interpersonal relationships successfully, leading to productivity, collaboration, and an increased ability to face change.

In order for leaders to prepare for an ever-evolving working world, they must be skilled in constantly creating, organizing and dismantling teams. That requires a high EQ because it’s so relational. Also, they can help prepare workers for the future by implementing EQ training and displaying emotional intelligence themselves.

Learn how to increase your EQ here.

  1. Commitment to Lifelong Learning

We’ve all witnessed how quickly technology has changed the fabric of our world. The increasing global pace of growth only adds to that rapid-fire change. In order to keep pace, people must be constantly learning. Whether this happens in the form of MOOCs or peer-to-peer information exchange is irrelevant. What matters is a commitment to learning—how else can someone transition smoothly into a role they’ve never even heard of yet? We must seek this learning out ourselves—yet it’s also imperative leaders make it a priority to offer personal development opportunities for employees. We can all work together to ignite and maintain the cycle of learning.

  1. Ability to Thrive in Diversity

In the future, what we consider minorities will be the majority of consumers, clients, employees, and leaders. This requires that the leaders of the future understand their diverse employees and consumers, and make sure their employees do too. Whatever the job, the teams will be more diverse than ever. And if you’re unable to learn from and embrace the benefits of a diverse team, you’re not going to succeed in any role.

  1. A Nimble Approach

We’ve established that change is happening at a rapid pace. If you’re unable to respond quickly, you may lose your place at the table, and severely limit other opportunities. Yet if you can leverage constant change, you will thrive. As Chris Heiler said, “Survival of the fittest? Today–and tomorrow–it’s survival of the nimblest.”

What does being nimble look like? Is it a skill you can develop? Yes, you can practice being nimble, just like you can practice EQ. Here’s what to do: Focus on building self-reliance, facing fear, being decisive yet flexible, and regularly seek out new skills. Also, work on managing your own bias, so that you can walk into new situations with the ability to see possibility rather than blockades.

With our new workforce functioning as more of an ecosystem than a pyramid, leaders of the future need to be nimble as well. Their ability to pivot, pull teams together quickly, and exhibit out-of-the-box thinking will influence their success in a decentralized structure that is constantly evolving.

The Cherry on Top: Purpose

Multi-Stage Life and Purpose

The last thing Gratton and Scott said rings true as well: A multi-stage life will enable people to live closer to their personal values. This is perhaps the most exciting outcome of a longer lifespan, and aligns with one of the goals of integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into the workforce. AI has the potential to enable workers to focus on work that is more aligned with their values rather than monotonous tasks.

Don’t Forget Our Youth

Multi-Stage Life

This movement towards purpose with multi-stage lives and the assistance of AI also applies to our youth. Social Impact Entrepreneur Peter E. Raymond explains, “As automation will continue to reduce the need for human jobs there is an opportunity to prepare our kids for the challenges that will keep them empowered and give them purpose. These challenges will create new markets and economies we have not yet imagined.” And new education platforms preparing youth for this impending reality are already in the works. Check out the video below from SolveOS for a taste of the possibilities our youth have in store.

The Climate of Change, Part One – SolveOS from The New Bureau on Vimeo.

In closing I’d like to point out that while fear of change is expected (and neurological!), there is a lot of positives in line for the future. Instead of seeing yourself in a position of impending irrelevance, see yourself as empowered to build key skills that will prepare you to succeed not matter where, or how many times, your career pivots. Start practicing your emotional intelligence today, work on being nimble, dive into the benefits of diverse teams, and regularly ignite your brain with new skills and knowledge. Before you know it, you’ll be in the middle of a drastically different workscape—and you’ll be thriving.

What did I miss? What is another essential skill to prepare for jobs that don’t yet exist? Let’s crowdsource the answer: Leave a comment below, send me an email or find me on Twitter.

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