Work has been changing at a rapid rate. The work I do didn’t exist even 20 years ago, and 10 years ago it was definitely not as common practice as it is now. If it weren’t for these changes, I may not have the opportunities I have now, or may not be as satisfied with the work I produce.
As these changes continue and digital technology continues to advance, we should invest more of our time and resources in personal and professional development -- improving our skills and overall digital literacy so that we can adapt to the changing times and continue to create impact.
A recent report from the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program proves just that. An analysis of 545 occupations found that digital technology is quite rapidly changing the American workforce. The report, titled Digitalization and the American Workforce, suggests that digital skills are now required to succeed in any industry.
“We definitely need more coders and high-end IT professionals, but it’s just as important that many more people learn the basic tech skills that are needed in virtually every job,” said Mark Muro, a senior fellow at Brookings and senior author of the report. “Not everybody needs to go to a coding boot camp but they probably do need to know Excel and basic office productivity software and enterprise platforms.”
Digitalization also means automation of many jobs that the report refers to as “low-digital occupations,” which includes jobs like administration and in the education field. The report found that 60% of the tasks in these low-digital occupations are likely to become automated, versus 30% of tasks in high-digital occupations.
While the word “automation” sounds scary in this context, it means that it frees people up to do the things that make us more human -- like storytelling, creating emotional connections and understanding complex nuances. These are the traits that make us uniquely human, and technology will not be able to replicate that.
“Human traits matter even more than before because the present unfolding era of astronomical computational speed means humans must focus on ‘what we are that computers aren’t,’ as Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson say,” the report reads. “The need to focus on adding value beyond what computers can add makes it important for students and workers to cultivate the uniquely human interpersonal skills that machines don’t possess. Many commentators point out that the inherently social nature of human life means that some of the most durable human roles in the digitalized economy will be those that are the most inherently social.”
Moral of the Story: Work on both your digital/tech skills and your interpersonal/communications skills. As the world of work continues to change, those skills will be vital and you will ultimately become an irreplaceable asset in your industry.