During these uncertain times, when no-one can guarantee the security of your job or warrant that your line of work will survive, the ability to safeguard your career is crucial

After learning institutions across the country were ordered to close to curb the spread of the novel corona virus, two secondary school teachers got talking. One asked, “Are our jobs at risk?”

The other said, “This is only temporary. Things will be back to normal once this virus is under control.”

“But how can you be so sure?” the first teacher asked. “Already, students are getting used to staying at home. Many have resorted to online learning. The education CS keeps stating that the national exams will not be postponed. He says students in Kenya are continuing to learn online. What if parents and students get used to this new way of learning? How can you be sure the traditional method of teaching is not endangered?. What do we do when learners realize that classroom learning is not the only way to do things?”

The second teacher responded, “People are used to traditional classroom teaching. We will soon be back in school.”

Even as the teachers parted ways, the first teacher was visibly apprehensive.

If there is one lesson COVID-19 has taught us, it is this: Disruption can rear its ugly head at any time, from the most unsuspected source, and without warning. The million-dollar question then becomes: How can you plan for contingencies such as epidemics, technological disruption, and inevitable change? How can you future-proof your career?

Perhaps the answer to this question lies in first understanding the industries or careers that are in danger of demise. Along the way, bear in mind that someone somewhere is fashioning a bullet with your career’s name inscribed in it. To survive, you, too, must adopt a guerilla mindset. Heed the words of the award-winning entrepreneur, leadership speaker, and business coach Onyi Anyado: “Entrepreneur, you don't need 20 years of experience in your industry, but rather, you do need an idea that will bring disruption over the next 20 plus years.”

As you contemplate the uncertain future, bear in mind that “The industrial model doesn’t work anymore, yet many businesses still behave as if it does.” These are the words of futurist and transformation expert Sean Culey. Below, we conduct an honest assessment of the safety index of your career.

The Careers at Risk

Judging from the trends, it is almost certain that the most endangered industries are those that involve repetitive, mechanical tasks, especially tasks that lend themselves to computerized automation. Not long ago, the image of secretaries using clanky, manual typewriters in office receptions was the norm. Then Bill Gates popularized the personal computer and, voila, the typewriter became a relic of the Information Age. As with the typewriter, many employees are in danger of being rendered obsolete. These include the following:

Postal workers: The work of postal workers is to collect parcels and letters as they arrive at the post office. They then sort these by such variables as size, priority and destination, before the mail is routed to the relevant channel. Decades ago, post offices were unchallenged. Without them, your letter or parcel simply could not get from point A to point B. Soon, independent courier companies emerged, and, despite the competition, post offices still had a solid footing. Before long, however, the mother of all disruptions—the internet—came along.

With the advent of the internet, one could now send an email, often with large attachments (including entire books or volumes of books), and deliver these in real-time. Over time, the business of post offices shrunk. Today, many are struggling to keep their heads above water. There is no doubt that high-speed internet might altogether obliterate the post office as we know it.

Printers and print-based publishers: Many years ago, printing presses were enviable businesses. Only through them could a publisher obtain the product (the physical book, newspaper, brochure, magazine or pamphlet) through which to convey one’s ideas to the market. Then came desktop publishing, the creation of documents fully replete with professionally designed text, headlines, and images using page-layout software on a desktop computer. Today, many printers are struggling.

Bank tellers: Given online, telephone and mobile banking, who needs a bank? To be sure, banks will not disappear altogether, but many branches are closing down, especially with the arrival of so-called branch-less banking. With the closure of multiple centers, tellers are no doubt going the way of the dinosaur. The same is happening to cashiers everywhere, as society becomes increasingly cashless, contact-less and technology-driven

Other jobs at risk include:

  • Secretarial positions  as offices become remotely connected
  • Librarians- Libraries are increasingly uploading their books to digital format
  • Traditional teachers- The norm will be one teacher offering online instruction to millions of learners at once, or learners studying online alone
  • Travel agents- bookings are now made online
  • web designers- Web design jobs are increasingly automated, such that even beginners can design a website using intuitive online platforms
  • Traditional journalists- The internet has hard hit the print-news media

Careers of the future

Teaching. While the traditional teacher is endangered, the future is rife with opportunity for the teacher who specializes in a marketable and highly specialized field of instruction.

Salesmanship. Even as jobs everywhere dwindle, there does not appear to be a shortage of employment for persons eager and skilled in how to sell products and services.

Creative art. As the internet kills jobs and industries, so does it open up an opportunity for creative types such as writers and designers, to serve the emerging market of online entrepreneurs.

Healthcare service. Menaces such as global warming and pollution are on the rise. As a result, the health of the population is increasingly compromised. This being the case, professionals offering specialized health-related services will be in demand for a long time to come.

Entrepreneurship. If there is one group of para-professionals that is perpetually well endowed financially, it is those persons who have a knack for finding a need and creating businesses to satisfy that need.

How to Future-Proof your Career

1. Adopt vocational versatility. During times when jobs are dying every day, it pays to be adaptable. How do you achieve this? Be willing to learn something new now and then, because the disrupters can render you jobless if you remain steadfastly skilled in your first career. If you are afraid of returning to class, remember the words of Howard Gardner: “If you think education is expensive, try estimating the cost of ignorance.”

2. Be tech-savvy. The trends are clear: The persons reaping big today are those with intimate knowledge of technology. Examples are everywhere: Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn, Jack Dorsey of Twitter. Locally, mobile operator Safaricom is easily the biggest fish in the pond. There is no doubt that the ability to pair tech-savvy with another essential skill is the way to survive in an uncertain future.

3. Engage a career coach. One of the most significant weaknesses of humans is our inability to see our shortcomings. We do not know what we do not know. We do not see what we overlook, under-emphasize or over-emphasize. This being the case, each of us requires someone emotionally detached, who can objectively assess our struggles and point out what we miss. Especially on matters of career choice, to have someone help us spot our blind spots can be a god-sent indeed.

4. Adopt a global mindset: Increasingly, many businesses are targeting consumers from as many parts of the world as possible. Even where your business model is more localized, you can still think beyond the confines of your locality because international consumers may be based right in your neighborhood. It helps to learn the cultures of other persons or, at least, to acquaint yourself with the mechanics of cross-cultural interaction. You never quite know: during a slump, you may get orders from international customers who see potential in your product or service.

5. Don’t be afraid to start over. In these uncertain times, you must not let yourself be the victim of an employer. If you find that you are in a dead-end, change-resistant work environment, the best you can do is to plan your exit. If you are to survive in our fast-paced digital economy, you must be adaptable. Do not be afraid to abandon a lifestyle that bogs you down. And do not freeze if you discover that your career is hitting a wall. If the times are uncertain, find inspiration in the words of Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” 

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