Top 8 ways to ensure job security in the digital workforce

Over the past 7 years or so convergence technologies like mobile, cloud, and Big Data have changed the way products and services are planned, developed, and produced within organizations. Development cycles are now faster, leaner, and more agile than ever. Customer expectations continue to go through the roof. The consumerization of IT and the spread of BYOD have also brought new types of technologies and capabilities into the workforce to make things much more efficient and streamlined. And the cycle of change continues to grow and expand like never before.

Closely aligned with the trends towards workplace digitization, other technological forces are changing the very nature of work. Thanks to rapid advances in AI and cognitive computing technologies, machines no longer rely on pre-programmed instructions to complete tasks but can work and even “learn” from their tasks. They can even discover jobs that they’re unable to complete, and then reassign them to humans. In this new era, machines are fast becoming partners and collaborators with humans, rather than mere tools.

 

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The natural question then is what does this all mean for the future of jobs. We’ve seen the effects of jobs automation in recent years as travel agents, typists, and telephone dispatchers have been replaced. One study, in fact, suggests that nearly half of U.S. jobs may be automated in the next 20 years. The issues of retaining relevancy in the age of digitization is a very real concern, and one that requires real attention and focus. It’s always a good wake up call to ask how they plan to keep skills updated and retain their position in the age of digitization, smart machines, robots, and other forms of job-outsourcing automation.

In what follows we identify and discuss 8 practical ways you can keep your job skills in balance and stay ahead of the tsunami of technological changes that will sweep the globe during the next decade.

1. Learn to code

Coders and programmers are the architects of the digital era. Whether HTML5, JavaScript, PHP, Ruby on Rails – or what have you, developers today are writing the applications that will continue to impact our lives in profound ways. Line after line of functions, classes, objects, and loops are building our digital world into a place of unrealized new possibilities. Whether building the next generation of mobile apps, games, or other automation features . . . those with the skills to create this digital world will find no lack of jobs and opportunities awaiting them! There are tons of options out there to fit all schedules and budgets, ranging from free online tutorials like Codecademy (or very low cost ones like Treehouse) or the selection of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) that have sprung up in recent years such as Udacity, Coursera, Khan Academy, and edX. For the more ambitious, you can try any number of onsite coding bootcamps, or even online coding bootcamps (Bloc, Tealeaf Academy, and Thinkful ).

 

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2. Go the extra mile on your day job

When offshoring and outsourcing do come to your organization, you’ll want to be well-positioned as a person who is irreplaceable. To prepare ahead, get into the mindset of over-delivering on your work and providing the highest results. Become a thought leader and subject matter expert across different lines of your business. Develop an innovative mindset that embraces creativity and out-of-the-box approaches to solving old problems. Take ownership of your role and imagine where you want to see yourself in the next 5-10-15 years.

3. Try freelancing

Technology growth also means that employees need to think and act innovatively and brainstorm new ways of doing business in order to keep their job skills updated. Have you considered freelancing? More and more attention has been focused lately on this online working revolution. According to the results of a recent survey, 1 in 3 people in the U.S. workforce, or 53 million, are freelancers. There are lots of reasons why freelancing is a smart career move. Rapid growth in technology, rising business operating costs, growing competition for jobs, and high costs of living are all factors that are leading millions of skilled professional to join this growing revolution.

 

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4. Become an entrepreneur

Eventually you may not have a choice but to try a startup. Competition is tougher than ever and employees today will increasingly find themselves constrained to think and act innovatively and to brainstorm new approaches to business. Whether strengthening existing skills or learning new ones, there are plenty of ways to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities that transcend the regular day job. There’s never been a better time for skilled workers to try additional gigs in their off hours, whether freelancing or running a startup.

5. Ongoing learning & development

In order to stay relevant in tomorrow’s competitive job market, you’re going to have to settle on solidifying your current skills and learning new ones. We’ve already mentioned MOOCs in relation to coding and programming, but they offer a wide array of classes in other topics too. Through portals like Udacity, Coursera, Khan Academy, and edX, you can study any imaginable area in business, innovation, and technology at your own pace. If you like a more structured approach, then enroll in a local college and take that web development class or learn a new programming language.

6. Become a Citizen Data Scientist

The rise of easier to use data analytics and BI software in recent years has given rise to what Gartner calls the Citizen Data Scientist, or those who business users that can work with the tools to derive insights from advanced analytics. Really, anything in Big Data is going to be in high demand across startups and enterprises alike. Estimates suggest that the United States will have a shortage of between 140,000 to 190,000 people who have deep analytical skills and 1.5 million managers who can make decisions based on Big Data. Those with the ability to analyze and manage large amounts of structured and unstructured data will be highly valued assets in the digital era.

7. Become a cyber-security specialist

The rapid rise in cyber-crime over the past 5 years has also meant a huge new opportunity as well for those who have a penchant for IT security. The constant updates of new server/endpoint virtualization, cloud computing, mobile device & BYOD support, Internet of Things, and now the imminence of new approaches to device management like Unified Endpoint Management – translates into increased demand for individuals who can directly address the cyber-security challenges implied by these new technologies.

 

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8. Focus on what you’re good at

Ultimately, you’re going to want to focus on what you’re most passionate about. This goes for both individuals and organizations. For a great read on this topic, check out the book called Creativity, Inc. It’s a story about Pixar, its beginnings and early years, the struggles, the successes – and the ideals and techniques that went into producing some of the most successful films ever made.  Ed Catmull, the author of the book and co-founder of Pixar, recounts his own dream as a young man to make the first computer-animated movie, and how that vision unfolded and led to the philosophies that have guided Pixar through the years.

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