Career Innovation: Which Parts of Your Job Will a Robot Take?

Jonathan Winter, Founder of The Career Innovation Company, reviews the literature on artificial intelligence (AI) and offers a positive way to analyse your work and future-proof your career.

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Automation continues to be the subject of conferences, blogs and business conversation. How to respond is much less clear. The new US president wants to bring jobs back to the US and protect them, but – whatever the long-term impact of protectionism – pundits anticipate the continued destruction of jobs due to AI.

It’s easy to find examples of jobs disappearing in the motor industry, displaced by physical robots, a phenomenon first seen in 1937 and popular since the 1980s. More recently jobs have been displaced in knowledge work such as legal research and in insurance.

Forecasts by Oxford academics Frey and Osborne have been much quoted (including by me) as putting ‘almost half of all jobs at risk’. You can even go online and check whether your job is at risk (BBC). Other academics say this estimate should be as few as 9% of jobs (although academics disagree; I’ve been told their use of PIAAC data is not a good guide).

These headlines about jobs disguise the main impact of artificial intelligence. Indisputably, AI is going to automate certain tasks within almost everyone’s jobs. You can now hand over your appointment making to an artificial PA called Amy. Next: The CFO? There will be countless other examples in the next few years. There’s no lack of ambition in the AI world.

So it’s not a question of asking ‘will a robot take my job?’, and hoping you’re not one of the unlucky. Rather we must ALL ask ‘which parts of my job will a robot inevitably take?’.

Most of us have a choice about how we respond to this. We can – like Trump – seek protection, and seek to defer the terrible day. Or we can try to work out where the opportunities lie. This McKinsey article and video identifies the huge potential for productivity improvement, and provides an interactive guide to automation in different types of work.

Machine learning expert Anthony Goldbloom puts it more simply, identifying “frequent, high-volume” tasks as the ones to be automated, and “novel situations” as the ones machines can’t handle. That could translate into humans getting rid of the dull bits and keeping the subtle, challenging and relational parts.

J2750-Ci-Analyse-your-work-table

Which parts of your job (or your profession) could be automated? Use the table to do a quick check of potential. Then invest some time asking around, and looking at what the best competitors are doing in your area of work.

Finally: Identify the parts of your work that cannot be automated, and where your personal strengths lie. Where do you add value in unique human ways, or through creatively applying your expertise with judgment, foresight or through relationships? Those are the skills you need to hone and communicate as your unique professional brand.

Membership organisations have both a responsibility – and an opportunity – to help members identify how their careers will be shaped by rapid technological change:

  • Which areas will be superseded?
  • What freedoms will automation bring?
  • How can they future-proof their professional capabilities?

By investing in members’ career development, professional bodies take broader steps to advance their profession.

The Career Innovation Company works with membership organisations worldwide, putting in place large-scale online support for professional and career development. Their flagship services www.careerinnovation.zone and Be Bold in your Career empower members to develop their careers within their professional community.

For help on creating career strategies, online career development courses, tools and resources, please go to www.careerinnovation.com, or connect with us @careerinnovator or LinkedIn.

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