How less professionalism will get you ahead in the workplace of the future

When it comes to job security in the future, instead of acting "professional" you may want to act more human.

AARON HURST: Dell and the Institute for the Future did a study a couple of years ago trying to really think about, what are the jobs that will be here in 2030? 10 plus years out, what are the jobs that are going to be most prevalent in 2030? And what they came to realize as they did the analysis, and this is forward looking, so it's not proven, but I think it's very credible, is that 85 percent of the jobs in 2030 don't exist today. Eighty-five percent of them. And you think about that in terms of your career, like, what advice would you give a kid about their job and career trajectory when 85 percent of the jobs you don't even know what they are? Or how would you think about it as a 25-year-old, a 35-year-old, a 45-year-old, how are you going to need to adapt to address that change?

So my kids now are 11 and 13. And I think one of most common conversations is around, what do you want to be when you grow up? And traditionally the answer to that question, like, we're going to be a doctor, a nurse, a teacher, a banker, a politician. This sort of concept in and of itself is basically becoming less and less relevant. And one of the things you have to really think about is how is work going to be different when we see automation, when we see these changes happening in the workplace, and what does that mean for your specific career?

There's a couple different aspects of this. I think one is to think about the idea of a professional. For a long time, we've said, you need to be more professional. You need to act like a professional. But I'd encourage you to rethink that. So if you think about what is a professional, like, how would you define a professional? There's a couple different ways to define it. But the way that I've seen it defined pretty consistently is that a professional is someone who can do the same thing multiple times with the same result. You go to a doctor because they've seen other people. They've done that surgery before. You don't want to grab someone off the street and have them do surgery on you. You want someone who has done it before and reliably produces the same result, the same thing you want from, you know, a lawyer. It's the same thing you want from a teacher. You want that ability to consistently produce the same outcome.

Now let's think about artificial intelligence and what it's automating in the workplace. Where A.I. is most effective is when you've got something that you do multiple times to produce the same output because that enables us to basically program machines to do that task if it's a consistent, repeatable activity. So the actual definition of what's going to be replaced through A.I. is the definition of what a professional is. So to be able to really compete in the workplace going forward, my advice is to be as unprofessional as possible, that actually it's your humanity, it's your ability to do things that are not predictable, to be able to do things that a machine wouldn't be able to do that are going to enable you to thrive.

So, all these definitions we've got around professions doctors, lawyers, educators, these are actually incredibly dangerous ways to think about our careers. The second we think about ourselves with a professional label, we're basically creating a fixed mindset about our careers that's going to hold us back. And we've seen this like with what's happened with the industrial transformation, where people who couldn't get past the changes that were happening through digital transformation, if they couldn't adapt, they got left behind. And the same thing is going to happen again. And the key is to fundamentally be able to recognize who you are at your core to define yourself based on your purpose, the impact you want to make, the kind of values you have, what are the special powers that you have that transcend any job?

I would say, you know, a good and well-defined purpose is something you should be able to do as an executive assistant, as a CEO, or the center for the New York Knicks. And if your purpose is so narrow that you couldn't do any one of those jobs, you basically are not -- you're defining it in a way it's going to be productive for you in a workforce that's constantly changing.

  • Dell and the Institute for the Future recently conducted a study that found 85 percent of the jobs in 2030 don't exist today.
  • Having the conversation with kids on what they want to be when they grow up is becoming increasingly irrelevant because of this. They will need to be more adaptable for what future jobs may arise.
  • We commonly describe a "professional" as someone who can do the same thing multiple times with the same result. However, where A.I. is most effective is in producing the same output via consistent, repeatable activity. Because of this, it's being as "unprofessional" as possible that may secure a job — that is, acting in a way that is not predictable. Acting on your humanity may enable you to thrive.

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