Working out what traditional jobs will look like in the future

Peter Cosgrove, a future-of-work expert, will speak at the AIB Future Sparks Festival, at the RDS in Dublin, on March 14. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Many traditional jobs will become obsolete in the coming decades, so we will all have to rethink our skills and may have to juggle more than one source of income, says Caroline Delaney

The days of people getting a job in their 20s and staying in it until they retire are fast disappearing.

The traditional Monday-to-Friday, 9-5 work routine is already being superceded and may soon be outmoded.

Future-of-work expert, Peter Cosgrove, says that the transformation need not be all bad, nor scary.

He shows students and workers what they need to learn and do to ensure they are prepared for this latest industrial revolution.

“We will still have to work, but the way we work has to change. The majority of people actually do want to work,” he says.

People, whether adults in mid-career or school-leavers and undergraduates considering their futures, should stop trying to please others and build on their strengths. One of the biggest challenges can be other people, who might be horrified at the thought of someone leaving a “secure” job.

“Well actually, when you examine it, that job may not be that secure and the person may not even like the job,” says Mr Cosgrove.

And the idea that someone would only leave a job for a better-paid and higher-ranking one also has to be ditched, he says: “You can’t always be on an upward trajectory; you might have to move to a job with less pay, but one where you are still learning.”

Learning on the job is particularly valuable, says Cosgrove, but he acknowledges a “certain snobbery” in Ireland about apprenticeships.

It used to be thought that you just had to go to university, but that’s absolutely not the case. You can do the apprenticeships that people already know about, but there are also insurance, law, or tax apprenticeships that are very valuable.

Once many of us finish school, we often don’t get any more career guidance, beyond the odd online quiz offering to pinpoint your dream job. Surprisingly, Cosgrove isn’t scathing of these quizzes: “While they certainly won’t find you a job, they can categorise you into introvert or extrovert-type personalities and the careers that might suit these,” he says.

With all this talk of jobs becoming obsolete, is there a chance that Cosgrove himself will be replaced by a hi-tech algorithm?

He doesn’t have just one job and this multi-job portfolio is how more of us will be working in future. He is also a professional speaker and author: his current book is Fun Unplugged: Outsmart, Entertain and Amaze Your Friends! and features puzzles and riddles to give children an alternative to only finding entertainment on a tablet or phone screen.

And while it’s not possible to look at a child and predict that “he’s going to be an artist” or that “she’s definitely a lawyer in the making”, it is possible to identify traits and skills that a child may well use in their career.

The key to finding that dream job is to create it for yourself. “Look at what you are good at and become better,” says Cosgrove.

So the harder you work, the luckier you get.

Sparking debate

The AIB Future Sparks Festival will take place in the RDS on March 14.

This careers festival celebrates the world of possibility and opportunities for second-level students in Ireland, led by Irish success stories from a range of businesses and industries.

At this event, Peter will give a talk on ‘The Future of Work’ and how it is both an opportunity and threat for the next generation. He will discuss jobs that will cease to exist in ten years’ time, as well as careers that don’t yet exist and how students can prepare for this.

More than 7,000 senior-level students are set to attend this festival, which will bring together leaders in business and young entrepreneurs to inspire students as they prepare for life beyond the Leaving Cert. There will be talks around the future of sport, music, food, entertainment, and technology.

Jobs which may disappear in 20 years

  • All driving jobs will have dramatically changed or disappeared. Deliveries will be made by drone and self-driving cars.
  • Parking depots and car parks will be a thing of the past. Drones will keep moving and won’t need to be overnighted — “so if you own depots or car parks then it might be time to take a look at your options”.
  • Processing jobs — “certain jobs in financial services where people calculate figures will be automated”.
  • Call centre jobs — already email queries are initially dealt with by ‘bots’ and this will be expanded.
  • Technical jobs — even certain aspects of surgery will be carried out robotically. According to Cosgrove, we will still have surgeons but some precision jobs will be performed better by robots.
  • New jobs — and new aspects to existing jobs

    A recent American study found that “trucker driver” is still the most dominant job in 29 US states so all these people are going to need different jobs if this position is redundant, notes Mr Cosgrove.

    However, we “can’t even imagine” what some of these jobs will be — just as people 20 years ago couldn’t have imagined that someone would make a living as a blogger or Instagram star, he points out.

    Careers in artificial intelligence and analysing consumer behaviour will become increasingly widespread. With regard to any job where individuality and people skills are vital, Mr Cosgrove says “certain parts of jobs will be lost to technology but the human part is not going”.

    “People skills will always be needed — as long as human beings are ‘irrational’ then we will still need people,” he notes.

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