Future of Work and Its Impact on Students and Professionals

Introduction: The Future of Work

Every morning in Africa, a Lion wakes up. It knows that it has to run faster than the Gazelle if it has to avoid going hungry. Every morning there, a Gazelle wakes up. It knows it has to run faster than the Lion if it has to survive the day. The future of work would also play out similarly and it is up to you to determine if you would run faster and survive the day.

The world of work is changing because of the convergence of globalization, technological changes, demography, and the onset of the Great Recession. First, because of globalization, jobs in the west are no longer safe and any day the jobs there can be outsourced to cheaper destinations all over the world. This means that western workers cannot take their jobs for granted anymore. Next, with the pace of technological change accelerating because of Moore’s Law (which predicts that the rate of technological change doubles every two years) workers all over the world are at risk of their jobs being automated and lost to the ever-increasing use of robots. Third, the aging populations of the west mean that the gap between demand and supply is widening which when coupled with the fact that the Baby Boomers are postponing their retirement means that those in the Gen X and the millennial generations find that they are being squeezed on either side. In other words, there are few entry-level positions because of the Great Recession and the middle and the top tier of jobs are becoming scarce as the Baby Boomers who were in these jobs are postponing their retirements. This results in a “double whammy” for both those entering the workforce and those aiming for promotions.

Apart from these macro factors, the very nature of work in the 21st century is changing, as employers unsure of the fate of their companies over a longer term prefer to hire temporary workers as well as desist from guaranteeing permanent positions in their companies. As the world becomes more uncertain, the world of work is also feeling the pinch as both employers and employees alike realize that they cannot take their present situation to last over the next 10 or even 5 years resulting in work becoming short term, temporary, and bereft of longer-term contractual obligations.

Third, the advent of the internet and the corresponding connectivity and mobile technology revolution have meant that workers need not be in the same location as the jobs and hence, the rise of telecommuting, flexi jobs, and work from home jobs are becoming commonplace. We shall explore these trends in detail in the subsequent sections.

If one were to advise those entering the workforce, those in the jobs who are languishing because of drying up of promotions, and for those who risk downsizing or have been retrenched, it would be that unlike your parents and grandparents, you cannot expect to retire in the same company that you joined in the beginning of your career and aspects like job loyalty though important have acquired a new meaning where the loyalty is to the skill or the ability rather than the company.

Finally, with flexi jobs and work from home arrangements becoming the norm in many countries, prospective employers no longer seek only the most educated or the most experienced but add in a third dimension where they prefer those who are also most flexible in terms of how they can add value in the flexi working jobs. This means that for prospective students and professionals, they would have to remember that being flexible and accommodating without completely subjugating themselves would define their success in the future. The key point to note here is that instead of getting desperate or despondent because of the lack of jobs or promotions, students, and professionals alike would gain if they were to provide a value proposition to their employers that are unbeatable.

The Rise of the Internet Entrepreneur

In the history of humankind, perhaps there is no other invention that has had such a profound, deep, and long lasting impact on the way businesses operate than the invention of the internet. With the internet drawing the world closer and the fact that work can be done anywhere, anytime, everywhere, and every time, geographical constraints vanish which means that the death of distance and the death of time result in newer forms of work arrangements. Further, the fact that the internet has enabled entrepreneurs to aspire globally and execute locally means that the future of work is going to be increasingly dominated by the self made, internet savvy, and globally connected entrepreneurs.

Indeed, there cannot be a better example of how the internet has enabled a new generation of entrepreneurs than this website where you are reading this article as this portal is driven by the passion to succeed globally and leveraging the power of the internet. This means that the success of this portal is a clear indication that all it needs to succeed in the brave new world of work is passion, commitment, global thinking and local execution, and above al l a great and innovative idea which when combined with the other aspects ensures that the world is indeed flat as far as the future of work is concerned.

The rise of the internet entrepreneur should be welcomed as in the future, global connectivity and the convergence of the trends discussed so far mean that work is no longer localized or even regionalized but instead, work is global and local at the same time. Further, the internet has enabled millions of entrepreneurs to realize their dreams even in the midst of the most severe downturn since the time of the Great Depression.

Flexi Jobs and New Forms of Work

As briefly mentioned in the previous sections, employers are increasingly turning to part time, temporary, and flexi forms of work as the uncertain economy means that hiring workers on permanent basis along with providing them medical, and social security benefits might not be possible from a profitability perspective. Moreover, with work becoming fragmented as each step of the value chain is broken down and some parts automated, flexi jobs where workers are hired for each step instead of the entire value chain leads to newer work arrangements. Flexi jobs are also becoming popular because the employers can hire and fire workers at their convenience and according to the needs of the situation rather than spending time and money training them, keeping them on the bench, and providing for their medical and pension benefits.

Apart from this, newer forms of work, which entail work from home, freelancing, and subcontracting, are becoming more popular as the employers have numerous benefits in these working arrangements because they need not commit themselves to longer-term contracts.

Moreover, with automation becoming the norm and robots replacing humans, in the future, work, as we know it would come to an end and instead, workers have to either ramp up their skills and acquire higher value adding skills or risk the prospect of retrenchment and downsizing.

Finally, with the advent of the mobile technology revolution, work can be done on the go meaning that one need not sit in a cubicle or a physical workplace and instead, be mobile using the mobile technologies. This has implications for the future of work as when combined with the other trends discussed here means that workers have to be prepared to forego the luxury of a longer term guaranteed employment and instead, have to reconcile themselves to the anywhere, anytime, everywhere, and every time forms of work.

Conclusion: Employing Oneself Instead of Being Employed by Others

The trends impacting the future of work described here mean that one has to actively seek to employ oneself instead of being employed by others. The fragmentation of the workplace means that secure employment is a thing of the past and instead, self-employed professionals are the norm. With most work being contracted and parceled out to different vendors, to bag the contract, one has to be uber competitive given the crowded marketplace for jobs. All these trends mean that for those who are entering the workforce, they should be skilled and have sources of competitive advantage and for those who are already working; they must be extra competitive to retain their jobs or to get promoted.


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Globalization