As a parent, you want to make sure your child will be well prepared for his or her future career. One of the biggest questions many of us have is, “What kind of jobs will even exist by the time my kid is ready to start earning a living?”
Think of how many products and services you use every day that didn’t exist 20 years ago — from smartphones to apps to artificial intelligence to drones to social media to Netflix, Airbnb, Uber or Zoom! The companies that make these things and the job descriptions of their employees have been around for less time than many of our kids have been alive!
Futurists disagree on the percentage of new jobs that will exist in 2030 that don’t exist today, but the consensus seems to be that more than half of the jobs we will be trying to fill in the U.S. workforce in the 2030s will be invented over the next decade. Amazing!
Before we panic and tell our kids to forget studying any subject that doesn’t have to do with technology, remember that all of the needs society has today – from personal hygiene and beauty to health care, communications and construction — will still need to be met in the future. It will be the technologies and materials used to meet those needs that will change. Humans will still:
- Need to get water into our homes and waste out of them.
- Drive cars, so even if our vehicles are completely autonomous, they will still need to be designed and repaired.
- Require medical care, whether the provider is in the room with the patient, monitoring via remote technology, or overseeing a robot to conduct a surgery.
- Design and build roads, airplanes, buildings, furniture and clothing, although those processes will become increasingly automated (and 3D printed).
- Take care of basic necessities such as eating, learning, cleaning, grooming, communicating, mediating conflicts and crimes, and so forth.
For our kids to succeed as working professionals of the future, they will need to be comfortable with — and enjoy — learning new technologies and adapting to rapid change. They will need to be critical thinkers, good communicators, creative problem solvers and detail-oriented contributors. We will need them to have these personal skills when the role of workers shifts from doing the work, to maintaining and overseeing robots or other technological tools to do the work for us. Humans will shift their focus to designing, monitoring and troubleshooting the tools (such as robots).
In addition to being flexible about technology, successful future adults will know how to apply what they learn across disciplines. Many emerging careers are being created where two existing fields meet. Consider, for example:
- The increasing need for people to teach seniors to use technology (given the world’s aging population and rapidly increasing dependence on all things electronic).
- The growing use of genetics in developing new medicines.
- The demand for mechanics to maintain and repair a wide variety of autonomous machines (cars, trains, planes, drones and even scooters).
- The mounting need to mediate problems between humans when those machines fail (new types of legal, professional and emergency services).
These new interdisciplinary mashups will provide great opportunities to those with strong critical thinking skills. Those who think independently and thrive in such environments will shine and even create new tools to do the work — better. For our kids to capitalize on these opportunities, they will need to learn how to think like entrepreneurs and inventors themselves.
My advice to you, Mom and Dad, is please don’t let your kid think rigidly about their future path. Change will be the one constant in their careers! What our kids need from us is to serve as their coach as they explore what they love to do. We need to help them figure out:
- What types of problems they want to solve
- What types of environments they like to work in
- What technologies they they think they will use to do their work
- How they best collaborate and communicate with other people
Our emphasis must be on identifying passions and aptitudes, not tools. The tools will forever change. It’s the work itself and the outcomes of that work they need to love if they want to be happy in a particular industry for their whole career.
As parents, our best bet is not to dictate, but to guide our kids to make smart decisions about their next steps. More than anything, we must be aware how much the world has changed — the education-to-career path that seemed best for us 20 or 30 years ago may not make fiscal or practical sense for our kids today.
Our focus must be on helping our kids gain the real-world experiences, training and social skills needed to land (and keep!) their first job. Then we have to be prepared to stand behind them as they navigate the many changes that will inevitably come along as they chart their career path.
Kristin Brighton is one of the co-founders of New Boston Creative Group, LLC and HirePaths. She’s a mother of two teenagers and an elected member of her community’s local school board.