Unit #2: A Diverse Skillset Featuring Communications Is Key to Survival

Learning Objective

1.  Consider how communication skills will ensure your future professional success.

The picture painted by this insight into what employers are looking for tells us plenty about what we must do about our skillset to have a fighting chance in the fierce competition for jobs: diversify it and keep our communication skills at a high level. Gone are the days when someone would do one or two jobs throughout their entire career. Rather, if the current job-hopping trend continues, “Canadians can expect to hold roughly 15 jobs in their careers” (Harris, 2014) and the future for many will involve gigging for several employers at once rather than for one (Mahdawi, 2017).

Futurists tell us that the “gig economy” will evolve alongside advances in AI (artificial intelligence) and automation that will phase out jobs of a routine and mechanical nature with machines. On the bright side, jobs that require advanced communication skills will still be safe for humans because AI and robotics can’t so easily imitate them in a way that meets human needs. Taxi drivers, for instance, are a threatened species now with Uber encroaching on their territory and will certainly go extinct when the promised driverless car revolution arrives in the next 10-15 years, along with truckers, bus drivers, and dozens of other auto- and transport-industry roles (Frey, 2016). They can resist, but the market will ultimately force them into retraining and finding work that is hopefully more future-proof—work that prioritizes the human element.

Indeed, current predictions from the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship at Ryerson University in Toronto are that 42% of Canadian jobs—especially low-paying ones—are at high risk of being affected by automation by the mid-2020s to 2030s. Some of those will be eliminated outright, but most will be redefined by requiring new skillsets that cannot be automated so easily. The 36% of jobs at low risk are those that require either advanced soft skills and emotional intelligence featured in roles such as managers, nurses, and teachers (Lamb, 2016), creativity, or advanced STEM skills in developing and servicing those technologies (Mahdawi, 2017; Riddell, 2017).

Since the future of work is a series of careers and juggling several gigs at once, communication skills are key to transitioning between them all. The gears of every career switch and new job added are greased by the soft skills that help convince your new employers and clients to hire you, or, if you strike out on your own, convince your new partners and employees to work with or for you. Career changes certainly aren’t the signs of catastrophe that they perhaps used to be; usually they mark moves up the pay scale so that you end your working life where you should: far beyond where you started in terms of both your role and pay bracket.

You simply cannot make those career and gig transitions without communication skills. In other words, you will be stuck on the first floor of entry-level gigging unless you have the soft skills to lift you up and shop you around. A nurse who graduates with a diploma and enters the workforce quilting together a patchwork of part-time gigs in hospitals, care homes, clinics, and schools, for instance, won’t still be exhausted by this juggling act if they have the soft skills to rise to decision-making positions in any one of those places. Though the job will be technologically assisted in ways that it never had been before with machines handling the menial dirty work, the fundamental human need for human interaction and decision-making will keep that nurse employed and upwardly mobile. The more advanced your communication skills develop as you find your way through the gig economy, the further up the pay scale you’ll climb.

REFERENCES

Frey, T. (2016, April 5). 128 Things that will disappear in the driverless car era. Retrieved from http://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/128-things-that-will-disappear-in-the-driverless-car-era/

Government of Canada. (2017). Explore careers by outlook. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.jobbank.gc.ca/wage-outlook_search-eng.do?reportOption=outlook

Harris, P. (2014, December 4). How many jobs do Canadians hold in a lifetime? Workopolis. Retrieved from https://careers.workopolis.com/advice/how-many-jobs-do-canadians-hold-in-a-lifetime/

Lamb, C. (2016, June). The talented Mr. Robot: The impact of automation on Canada’s workforce. The Brook¬field Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship. Retrieved from http://brookfieldinstitute.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/TalentedMrRobot_BIIE.pdf

Mahdawi, A. (2017, June 26). What jobs will still be around in 20 years? Read this to prepare your future. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/26/jobs-future-automation-robots-skills-creative-health

Riddell, C. (2017, February 10). 10 high-paying jobs that will survive the robot invasion. Retrieved from https://careers.workopolis.com/advice/10-high-paying-jobs-will-survive-robot-invasion/

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Business Communications for Fashion by Anna Cappuccitti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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