Technology has never been more advanced. We’re in an unprecedented time when practically everyone has a smart device in their pocket and nearly every industry is benefitting from apps, software, and artificial intelligence (AI). Even self-driving cars are turning from a sci-fi movie sight into a present reality.
But when technology isn’t making our lives easier, it’s unfortunately putting human careers at risk.
According to the World Economic Forum, about 85 million jobs will be automated by 2025. And while millions more will likely be created, they won’t come instantly. Plus, your current skill set may not be an exact match for these new roles.
Whether or not your job is actively at risk, the best move you can make today is to proactively protect your position. Though it can be hard to compete with robots when it comes to efficiency, these four tips will help you prove your worth and the value of humans over machines.
Understand What’s Driving Automation in Your Industry
To effectively make your case against automation, it’s important to understand what’s driving employers to automate in the first place, as well as what exact tasks are being automated. This will help you identify industry trends and company needs, which you can brainstorm how to meet.
In most industries, some of the tasks at the highest risk for automation are repetitive, frequent, and in need of error-free results. Think data reporting, invoicing, or calendar scheduling. Automation is often used to boost productivity and reduce human error.
If your industry or role is at high risk for automation based on this criteria alone, like manufacturing and food service jobs are, it can be worth chatting directly with your company’s management team about their thoughts on automation. Having this discussion ahead of time can help you figure out what results you need to deliver to avoid job disruption in the future. Or, if automation seems inevitable, this allows you to work with managers to be part of the transition, instead of being displaced due to it.
Invest in Professional Development
As repetitive and largely low-skill tasks get automated, the roles that many companies will retain or create are those that require more advanced skills and strategic mindsets. One step you can take to meet these new needs is investing in upskilling.
Upskilling is the process of developing new skills to become even more competent in your role. For example, an HR professional may take advanced courses on culture development and employee re-engagement to provide more value to a team. This way, if easily automatable tasks like application screening or interview scheduling are eliminated, they would still be a strong asset for the company.
You don’t necessarily have to invest in upskilling on your own. Companies across the U.S. are scaling their upskilling initiatives more than ever. Consider chatting with your managers about how they can benefit from your professional development — which can reduce the enormous cost of turnover and allow you to contribute more — to see if they’ll support your upskilling.
Increasing your leadership capabilities can also be a great way to protect your career. Although leadership is a soft skill that’s not specific to any role, it’s a huge factor in how managers decide who to keep. Great leaders naturally take initiative, collaborate well, and are adaptable — which is key in an increasingly automated world, where roles continuously change.
Leadership skills are also key for competing with members of Generation Z, who are quickly entering the workforce (and often better equipped to deal with new technology). Gen Z is lauded for their abilities to problem-solve and foster effective cross-cultural communication. Having this empathy and entrepreneurial mindset can make you irreplaceable by machines.
Practice New, High-Demand Skills
An alternative to upskilling is reskilling, which means learning new skills to take on a brand new role.
If your company is set on automation, ask about what roles will still be needed and what positions you could potentially fill, even if it’s in a completely different department. This can help you identify the most in-demand skills, so you can proactively work on honing them and become your company’s top pick for the position.
Alternatively, if you’re passionate about a different career path, consider exploring it or even going back to school with scholarships for adult learners.
Identify How Automation Can Enhance Your Value
Despite the risk of automation across industries, many companies aren’t investing in machines solely to displace employees. At the end of the day, employers simply want to improve their bottom line. When machines take one role, it frees up those employees to create better customer experiences and focus on high-value tasks.
Start thinking of ways that automation can help you perform your role better. Research tools that can make you more productive, and brainstorm how you can best use that spare time. For example, if you’re in customer service, AI-powered chatbots may start to resolve many customer needs. This could actually help you focus less on tech issues and transactions, and more on building genuine customer relationships, since stronger empathy creates loyal clients.
Work With Bots, Not Against Them
Automation will likely affect every career at some point in time, but if you’re proactive, it doesn’t mean you have to lose your job. Start having conversations with your managers about their plans for automation and what they value most from their human resources.
As you start to identify high-value skills, hone them. And instead of running from automation, consider how new technology can actually improve your value. Doing so will not only help you save your position, but could help you make your case for a raise or promotion, too.
The original version of this article was first published on Future of Work.
Sam Bowman is a freelance writer and techie who enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.