Navigating Uncertainty: The Future of Work

By Vincent Hunt

The Department of Labor reports that 65 percent of the children filing into primary school today will be building careers in fields that don’t even exist yet. Let’s let that sink in for a minute. More than half of the kids in school today face a workplace that has not even been conceived of yet.

With the velocity of innovation, when a child declares what they want to be when they grow up, that option could quite possibly become extinct by the time that child is choosing a career. Now, this can be a frightening thing or it can be exhilarating depending on your outlook. If you are a parent who is a proponent of taking a “safe,” known route, this could be unnerving. If you are an open-minded, risk-resilient parent and you are preparing your children with the “make-your-job” or “entrepreneur-first” mentality, then you may see opportunity in the coming era to equip your children with the technical and soft skills needed to prosper in an uncertain future.

Take the wildly successful Uber, for instance. Do you think that taxi cab drivers all over the world thought for one second that their jobs would be taken by a robust network of citizen drivers? But let’s not stop there. Do you think that the citizen drivers thought that the artificial intelligence engines that power autonomous cars would replace them? (Uber Pittsburgh has announced the launch of an autonomous fleet). Preparing for this uncertainty is something we should all be doing in some form or another. Thinking about the industries that will be disrupted by emerging technologies and mapping our natural talents, skills and abilities to the ideas that will support or fuel the transition are pretty smart moves, and should be considered.

Understanding how to navigate uncertainty, and more importantly, teaching an emerging generation of young people how to navigate uncertainty, is of paramount importance as we traverse into a time where massive change is inevitable. The kind of change this generation will face is unprecedented, and, to be quite frank, overwhelming.

Depending on where you fall on the generation grid, your role in this process varies:

Baby Boomer Generation:

It’s paramount that you let go of the idea that work is about retirement and long-stays at any one organization. You are going to have to abandon the idea that the collegiate path is the only path and that failure is imminent if higher education is not pursued. The generations that follow you are going to need your open mind and your truth. The fact is this, there are more baby boomer start-ups than we ever anticipated. While the world waited on your generation to retreat to the beach, many of you fired up your “second-life” and are doing work that you love – and there rests the wisdom. Many baby boomers admit that the first three to four decades of their lives were spent working at stuff they hated, and it was not until after retirement that they realized that doing work that you love is the holy grail of happiness and more importantly: living. The generations that follow you need this truth.

Generation X:

Start getting in the trenches. The youngest of you are 35 years old, and the oldest are 55. You have a lot of living to do, and truth be told, you are going to be hit with the first wave of uncertainty if you fall closer to that 35 year mark). As organizations lean out and automation sets in, your work will be challenged and you too may need to retool your thinking about “work.” Here’s the opportunity though: Generation X (or the “bridge generation”) has one foot in the lawn of the baby boomers and the other foot in the sand with the Generation Y crowd (or “millennial generation”). You have a unique perspective that is deeply valuable in this transition. You have the ability to help the emerging generation understand the importance of hard work and perseverance, and you also have the insight to know that the system is not fail-proof. The generation following you also needs your experience and truth. They need your fearlessness at it pertains to emerging technology. Spending time with youth should be important to you. These “kids” will be helping you do your greatest work as they take the helm on ships that are yet to be seen.

The future of work is uncertain, but this we know: automation, artificial intelligence, and computer learning are real technologies/sciences. How we do things today, will not be how we do it tomorrow. However, with the ability to gather information and constructively imagine a new world, a new way to work, we can embrace change and progress. If we do it right, we will prepare a generation of emerging creators and innovators for robust new possibilities.

Vincent Hunt is an American Innovator and Entrepreneur. Hunt is Co-Founder and CEO of Creators Camp, a year-round program designed to give K12 youth early exposure to the fields of science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM).

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