I lived in Michigan for the first half of the 2000s and saw a lot of people who had lost their jobs in the auto industry. What was sad is that the layoffs weren’t much of a surprise to people looking in from the outside, but they were often very surprising for the people who lost their jobs. The thing is, those people were probably in a better position to understand what was happening than anyone else. It is very easy to overlook what today tells you about tomorrow when you are right in the middle of things.
This post is an attempt to look at how work is likely to change in the future. Regardless of how accurate my predictions prove to be, the real value from this post is probably going to be in encouraging you to think a bit about how the job market may be different in 5 years and what you can do today to prepare for it.
More People Working Remotely
Telecommuting isn’t the novelty that it used to be. In fact, most companies have a great deal of the infrastructure in place to handle telecommuting workers. If a company doesn’t have remote workers, it probably isn’t because of technical challenges. More likely it is that they don’t have management systems and the mentality in place to support out-of-office workers. Many companies do support virtual workers and the trend is going to continue to grow.
What does this mean for you? First of all, the radius of your next job search may be much greater than it has been in the past. This also means that your network of friends is even more valuable because your friend living on the opposite coast may be just as likely to know of a great job for you as your next door neighbor.
It also means that everyone is going to become their own help-desk. A worker at home that doesn’t have any skills in keeping their computer connected so they can be productive is a manager’s nightmare. Even if your job isn’t technical, you are going to be expected to know how to get a computer connected to the Internet and troubleshoot basic issues.
Another side effect of more people working remotely is that it will favor people who have good soft skills when not in person. It can be difficult to convey feeling and tone over email and even video conferencing. People with rough edges in person may find it very difficult to work remotely where small social missteps can be greatly magnified.
Resumes Won’t Matter
I was recently involved in helping fill a job for a software engineer. I skimmed the resumes just enough to get an applicant’s name and a few major details. Then I typed their name into Google along with keywords from their resume to see what I could find. Looking back, I really didn’t pay any attention to their resume other than just using it as a way to tell if the person I found online was the same person. I was much more interested in looking at someone’s online footprint than what they had put on their resume. If someone says they are a good software developer, that is fine, but it isn’t nearly as compelling as seeing them answering questions about code in an online forum or contributing to open source projects.
I’m not suggesting that you skip the resume in your next job search, but the information people find about you in Google carries a lot more weight. If you want to stand out as a candidate for a future job, you are going to need to make sure that typing your name into Google makes you look like an ideal person to hire. You can do this through blogging, participating on online forums, etc.
More Contract Workers
There have always been ways to make a living doing consulting, but I expect to see companies relying even more on consultants and outsourcing in the future. The cost of running your own business has fallen dramatically in the last 5 years and advances in technology have made it easier than ever to get your infrastructure up and running. This means that more of the people who were previously content to work as an employee are going to strike out on their own. As companies become even more accustomed to just hiring contractors, they will look for other areas where they can hire people for specific projects without taking on the commitment of a full-time employee. In fact, some people have suggested that in the future, many large corporations will consist of only a few employees with the bulk of the work being done through contractors and other forms of outsourcing.
What this means for you is that even if you don’t consider yourself a businessperson, you need to pay attention to business concepts. This includes areas like taxes, business structure, marketing, etc. Also you need to take a hard look at your skill set and ask yourself if you are becoming more or less likely to be able to make a living doing the same type of work as a consultant. If you aren’t, you may need to invest some time in continued education or in trying to get your boss to give you some new responsibilities. Even if you never work for yourself, those types of things can make you a sought-after employee as well.
These are three areas in which I think the job market is going to change. What do you think? Do you have any areas you’d add? Do you disagree? I’d love to hear your comments about how you think work will change in the future.