imagesThe fear of job loss due to automation is no longer relegated to only physical-labor manufacturing jobs and simple transaction-based, customer-service workers like bank tellers, grocery store clerks and travel agents. Companies are increasingly adopting sophisticated technologies that re replacing knowledge-worker jobs like finance, health care and insurance.

It Won’t Happen to Me

One surprising observation I’ve come across is that most people think there is nothing they can do shape their own fate. However, if you take a close look at the the growth of smart machines and automation, you’ll see the emergence of new and exciting jobs that have never existed.

It’s Time to Adapt

If history is our guide, job displacement from smart machines jobs simply means that knowledge workers must learn how to adapt, similar to how civilization successfully transitioned from an agricultural to an industrial society. They must also learn how to supplement and enhance their skills. The bottom line, we must adapt our skills to compliment computers to achieve better outcomes than either could alone.

How to Remain Relevant and Employed

The best solution for most people is to set aside weekend and “after work” time to improve their own skills and either make friends with smart machines or find a way to do things they cannot do.  You’ll need to understand how to let machines do the work that machines are best at, such as computational tasks, while simultaneously choosing to base your own livelihood on forms of value that machines cannot deliver by themselves.

Robots Take OverKevin Kelly, a reporter for Wired Magazine reported that 200
years ago, 70 percent of the American workforce lived on a farm. Today, automation has replaced all but 1 percent of those jobs, and before the end of this century, 70 percent of today’s occupations will be replaced by automation. He cited these 4 skills and qualities you’ll need to hold onto your job despite improvements in automation over the coming years:

The Ability to Sell

Over the past few years, selling has become important for all workers, not just the sales team. You have to be able to sell yourself, your ideas and influence others to take action, whether that’s purchasing a product or investing in a project. Machines will never have the influence to sell like a human can. Selling involves human emotion, impulse, attention and the ability to build rapport and trust. We may trust machines to do busy work, and we may purchase products online after interacting with a machine, but at the end of the day, people buy from people.

The Ability to Think Creatively

While robots can solve some analytical and math problems quite well, they can’t think creatively and emotionally. You need to be able to come up with ideas, adjust to new realities and problem solve. In most cases, you are hired to solve problems that an organization is facing. Machines are good at calculations and solving formula’s but not at understanding needs, wants and desires.

The Ability to Lead a Team

Robots aren’t going to be in leadership positions anytime this century but you can. Learn how to lead a team in order to accomplish goals and you’ll set yourself apart. It’s a skill that needs to be developed through experience, so position yourself as someone who is dependable, trusted and can work well with others. This way, when the right project comes along, you might be asked to be the project manager and from there, you can take more of a leadership role in your organization.

Build a Social NetworkThe Ability to Build a “Social” Network

Robots are still working in the information economy, while the world has moved to a social one. If you focus on not just accumulating knowledge, but creating relationships, you will have an advantage. The more connected you are, the more valuable you become. We accomplish tasks through people and now with social networking, you can access people anywhere in the world for your next project.

As MIT’s David Autor points out in a rigorous analysis of the polarization of the US labor market, the division is no longer between manual and cognitive tasks as much as it is between routine and non-routine work.  So clerical workers, such as bookkeepers and travel agents have suffered, but financial analysts and wedding planners have done well.

Another way to look at it is that humans are not being paid for their work anymore as much as they are being paid to solve problems.  So if you’re a travel agent, you can forget about being paid to book flights, you better learn how to plan the one-of-a-kind vacation that your clients always dreamed of.  Better yet, learn how to suggest one they never thought of.

Ask QuestionsLearn to Ask Questions Instead of Just Give Answers

It used to be that the smartest guy in the room was the one who had all the answers.  Knowing a lot of information was what got you good grades on tests, gave you access to top universities and propelled you into a lucrative career.  Yet even a genius from 20 years ago can’t match a normal teenager today armed with a smartphone.

In truth, humans are pretty lousy information processors.  We have fairly low capacity, error-prone memories and absolutely horrific abilities in calculation.  Computers, however excel at those things.

They solve the problems we tell them to, but aren’t very good at deciding which problems to pursue.

It’s no longer just important what you know, but identifying what others don’t know and being able to bring new ideas or applications of technology to processes or systems that can help a company make money, save money or solve a problem.

In this new age of robotics, start now to figure out how to go for a win-win, where you use automation and machine learning to add value to what you can offer an employer or your clients.