“Mr. Watson, come here. I need career coaching”​

When Alexander Graham Bell shouted into the mouthpiece of what would eventually become known in almost every American household as the telephone, he had no idea on March 10th 1876 that his now famous words, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” would metaphorically portend a futuristic interpretation in a career coaching context.

IBM’s Watson® has created a new career coaching service which it classifies as a “cognitive talent management system.” This application is targeted to human resource professionals as a tool to “attract, hire and retain top talent that will thrive in your organization, and empower and inspire all employees to do their best work.” But, it’s several Artificial Intelligence steps up from Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) as an automated recruiting aid. This modern-day Watson assistant is designed to assist employees in designing their own career paths with support from a mobile chat-bot. “Through interactions and updates IBM Watson Career Coach learns about an employee’s preferences and interests, makes recommendations for existing job opportunities, and how to navigate future career moves.” Its target users are internal employees of companies large enough to have multiple career paths. However, it’s a short AI step to envisioning the move beyond internal employee information to a broad range of career coaching applications for all job seekers and career reinventors.

For anyone reading Ray Kurzweil, Martin Ford, Jim Clifton, Andrew Yang, Jay W. Richards, Alec Ross, Byron Reese, and others, those occupations most likely to succumb to AI, machine learning, big data, and robotics are those that have the most repetitive behaviors. However, we are already seeing formerly “sacred” elements of medicine, law, accounting, journalism, finance, and other white-collar jobs being dramatically changed through artificial neural networks. Given that computing power grows exponentially, doubling every 18-months, cousins of Watson, Siri, Cortana, and Alexa are getting ready to take on career coaching clients in the next phase of Moore’s Law.

As a Certified Professional Career Coach, I am deeply vested in becoming aware of all the future applications and those already in development that will impact the landscape of our industry. With 24/7 availability, natural language ability, a virtually limitless capability to retain every client conversation, access to unlimited online information, an artificially intelligent career coach will potentially challenge even the most skilled human counterpart. We are getting much closer to the day when a traveling executive considering her next job move is sitting in a restaurant tapping into a career self-coaching Pocket Confidant chatbot programmed with best coaching practices while being served sushi prepared by a Kawasaki-built bot that today can prepare nigiri sushi in under a minute.

As career coaching professionals, we need to take what is easily dismissed as an unrealistic stretch of the imagination and reframe it as inevitable while positioning those essentially human qualities of our work as our future leverage and value.

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