Beyond the popular fascination with self-driving cars and robotic sushi-making, there is a growing acceptance that robotics and artificial intelligence will permeate daily life within the next few years, notably, in employment. The ribbon and bows of advances in technology include wrapping job displacement with the forecasted net creation of new jobs, projecting a more positive redefinition of work freed from drudgery, and the promise of an increase in the overall number of career choices. However, there are new realities that need to be recognized before rushing downstairs to open gifts under the tree; many of which will shape the career coaching profession.
Career coaching as an industry is in the draw-down of the imminent technological tsunami. We are aware that the huge AI wave is coming but there can be the tempting lull of status quo security in the receding water, nature’s tsunami warning signal that often goes unheeded. The exposed shore of doing things the same way in the face of imminent change needs to become our signal to move to higher ground; to recognize that the entire employment landscape is changing and career coaching needs to not only adapt to its new realities but become the preeminent resource in its navigation; from how we design new career coaches’ training and certification to how we work with clients to do job searches, prepare for interviews, and negotiate salaries.
• Blue-collar jobs are not the only ones that will be impacted by the automation tsunami. White-collar professions are already succumbing to AI displacement. For career coaches, the challenges include building awareness of what jobs will disappear, which new jobs will be created, and what form income inequality will take. We will surely experience a hollowing out of the middle class which is progressively moving to the bottom and even a fixed underclass of the unemployed. The gaps between the haves and have-nots will grow increasingly wider.
• Some highly-skilled workers will find new opportunities in partnering with their robotic colleagues. However, many more may join the ranks of the unemployed and underemployed. For both, the lack of income and attendant family considerations will be exacerbated by constraints to geographic mobility and the affordability of continuing career education. The new realities of job searching will certainly impose new career coaching expertise and a depth of resource knowledge. The concept of “work” will most definitely change in the next few years and we as career coaches need to build new models of work into our consulting toolbox.
• Forecasting that new jobs will give people more leisure time is not how those negatively affected by the technology tsunami would define their circumstances. The promise of robots giving humans less work will have a shortfall ROI (robotics on income) if there’s even less disposable income in workers’ pockets. Career coaches will be willingly or by circumstance put in positions where there is a soft merging with the social services in helping clients think outside the box to find ways to contribute to the common good and find meaning in new kinds of work.
• “There will always be jobs that only humans can do” is more likely than not to become attenuated self-talk of hope in a turbulent sea of technological change. Service-based industries spawned by the new technology are the most likely to be automated themselves due to their non-technical, repetitive nature. Taxis, fast food restaurants, dry cleaners, and the like are the most prone to operating without a net (or a human operator). When we make the inevitable leap from artificial intelligence (AI) to artificial general intelligence (AGI), all bets are off. Applied technology will be able to exhibit the entire range of human intelligence, including social and emotional intelligence, problem solving, the ability to reflect on the past and future, creativity, empathy, and critical thinking. Career coaches will need to draw a line in the AI sand and more deeply define and practice the humancompetencies fundamental to our profession.
• New jobs will be created that don’t exist today and many will have names and titles that are not yet even keyword searchable. To complicate matters, many of these new positions will reside within individual companies and not be industry-wide which will demand a new career coaching imperative to be aware of their unique emergence, location, and availability.
• Politicians and the government checkbook are ill-equipped to buy a solution to our educational system which is inadequately preparing the next generation of workers for the future of employment. The technology revolution of today is moving faster than its predecessors which changed at a slower pace and gave those affected some breathing room to retrain as well as segue from one kind of unskilled work to another. Tectonic technology plates are moving faster than ever before and career coaching needs to deploy guidance at the same new velocity.
• The geography of future jobs will continue to be clustered in the “brain hubs,” like San Francisco, Boston and Durham and become an increasingly important factor in career coaching, in particular, job search strategies. Affordability to relocate to new opportunities and geo-investing in one’s work will increase in relevance in career coaching.
• “We’re still a long way off from technology impacting the job market” is a dangerous life preserver to cling to. Except for robotic surgery and arguing a lawsuit in front of a jury, the new technologies are already being deployed, many without the requirement of human-robot partnering. As career coaches we need to embrace the changes concomitant with AI and robotics and begin now to integrate them into our practices.
• Profitability and GNP have always trumped reliance on social, legal, and regulatory measures as a fail-safe sorting out of things. Hoping for such counter-balances to minimize the impact of technology on employment is like waiting for humans to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic when Robby the Robot has already filled his lifeboat and piloted it to a waiting rescue vessel. And, no corporation captain is going to wait for technical and policy issues to be worked out before increasing productivity and profitability utilizing technical advances. Asking for permission may be further delayed than ever before in corporate decision-making.
• The oft-repeated mantra that “technology is not destiny” can be false hope that we can somehow control the future of work. Like a self-driving car, the future is going to move ahead whether or not we’re at the wheel. In fact, we may just be along for the revolution ride. What we as career coaches can control is how we adapt to the realities of the evolving new technologies and use our competencies to offer clients adaptive career guidance through this new world.
Lt. ‘Doc’ Ostrow: “The total potential here must be nothing less than astronomical.”
Dr. Morbius: “Nothing less. The number 10 raised almost literally to the power of infinity.”
Certified Professional Career Coach Garrison Leykam doesn’t just believe that everyone is capable of creating their own second act careers…this AARP card-carrying motorcyclist and “real deal reinventor” has proved it himself many times over. Leykam has been a record producer for industry giant London Records, been president of his own record label and performed as a singer-songwriter at Nashville’s iconic Bluebird Café and CBGBs (the Bowery’s birthplace of punk). He’s held senior leadership positions at companies such as MCI Telecommunications and Grand Circle Travel. Leykam is a published author of several books, including DESIGN YOU. He’s been a news-talk radio show host on WSTC/WNLK and a stand-up comic whose appearance at NYC’s legendary Gotham Comedy Club was the premise for the television documentary “Comic on a Half Shell.” Leykam produced and hosted the motorcycle odyssey “DINERS” for Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) and has been featured in the American Motorcycle Association’s exhibit and book, “MotoStars: Celebrities + Motorcycles” with Brad Pitt, Carlos Mencia, Keith Urban, Peter Fonda and other celebrities and bands including Journey, Rush and Foreigner. Just shy of his 70th birthday, Leykam has earned his PhD and filmed a new TV series pilot.