The Future of Work: How to Be Absolutely Essential

Earlier this year, McDonald’s started rolling out its program to replace cashiers with digital kiosks for customers to order from. As expected, the company’s shares hit an all-time high following the deployment of the order-taking machines.

While McDonald’s made headlines with its program, it is hardly the first company to replace human employees with automation and the food industry will certainly not be the last to add more machines to its lineup. Working life in the 21st Century will be defined by the conflict between human workers who want to keep their jobs and administrators who are lured by promises of cheaper automated labor and the ability to cut costs.

Experts estimate that 38 percent of jobs in the United States will become automated by the year 2032. The question on every working class person’s mind should not be “Will my job be automated?” Instead, we should be asking: “How can I make myself automation-proof?”

While it seems unlikely that any position will be safe from automation into the distant future, there are certainly things that every employee can do to keep his or her job safe for the next few decades. Here’s how to become absolutely essential in the job market of the future.

Get a Nursing Job

While the field of healthcare might not be safe from automation, at least some healthcare jobs are going to be very safe in the near future. These include highly-trained doctors and nurses. Of these fields, there is already a huge nurse shortage in the U.S., making nursing an ideal job option for the present and the future.

In fact, unlike many other modern careers, nursing is expected to grow in the future. The job market for advanced practice nurses is expected to grow by 31 percent between its 2014 volume and 2024.

Nursing as a profession is made resilient by its complex and varied demands. Oftentimes, nurses are required to think on their feet with a patient, making it almost impossible to design a one-size-fits-all machine that could replace a nurse in every conceivable scenario. Nursing is also difficult to replace because of its hands-on nature. Patients respond well to good beside manner, which no machine can replicate.

Interactive Jobs

If your job requires complex interactions with other people, then you’re in luck. Positions like therapist and social worker rely on the worker’s ability to engage on a personal level with their clients. Machines cannot bond with people in the way that another human being can and this human connection is necessary for work in these fields.

In addition, like nursing, social work is expected to grow in the future. The market for social work jobs is expected to grow by 12 percent by the year 2024, driven by America’s aging population.

Get Into Teaching

Like nursing and social work, teaching is another job that requires interaction with other people. While aspects of learning have been automated, there is no way to teach a machine to give each student the kinds of hands-on touch that a good teacher can give.

It’s a unique challenge to teach students who come from wildly different backgrounds and many require their own approaches to classroom material. This makes it hard to design a computer program that can lead each student through lessons with a similar level of success. For now, teaching seems to be safe from automation.

The Bottom Line

Noticing a trend so far? Jobs that have a strong human element are unlikely to be replaced by machines anytime soon. Instead, the need for these jobs seems to be growing as the population grows and there’s a need for more people who are ready and willing to take care of other people. Find a job that demands a personal touch in almost facet, and you are sure to stay safe from automation for the time being.

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