One career question my parents often asked me, and which I have asked my children too, is, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I was never sure of the answer to give my parents. Technology and the pandemic have made me rethink this question.
The future of many careers is blurred, thanks to the ongoing tech-instigated turbulence. For example, just a few short years back, technology behemoths like Uber, Airbnb, Facebook, Amazon, and Google were either non-existent or were just budding.
Many would not have imagined how these tech Goliaths would later change the jobs’ landscape. Who would have trained for any of the millions of jobs that they have now created?
Even coveted careers like medicine are caving in to technology. Telemedicine is becoming a popular means for meeting patients’ health needs. Customised intelligent computer software can diagnose, research one’s DNA, and propose treatment.
Technology has also turned a legion of careers obsolete. A librarian’s job is destined for the archives as most people have the internet on their smartphone. Travel agents are staring at a shrinking market as many people now manage their travels using online tools.
This is the same template used in the banking and the Fintech sector in general. Thanks to digital tools, most people do their money management on their phones. The list of careers changed or neutered by technology is growing.
The point is; if no one has a crystal ball on how jobs will morph — why nudge callow teens to decide what careers to nurture when they know not what the world of employment will be?
Now we have another coefficient in the complex career calculus — the curse of Covid. The Covid-19 pandemic has upended our lives. We have changed the way we socialise, work, communicate and go about our day-to-day lives. It has also spawned new jobs and expanded others.
Parents should not suffer heartburns just because their son or daughter is in high school without a clear career plan. Not all children approach their career dreams the same way. Some sense what they want at an early age, and that becomes their inspiration to work hard to realise them. Others take time and find their career GPS later.
It is better to support children in their areas of strengths — the subjects they excel in, ability to ask solicitous questions, extracurricular activities they ace — while at the same time teaching them how to think. These are the scaffolding that children need to prepare for an erratic job world.
Adam Grant, the Bestselling author of Think Again, ennobles the idea of adaptability. He opines that what interested you last year might bore you this year, and what confused you yesterday might become exciting tomorrow.
Long-term plans have their place, but technology teaches us to have short-term plans and be adaptable.
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