The 4 Digital Skills Everyone Will Need For The Future Of Work

Sound unlikely? I don’t think it’s as crazy as it seems, especially when we think of everything that has changed in the last ten years, like social media, artificial intelligence, and automation.

The work human beings do will continue to shift as some jobs become obsolete and new jobs emerge – and the experience and skill set we’ll need in the future look very different from the ones we need today.

Soft skills will grow in importance as the demand for the things machines can’t do continues to increase. However, the ability to understand and work confidently with technology will still be critical. With that in mind, here are four digital skills you need to cultivate to thrive in the new world of work:

Digital Literacy

Digital literally refers to the skills needed to learn, work, and navigate our everyday lives in our increasingly digital world. When we have digital literacy skills, we are able to interact easily and confidently with technology. This means skills like:

● Keeping on top of emerging new technologies

● Understanding what tech is available and how it can be used

● Using digital devices, software, and applications – at work, in educational settings, and in our everyday lives

● Communicating, collaborating, and sharing information with other people using digital tools

● Staying safe and secure in a digital environment

Data Literacy

We’re currently right in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution, a movement that is defined by many waves of new technology that combine digital and physical worlds. For instance, you’ve probably noticed the flood of “smart” everyday devices on the market today, from watches to thermostats that are connected to the internet.

All of that new technology is underpinned by data – and that’s why data literacy is one of the critical skills we’re going to need in the future.

Data literacy means a basic ability to understand the importance of data and how to turn it into insights and value. In a business context, you’ll need to be able to access appropriate data, work with data, find meaning in the numbers, communicate insights to others, and question the data when necessary.

Technical Skills

“Technical skills” is a broad category these days – it’s not just IT and engineering skills that will be needed in the workplace of the future. As the nature of work changes and workflows become more automated, a wide variety of technical skills are still enormously valuable.

In essence, technical skills are the practical or physical skills needed to do a job successfully. Demand for these skills goes far beyond coding, AI, data science, and IT – although admittedly, those skills are indeed in very high demand. If you’re a plumber, you have technical skills. Same for project managers, carpenters, nurses, and truck drivers.

We will need more specific technical skills in every industry as new technologies come on the scene, so you should be prepared to continually learn and focus on professional development through a combination of training, education, and on-the-job training.

Digital Threat Awareness

Cybercriminals are getting smarter and more nefarious as the world becomes more digital. This means new threats that could have enormous impacts on our personal and professional lives.

Digital threat awareness means being aware of the dangers of being online or using digital devices and having the tools you need to keep yourself and your organization safe.

With so many of our activities happening online (from making doctor’s appointments to ordering Friday night takeaway) happening online, our digital footprints are larger than ever.

Digital threat awareness means understanding the biggest threats in our everyday lives, including:

● Digital addiction

● Online privacy and protecting your data

● Password protection

● Cyberbullying

● Digital impersonation

● Phishing

● Data breaches

● Malware, ransomware, and IoT attacks

In general, lowering the risks of these digital threats means we all need to develop a healthier relationship with technology and teach others how to get the most out of tech and have it enrich our lives without being dominated by it.

To stay on top of future trends and future skills, make sure to subscribe to my newsletter and have a look at my new book, Future Skills: The 20 Skills & Competencies Everyone Needs To Succeed In A Digital World. Written for anyone who wants to surf the wave of digital transformation – rather than be drowned by it – the book explores why these vital future skills matter and how to develop them.

Bernard Marr is an internationally best-selling author, popular keynote speaker, futurist, and a strategic business & technology advisor to governments and companies.

Source: The 4 Digital Skills Everyone Will Need For The Future Of Work

Critics by Deloitte

EMERGING technology is reshaping the world of work. Automation is revolutionizing business models, tools, tasks and delivery modes. Workers can already see the transformation happening, as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and other digital innovations are being used increasingly in the workplace.1 The likely effects of automation are mixed. On the one hand, some jobs are at risk of being fully or partially automated and/ or replaced by robots and AI.

On the other hand, these changes could increase efficiency and access to services. Employers and workers require the necessary digital and soft skills to take advantage of the new opportunities they are expected to face.  However, almost half the population of the EU is considered as lacking basic digital skills3 and one-third of the European citizens reportedly have no or almost no digital skills at all.4 

Approximately 40 per cent of employers are struggling to fill their job vacancies due largely to a lack of necessary skills, while 30 per cent of graduates are working in a job where the competences they acquired at university are not required.5 This skills gap could threaten the stability of the labour market as well as the ability of EU industry to innovate. The challenges of upskilling and reskilling could be imminent for many individuals, businesses and governments.

The dignity, well-being and self-fulfilment of individuals as well as the prosperity of society could depend on it. Within this context, impactful public policies for workers’ inclusiveness are important. In this vein, the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders, including workers, companies, public authorities, education institutions, training providers and social partners6 can be crucial.

The ‘future of skills’ receives considerable attention from governments around the world and stands high on the political agenda of many international organizations. As an example, the EU has adopted an overarching strategy – the New Skills Agenda7 – to tackle a wide range of skills-related challenges. Many of the tools contained in this initiative aim at empowering individuals to develop new skills or to exploit the skills they already have.

Nevertheless, even with the most innovative policies in place and the mobilization of huge public resources,8 the success of any skills strategy depends heavily on the motivation of individuals and their decisions to take a step forward.  Hence, it is of great importance for policymakers and other stakeholders to understand the impact of technological change from the perspective of workers in order to develop effective policy tools to create a future that works for all.

A number of academic studies already shed light on the potential changes in the labour force of the future. This article which presents the opinions of more than 15,000 workers across ten European countries, was designed to contribute to the overall debate by giving voice to the workers themselves and potentially bring them closer to policymakers. This paper provides insights on how the workers surveyed view the impact of new technologies on their work, how they perceive their own preparedness for automation and technological change, and which policy measures they expect from governments and others.

Building on the analysis of workers’ attitudes, the paper concludes with a number of suggestions for further consideration at policy level to address the skills gap and its challenges. Both the EU and national governments aim to close the skills gap and increase digital skills significantly through a wide range of initiatives, one of the most important being vocational education and training. But how do European workers see the need for action in order to equip themselves with all the skills necessary for Industry 4.0?

Even if workers do not perceive a threat of losing their job due to automation, most still expect some changes in the nature of their job and the skills required for it.About 50 per cent of workers surveyed across all sectors believe that automation will give them an opportunity to develop their skills. This is particularly true among respondents with higher levels of education: 57 per cent of those with a university degree hold this view, compared to just 41 per cent of those surveyed with lower educational attainments.

When asked about the expected impact of automation on the nature of their skills, more than 35 per cent of respondents do not think that it will make their current skills outdated, whilst 28 per cent believe that it will. This divergence of opinions may be explained partly by different expectations across occupations.For instance, in the survey results, workers in elementary occupations (e.g. manufacturing labourers, agricultural labourers, etc.11) show a greater tendency to believe that technology will reduce their job opportunities, whereas workers in other occupations tend to disagree with this statement (figure 4).

The expectation among workers that some of their skills may be outdated by technology could influence both the self-perception of their level of preparedness and their motivation to engage in training activiti…

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Empathy & Perspective Taking: How Social Skills Are Built

Understanding what other people want, how they feel, and how they see the world is becoming increasingly important in our complex, globalized society. Social skills enable us to make friends and create a network of people who support us. But not everyone finds it easy to interact with other people. One of the main reasons is that two of the most important social skills — empathy, i.e. being able to empathize with the other person’s emotions, and the ability to take a perspective, i.e. being able to gain an information by adopting another person’s point of view — are developed to different degrees.

Researchers have long been trying to find out what helps one to understand others. The more you know about these two social skills, the better you can help people to form social relationships. However, it still not exactly clear what empathy and perspective taking are (the latter is also known as “theory of mind”).

Being able to read a person’s emotions through their eyes, understand a funny story, or interpret the action of another person — in everyday life there are always social situations that require these two important abilities. However, they each require a combination of different individual subordinate skills. If it is necessary to interpret looks and facial expressions in one situation, in another it may be necessary to think along with the cultural background of the narrator or to know his or her current needs.

To date, countless studies have been conducted that examine empathy and perspective taking as a whole. However, it has not yet been clarified what constitutes the core of both competencies and where in the brain their bases lie. Philipp Kanske, former MPI CBS research group leader and currently professor at the TU Dresden, together with Matthias Schurz from the Donders Institute in Nijmegen, Netherlands, and an international team of researchers, have now developed a comprehensive explanatory model.

“Both of these abilities are processed in the brain by a ‘main network’ specialised in empathy or changing perspective, which is activated in every social situation. But, depending on the situation, it also involves additional networks,” Kanske explains, referring to the results of the study, which has just been published in the journal Psychological Bulletin. If we read the thoughts and feelings of others, for example, from their eyes, other additional regions are involved than if we deduce them from their actions or from a narrative. “The brain is thus able to react very flexibly to individual requirements.”

For empathy, a main network that can recognise acutely significant situations, for example, by processing fear, works together with additional specialised regions, for example, for face or speech recognition. When changing perspective, in turn, the regions that are also used for remembering the past or fantasising about the future, i.e., for thoughts that deal with things that cannot be observed at the moment, are active as the core network. Here too, additional brain regions are switched on in each concrete situation.

Through their analyses, the researchers have also found out that particularly complex social problems require a combination of empathy and a change of perspective. People who are particularly competent socially seem to view the other person in both ways — on the basis of feelings and on the basis of thoughts. In their judgement, they then find the right balance between the two.

“Our analysis also shows, however, that a lack of one of the two social skills can also mean that not this skill as a whole is limited. It may be that only a certain factor is affected, such as understanding facial expressions or speech melody,” adds Kanske. A single test is therefore not sufficient to certify a person’s lack of social skills. Rather, there must be a series of tests to actually assess them as having little empathy, or as being unable to take the other person’s point of view.

The scientists have investigated these relationships by means of a large-scale meta-analysis. They identified, on the one hand, commonalities in the MRI pattern of the 188 individual studies examined when the participants used empathy or perspective taking. This allowed the localisation of the core regions in the brain for each of the two social skills. However, results also indicated how the MRI patterns differed depending on the specific task and, therefore, which additional brain regions were used.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Matthias Schurz, Joaquim Radua, Matthias G. Tholen, Lara Maliske, Daniel S. Margulies, Rogier B. Mars, Jerome Sallet, Philipp Kanske. Toward a hierarchical model of social cognition: A neuroimaging meta-analysis and integrative review of empathy and theory of mind.. Psychological Bulletin, 2020; DOI: 10.1037/bul0000303

Cite This Page:

Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. “Empathy and perspective taking: How social skills are built.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 November 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201110090427.htm>.

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6 Steps to Safely Switch Careers

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If you’ve been in the same industry for a while now but have been nursing a feeling that it isn’t your true calling, you’re not alone. The average American changes careers five-to-seven times in their lifetime, and 30 percent change jobs or careers every 12 months. This sort of frequent disruption might not be ideal for long-term stability, but a change now and then can be ideal in the pursuit of living your best life.

With the pandemic in full swing, many industries are having a tough time staying afloat. Perhaps your industry is one of them, and to look out for your future and the future of your family, you may be thinking it’s time to pivot your career.

Related: 7 Sure Signs Now Is the Time for a Career Change

Whatever your situation may be, making a career change can be a scary leap. But when you’re prepared, you can handle anything. Here are six tips for preparing for a career change and starting down a more authentic path.

1. Don’t immediately quit your job

It’s one thing to strike while the momentum’s hot and quite another to remove your safety net precisely when you need it. If you’re fortunate enough to be employed, maintain that income while you plan the perfect exit by staying at your current job while searching for a new one.

 

Some people believe that quitting a job without any other prospects is the kick in the butt necessary to get serious about getting hired, but that’s too risky right now. While it may make you feel nostalgic for your college days, it’s no fun living off of ramen noodles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as an adult.

2. Research the industry you’re interested in

What it takes to get your foot in the door in a new industry depends on the industry. Some jobs are going to require specific certifications or even another degree. Research what the expectations are so you’ve got a realistic chance of succeeding.

Related: Have a Business Idea? 6 Ways to Research Your Industry

Another key area of research is the salary. Check statistics around the average salary base of the role you’re considering to get an idea of whether it’s financially realistic for maintaining your lifestyle or if you’ll need to budget for a pay cut.

3. Find a mentor in the field

Finding a success story in the field you’re pursuing can inspire you to keep going even when it seems difficult. Tracking someone’s career trajectory will also give you a blueprint that you can use to plan your route.

Find a thought leader in the field and find out as much as you can about their professional experience. Maybe they’re a guest contributor and write for credible publications about the industry you’re interested in. If so, read the content they’re creating and check out their company website. We’re all different and have our unique paths to follow, but this approach will give you a real-world look at what it takes to succeed.

4. Complete the necessary coursework

If you need classes for industry-specific knowledge or to qualify for jobs in the field you’re interested in, you’re going to have juggle coursework with your existing work schedule. It’s not easy, but it’s a necessary balance you’ll have to find. Look for night classes, weekend classes, workshops, and other learning opportunities that will allow you to learn what you need to without adding full-time school on top of full-time work. And if you have to go full-time, take solace in the fact that many people have done it before you and succeeded.

Related: How Online Learning will Change the Education System post Covid-19

If you have a spouse or partner that is willing to carry the bulk of your financial load, make sure you plan and prepare for a reduced household income.

5. Freshen up your resumé

If you’re switching careers, your current resumé isn’t likely to reflect the right skills and experience you’ll need for your desired role. But every job you have, whether it’s related to your preferred one or not, teaches you skills that prepare you to take on new challenges.

Get creative with your resumé, reworking it to show how your current skills will make you a star in your new career. Then, have someone you trust to review your resumé to see if there’s anything you’re missing.

6. Search for available jobs

Most of the career change process involves searching for and applying for jobs. Don’t settle for job postings that don’t sound like they’ll be an excellent fit for your strengths or won’t align with what you want. Consider pay and benefit options so you can be as selective as possible. If you apply for every job in the field you want to be in, you could land a position that isn’t a great fit and you’ll be back at square one.

Related: Are You Looking to Make a Career Switch?

Once you find a job to apply for, give your resumé another once-over to ensure the skills you’re highlighting align with the skills the job posters are looking for. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a while to build momentum in your search. The right opportunity is out there; you just have to keep applying.

What if I want to start my own business?

If changing jobs means starting your own business, then you will also need to put together a business plan to put your thoughts into actionable steps and determine what you want to achieve.

Make sure you research the market to understand any potential risks involved — there’s always a risk when starting your own business. And accurately identify the possible business mistakes you could make. You can never prepare enough, so take the time to look into what starting your own business entails. It will ensure that the decisions you make are the right ones.

Embarking on a new journey is filled with fear, uncertainty, and excitement. But as long as you’re prepared, your path will be a little less bumpy and a little more worth it. Best of luck. You got this!

By: Jonathan Herrick – CEO of Benchmark

bevtraders-2

How To Find The Right Career For You

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Everyone says it’s important to find a job you’re good at, but no-one tells you how to do so.The standard advice is to think about it for weeks and weeks until you “discover your talent”. To help, career advisers give you quizzes about your interests and preferences. Others recommend you go on a gap yah, reflect deeply, imagine different options, and try to figure out what truly motivates you…then chunder everywhere.

But as we saw in an earlier article, becoming really good at most things takes decades of practice. So to a large degree your abilities are built rather than “discovered”. Darwin, Lincoln, JK Rowling and Oprah all failed early in their career, then went on to completely dominate their fields. Albert Einstein’s 1895 schoolmaster’s report reads, “He will never amount to anything.”

Asking “what am I good at?” needlessly narrows your options. It’s better to ask: “what could I become good at?”

That aside, the bigger problem is that these methods don’t work. Plenty of research shows that it’s really hard to predict what you’ll be good at ahead of time, especially just by “going with your gut”, and it turns out career tests don’t work either.

Instead, the best way to find the right career for you is to go investigate – learn about and try out your options, looking outwards rather than inwards. Here we’ll explain why and how.

More Reference: https://www.careerenjoyment.com/career-test-free-aptitude-test-and-quiz

Reading time: 20 minutes.

The bottom line

  • Your degree of personal fit in a job depends on your chances of excelling in the job, if you work at it. Personal fit is even more important than most people think, because it increases your impact, job satisfaction and career capital.
  • Research shows that it’s really hard to work out what you’re going to be good at ahead of time, especially through self-reflection.
  • Instead, go investigate. After an initial cut-down of your options, learn more and then try them out.
  • Minimise the costs of trying out your options by doing cheap tests first (usually start by speaking to people), then trying your options in the best order (e.g. business jobs before non-profit jobs).
  • Keep adapting your plan over time. Think like a scientist investigating a hypothesis.

Being good at your job is more important than you think

Everyone agrees that it’s important to find a job you’re good at. But we think it’s even more important than most people think, especially if you care about social impact.

First, the most successful people in a field account for a disproportionately large fraction of the impact. A landmark study of expert performers found that:1

A small percentage of the workers in any given domain is responsible for the bulk of the work. Generally, the top 10% of the most prolific elite can be credited with around 50% of all contributions, whereas the bottom 50% of the least productive workers can claim only 15% of the total work, and the most productive contributor is usually about 100 times more prolific than the least.

So, if you were to plot degree of success on a graph, it would look like this:

Log-normal distribution of success of workers in a field

It’s the same spiked shape as the graphs we’ve seen several times before in this guide.

In the article on high impact jobs, we saw this in action with areas like research and advocacy. In research, for instance, the top 0.1% of papers receive 1,000 times more citations than the median.

These are areas where the outcomes are particularly skewed, but a major study still found that the best people in almost any field have significantly more output than the typical person. The more complex the domain, the more significant the effect, so it’s especially noticeable in professional jobs like management, sales, and medicine.

Now, some of these differences are just due to luck: even if everyone were an equally good fit, there could still be big differences in outcomes just because some people happen to get lucky while others don’t. However, some component is almost certainly due to skill, and this means that you’ll have much more impact if you choose an area where you enjoy the work and have good personal fit.

Second, even if you don’t want to contribute directly, being successful in your field gives you more career capital, which can open up high-impact options later. It also gives you influence and money, which can be used to promote good causes. Think of the example of Bono switching into advocacy for global poverty.

Third, being good at your job and gaining a sense of mastery is a vital component of being satisfied in your work. We covered this in the first article.

bestmining780

Fourth, as we saw earlier, the jobs that are least likely to be automated are those that involve high-level skills, and technology is increasing the rewards for being a top performer.

All this is why personal fit is one of the key factors to look for in a job. We think of “personal fit” as your chances of excelling at a job, if you work at it.

If we put together everything we’ve covered so far in the guide, this would be our formula for a perfect job:

The personal fit multiplier

If you’re comparing two career options, you can use these factors to make a side-by-side comparison (read more).

Personal fit is like a multiplier of everything else, and this means it’s probably more important than the other three factors. So, we’d never recommend taking a “high impact” job that you’d be bad at. But how can you figure out where you’ll have the best personal fit?

Hopefully you have some ideas for long-term options (from earlier in the guide). Now we’ll explain how to narrow them down, and find the right career for you.

(Advanced aside: if you’re working as part of a community, then your comparative advantage compared to other people in the community is also important. Read more.)

Why self-reflection, going with your gut and career tests don’t work

Note that after we wrote this article, an updated version of the meta-analysis we cite below was released. The results (in table 2) were similar except that work sample tests seem less promising (though ‘job tryout procedures’, ‘peer ratings’ and ‘job knowledge tests’ remain fairly good and are similar to work samples); and interviews seem more promising. This could suggest a somewhat greater focus on predicting your performance ahead of time by speaking to managers in the relevant path. We hope to do a more thorough review of this research in the future.

Performance is hard to predict ahead of time

When thinking about which career to take, our first instinct is often to turn inwards rather than outwards: “go with your gut” or “follow your heart”.

These approaches assume you can work out what you’re going to be good at ahead of time. But in fact, you can’t.

Here’s the best study we’ve been able to find so far on how to predict performance in different jobs. It’s a meta-analysis of selection tests used by employers, drawing on hundreds of studies performed over 85 years.2 Here are some of the results:

Type of selection test Correlation with job performance (r)
Work sample tests 0.54
IQ tests 0.51
Interviews (structured) 0.51
Peer ratings 0.49
Job knowledge tests 0.48
Job tryout procedure 0.44
Integrity tests 0.41
Interviews (unstructured) 0.38
Job experience 0.18
Years of education 0.1
Holland-type match 0.1
Graphology 0.02
Age -0.01

None of the tests are very good. A correlation of 0.5 is pretty weak, so even if you try to predict using the best available techniques, you’re going to be “wrong” much of the time: candidates that look bad will often turn out good, and vice versa. Anyone who’s hired people before will tell you that’s exactly what happens, and there is some systematic evidence for this 3.

Because hiring is so expensive, employers really want to pick the best candidates and they know exactly what the job requires. If even they, using the best available tests, can’t figure out who’s going to perform best in advance, you probably don’t have much chance.

Oprah at first failed in TV
Oprah worked as a TV news anchor early in her career, eventually getting fired and being told she was “unfit for TV”. Now she’s one of the most successful TV presenter of all time.

Don’t go with your gut

If you were to try to predict performance in advance, “going with your gut” isn’t the best way to do it. Research in the science of decision-making collected over several decades shows that intuitive decision-making only works in certain circumstances.

For instance, your gut instinct can tell you very rapidly if someone is angry with you. This is because our brain is biologically wired to rapidly warn us when in danger.

Your gut can also be amazingly accurate when trained. Chess masters have an astonishingly good intuition for the best moves, and this is because they’ve trained their intuition by playing lots of similar games, and built up a sense of what works and what doesn’t.

However, gut decision-making is poor when it comes to working out things like how fast a business will grow, who will win a football match, and what grades a student will receive. Earlier, we also saw that our intuition is poor at working out what will make us happy. This is all because our untrained gut instinct makes lots of mistakes, and in these situations it’s hard to train it to do better.

Career decision-making is more like these examples than being a chess grandmaster. It’s hard to train our gut instinct when:

  1. The results of our decisions take a long time to arrive.
  2. We have few opportunities to practice.
  3. The situation keeps changing.

This is exactly the situation with career choices: we only make a couple of major career decisions in our life, it takes years to see the results, and the job market keeps changing.

This all means your gut can give you clues about the best career. It can tell you things like “I don’t trust this person” or “I’m not excited by this project”. But you can’t simply “go with your gut”.

Moneyball
In field after field, gut judgement is being replaced by approaches to predicting success that actually work. Moneyball tells the story of how data hungry analysts overturned traditional baseball talent scouting, which was based on gut feeling and untested metrics.

(See our evidence review for more detail. We also recommend the fantastic book, Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.)

Why career tests also don’t work

Many career tests are built on “Holland types” or something similar. These tests classify you as one of six “Holland-types”, like “artistic” or “enterprising”. Then they recommend careers that match that type. However, we can see from the table that “Holland-type match” is very weakly correlated with performance. It’s also barely correlated with job satisfaction. So that’s why we don’t recommend traditional career tests.

What does work when finding out where you’ll excel? Trying things out.

In the table above, the tests that best predict performance are those that are closest to actually doing the work (with the interesting exception of IQ). This is probably what we should have expected.

A work sample test is simply doing some of the work, and having the results evaluated by someone experienced. Peer ratings measure what your peers think of your performance (and so can only be used for internal promotions). Job tryout procedures and job knowledge tests are what they sound like.

So if you’re choosing between several options, it’s helpful to do your research ahead of time. But eventually you need to actually try things. The closer you can get to actually doing the work, the better. For example, if you’re considering doing economics research, actually try some research and see how well you do, rather than just think about how much you enjoy studying it – studying a subject is very different from actually doing research.

This is true whether you’re at the start of your career or near the end, and whether you’re planning what to do long-term, comparing two offers, or considering quitting your job.

So, if there’s a job you’re interested in, see if there’s a way to try it out ahead of time. If you’re considering three long-term options and aren’t sure which to take, see if you can try out each of them over the coming years.

If you’re choosing which restaurant to eat at, the stakes aren’t high enough to warrant much research. But a career decision will influence decades of your life, so could easily be worth weeks or months of work.

In your early career, exploration is even more important

Early on you know relatively little about your strengths and options. Once you’ve spent a few years learning more, you’ll be able to make better decisions over the coming decades. It’s better to do this exploration early, if possible, so you can use the lessons later.

Also consider trying one or two wildcards to further broaden your experience. These are unusual options off the normal path, like living in a new country, pursuing an unusual side project or trying a sector you would have not normally have worked in (e.g. government, non-profits, social enterprise).

Many successful people did exactly that. Tony Blair worked as a rock music promoter before going into politics. As we saw, Condoleezza Rice was a classical musician before she entered politics, while Steve Jobs even spent a year in India on acid, and considered moving to Japan to become a zen monk. That’s some serious “exploration”.

Today, it’s widely accepted that many people will work in several sectors and roles across their lifetime. The typical 25 to 34-year-old changes jobs every three years,4 and changes are not uncommon later too.

Trying out lots of options can also help you avoid one of the biggest career mistakes: considering too few options. We’ve met lots of people who stumbled into paths like PhDs, medicine or law because they felt like the default at the time, but who, if they had considered more options, could easily have found something that fit them better. Pushing yourself to try out several areas will help you to avoid this mistake. Try to settle on a single goal too early, however, and you could miss a great option.

All this said, exploring can still be costly. Trying out a job can take several years, and changing job too often makes you look flaky. How can you explore, while keeping the costs low?

Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice was an accomplished classical musician before she transferred into politics. And even she can’t beat Steve Jobs for exploration – he seriously considered becoming a zen monk before going into technology.

How to narrow down your options

You can’t try everything, so before you explore, we need to cut your long-term options down to a shortlist. How best to narrow down? Since gut decision making is unreliable, it helps to be a little systematic.

Many people turn to pro and con lists, but these have some weaknesses. First, there’s no guarantee that the pros and cons that come to mind will be the most important aspects of the decision. Second, pro and con lists don’t force you to look for disconfirming evidence or generate more options, and these are some of the most powerful ways to make better decisions. It’s easy to use lists of pros and cons to rationalise what you already believe.

Here’s the process we recommend for narrowing down. It’s based on a literature review of decision making science and what has worked well in one-on-one advising. You can also use it when you need to compare options to shortlist, or compare your current job against alternatives.

1. Make a big list of options.

Write out your initial list, including both what problem you want to focus on and what role you want e.g. economics researcher focusing on global health; marketing for a meat substitutes company, earning to give as a software engineer.

Then force yourself to come up with more. You can find ideas in our previous articles. But here are some questions to help you think of more:

  1. If you couldn’t take any of the options on your first list, what would you do?
  2. If money were no object, what would you do?
  3. What do your friends advise?
  4. (If already with experience) how could you use your most valuable career capital?
  5. Can you combine your options to make the best of both worlds?
  6. Can you find any more opportunities through your connections?

2. Rank your options.

Start by making an initial guess of how they rank.

If you have more time, then score your options from one to five, based on:

  1. Impact
  2. Personal fit
  3. Supportive conditions for job satisfaction
  4. Any other factors that are important to you.
  5. Career capital, if you’re considering options for the next few years (rather than your long-term aims).

Here are some questions you can use to do the assessment, and a worksheet. Doing this ensures that you’re focusing on the most important factors.

Then, try to cut down to a shortlist. Eliminate the options that are worse on all factors than another (“dominated options”), and those that are very poor on one factor. You can add up all your scores to get a very rough ranking of options. If one of your results seems odd, try to understand why. For each option, ask “why might I be wrong?” and adjust your ranking. This is a very useful way to reduce bias.

3. Write out your key uncertainties

What information could most easily change your ranking? If you could get the answer to one question, which question would be most useful? Write these out. For instance, “Can I get a place on Teach for America?”, “Would I enjoy programming?” or “How pressing is global poverty compared to open science?”.

If you’re stuck, imagine you had to decide your career in just one weekend – what would you do in that time to make the right choice?

4. Do some initial research.

Can you quickly work out any of these key uncertainties? For instance, if you’re unsure whether you’d enjoy being a data scientist, can you go and talk to someone about what it’s like? Or is there something you could read, like one of our career reviews?

At this point, you might have a clear winner, in which case you can skip the next part. Most people, however, end up with a couple of alternatives that look pretty good. At that point, it’s time to explore. But how best to do that?

If you want a more detailed version of the process just above, try our decision tool:

There’s a lot more to say about how to make good decisions, some of which we cover in an upcoming article.

How to explore: cheap tests first

We often find people who want to try out economics, so they go and apply for a Master’s course. But that’s a huge investment. Instead, think about how you can learn more with the least possible effort: “cheap tests”.

The aim is to get as close as possible to actually doing the work, but with the smallest possible investment of time.

You can think of making a “ladder” of tests. For instance, if you’re interested in policy advising, here are the steps you might take:

  • Read our relevant career reviews and do some Google searches to learn the basics (1-2h).
  • Then the next most useful thing you can usually do is to speak to someone in the area. The right person can give you far more up-to-date and personalised information than what you’ll be able to find written down (2h).
  • Speak to three more people who work in the area and read one or two books (20h). You could also consider speaking to a careers adviser who specialises in this area. During this, also find out the most effective way for you to enter the area, given your background. Bear in mind that when you’re talking to these people, they are also informally interviewing you – see our advice on preparing for interviews in a later article.
  • Now look for a project that might take 1-4 weeks of work, like volunteering on a political campaign, or starting a blog on the policy area you want to focus on. If you’ve done the previous step, you’ll know what’s best.
  • Only now consider taking on a 2-24 month commitment, like a short work placement, internship or graduate study. At this point, being offered a trial position with an organisation for a couple of months can actually be an advantage, because it means both parties will make an effort to quickly assess your fit.

At each point, you’d re-evaluate whether policy advising was one of your most promising options, and only continue to the next step if it was.

How to explore: order your options well

You can gain more opportunities to explore if you put your options in the right order.

1. Explore before graduate study rather than after

In the couple of years right after you graduate, people give you license to try out something more unusual – for example starting a business, living abroad or working at a non-profit. You’re not expected to have your career figured out right away.

If it doesn’t go well, you can use the “graduate school reset”: do a Masters, MBA, law degree, or PhD, then return to the traditional path.

We see lots of people rushing into graduate school or other conventional options right after they graduate, missing one of their best opportunities to explore.

In particular, it’s worth exploring before a PhD rather than after. At the end of a PhD it’s hard to leave academia. This is because going from a PhD to a post-doc, and then into a permanent academic position is very competitive, and it’s very unlikely you’ll succeed if you don’t focus 100% on research. So, if you’re unsure about academia, try out alternatives before your PhD if possible.

2. Put “reversible” options first

For instance, it’s easier to go from a position in business to a non-profit job than vice versa, so if you’re unsure between the two, take the business position first.

3. Choose options that let you experiment

An alternative approach is to take a job that lets you try out several areas by:

  • Letting you work in a variety of industries. Freelance and consulting positions are especially good.
  • Letting you practice many different skills. Jobs in small companies are often especially good on this front.
  • Giving you the free time and energy to explore other things outside of work.

4. Try on the side

If you’re already in a job, think of ways to try out a new option on the side. Could you do a short but relevant project in your spare time, or in your existing job? At the very least, speak to lots of people in the job.

If you’re a student, try to do as many internships and summer projects as possible. Your university holidays are one of the best opportunities in your life to explore.

5. Keep building flexible career capital

If you’re unsure, keep building flexible career capital. That way, no matter how things turn out, you’ll still be in a better position in the future.

Jess – a case study in exploring

“80,000 Hours has nothing short of revolutionised the way I think about my career.”
Jess portrait photo

When Jess graduated from maths and philosophy a couple of years ago, she was interested in academia and leaned towards studying philosophy of mind, but was concerned that it would have little impact.

So the year after she graduated, she spent several months working in finance. She didn’t think she’d enjoy it, and she turned out to be right, so she felt confident eliminating that option. She also spent several months working in non-profits, and reading about different research areas.

Most importantly, she spoke to loads of people, especially in the areas of academia she was most interested in. This eventually led to her being offered to study a PhD in psychology, focused on how to improve decision-making by policy makers.

During her PhD, she did an internship at a leading evidence-based policy think tank, and started writing about psychology for an online newspaper. This meant that she was exploring the ‘public intellectual’ side of being an academic, and the option of going into policy.

At the end of her PhD, she can either continue in academia, or switch into policy or writing. She could also probably go back to finance or the non-profit sector. Most importantly, she’ll have a far better idea of which options are best.

Apply this to your own career: how to explore

  1. Use the narrowing down process above to cut your options down to a shortlist of three to five.
  2. For each option in your shortlist, write out one or two cheap tests that you could do over the next three months.
  3. Then, if you wanted to try out your remaining top options, what would the best order be? Consider just spending several years trying out different areas.
  4. When you need to make your final decision, you can use the narrowing down process again.
  5. If you’d like to find out more about how to make good decisions and predictions, we recommend Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath, and Superforecasting by Philip Tetlock.

Conclusion

We like to imagine we can work out what we’re good at through reflection, in a flash of insight. But that’s not how it works.

By

financecurrent

What Do You Do? Why Your Identity Should Be More Than Your Day Job

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Imagine that you’re meeting someone for the very first time. Perhaps you’re reaching for the same appetizer at a dinner party. Or maybe you’re seated next to each other on an airplane.

After a little bit of polite chit chat about the charcuterie board or the lack of legroom in your non-exit row, the inevitable question pops up: So, what do you do?

We’ve all answered it, and we’ve all asked it. It’s one of the most oft-repeated conversation starters, and for good reason. Our careers make up a major part of our lives, and this question is a seemingly straightforward way to get a grasp on what makes someone who they are.

But, is it really?

Do You Work To Live, Or Live To Work?

While asking what someone does for a living has become as natural as shaking hands or asking, “How are you?,” is it truly the best way to start an interaction with a stranger?

Or, is it just adding pressure to define ourselves solely by how we earn a paycheck—in a world where our jobs are already bleeding beyond normal working hours?

It seems like the latter might be the case, especially for the younger generations of the workforce. In a survey of more than 2,000 millennials by the Illinois psychiatric center, Yellowbrick, 70% of respondents agreed that they identify themselves only through their jobs.

Some skeptics might think, “Hey, what’s so wrong with that?” You invest a lot of energy and effort into your career, and if you’re beaming with pride about how you make your living, what’s the problem with leaning on that as a concise summary of who you are?

These professional definitions do wonders for your LinkedIn profile, but may be damaging your self-identity.

More Than Just A Job: The Dangers Of Defining Yourself By Your Career

In all honesty, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being proud of your career choices. But, as it turns out, using only your profession as the core of your identity does present some potential risks and pitfalls.

1. It Pigeonholes You Into One Identity

When I was in my freshman year of college, I had an experience that really stuck with me.

I began my education as a musical theatre major. Up to that point, performing was all I had ever done—I never played soccer, joined student council, or written for the school newspaper. I was the girl who did theatre. It defined who I was for as long as I could remember.

After making it through one semester of the musical theatre program, I started to realize that maybe that wasn’t what I wanted to do for a long-term career. The thought alone was terrifying. I vividly remember lamenting to my mom on the phone. “Mom, if I don’t perform anymore, what do I have left? Who am I?”

I found myself trapped in a full-blown identity crisis—all because I dared to think about trying something new.

office-space gif

Maybe you won’t be quite as melodramatic as I was (ahem, there was a reason I was in theatre), but I think a really similar dilemma can hit you in regards to your career.

What if things aren’t going well at work? What if you’re laid off? What if your company shuts down? What if you’re itching to make a change and want to shift to an entirely new position or industry? Then what? You’re left without an identity entirely? That hardly seems fair.

It’s also worth noting that your profession might be a big piece of your life, but it doesn’t make up the entirety of it. Continuously relying on our careers to summarize who we are means we end up robbing people of other interesting pieces of identities.

Just look at Kristen Bell as a celebrity example. She’s a well-known and accomplished actress. But, she’s also a passionate animal rights advocate and the co-founder of a line of eco-friendly baby products. Only describing herself as an “actress” time and time again barely scratches the surface on what makes her who she is.

      

After all, you might be one heck of an amazing software developer. But maybe you’re also a dog owner, a marathon runner, a dedicated conservationist, and an amateur photographer.

Simply pointing to your career (and only your career!) as a definition of who you are pins you into one category, and then fails to complete the picture.

2. It Doesn’t Leave As Much Room For Connection

A team member at Trello recently attended a dinner party where everyone was required to introduce themselves without mentioning what they do for work.

Sounds tough and even somewhat awkward, right? But the results were impressive.

This team member mentioned that the challenge opened up genuine conversations, as well as an opportunity for real connection over shared hobbies, passions, and experiences.

Without relying on that age-old conversation starter, people were able to bond over topics that probably never would’ve bubbled to the surface had they stopped at, “I’m a financial advisor!” and “Oh, cool. I’m a customer care representative!”

That’s another benefit of defining an identity outside of your career.

It forces you to think outside of your day job and pinpoint other ways you can describe what makes you who you are—and doing so gives you chances to connect with other people who might not know anything about your chosen profession.

Expanding your horizons (and your network!) outside of people who already seem familiar on some level can lead to numerous benefits for you, too—especially when it comes to evolving your own perspective and forging beneficial new bonds.

Just look at this study that was done at Harvard University, where incoming freshmen are assigned their roommates. As a result of these seemingly random assignments, people from various backgrounds, ethnicities, races, and more are put together to live together for the academic year. Tanya Menon, one of the study’s co-authors, explains:

“Some students might be initially uncomfortable, but the amazing thing is, by the end of the year, many of them choose to keep living with their roommates, showing that these random connections between diverse people can result in positive relationships”

3. It Can Lead To Burnout

If something is going to be your source of identity, you understandably want to be phenomenal at it, right? Just think: You’d probably be less likely to tout that you’re a digital marketing analyst to a room full of people if you’re constantly late to the office, barely meet minimum expectations, and are practically on the verge of getting fired.

Don’t get me wrong—wanting to knock your job responsibilities out of the park is positive and admirable. But, doing so just to affirm your identity can be a slippery slope.

Needing to invest so much into your day job means that your career can quickly overtake your other interests, and add increased pressure to be switched into “work mode” at all times (even during evenings, weekends, and vacations!). And, unfortunately, that’s becoming a pervasive problem for most of us.

One 2016 study found that participants spend an average of eight hours each week dealing with email when they’re off the clock. A separate Gallup study found that 23% of the 7,500 employees surveyed report feeling burned out at work very often or always. Another 44% say they feel burned out sometimes.

burnout cat
When your job is your primary source of identity, it’s easy to feel guilt-ridden about investing time and energy into anything else that doesn’t ultimately serve your career progression—as if your hobbies and passions deserve way less importance and emphasis.

That’s a dangerous precedent to set, especially when you need interests outside of the office in order to recharge and lead a balanced life.

So… How Can You Help Change The Conversation? 

Here’s the thing: We’ll probably never do away with the “what do you do?” question entirely. It’s ingrained in Western culture and—let’s call it like we see it—your career really does make up a big part of your life (nobody is saying you need to kick it to the curb entirely!).

However, I do think we could all benefit by challenging ourselves to forge identities outside of just how we earn a paycheck.

Fortunately, this is something that you can take action on ASAP—and doing so is actually pretty easy. The next time you’re meeting someone for the first time (whether you’re at a dinner party or trapped in the close quarters of an airplane seat), try to avoid immediately asking a question about their profession, and instead opt for something more open-ended and less career-focused like:

  • How do you like to spend your free time?
  • What’s something recent you’re really proud of?
  • Do you have anything planned for this weekend?

You might just be surprised by the authentic and interesting conversations that blossom from there. Because after all, our careers might be an easy representation of what we do, but they certainly don’t tell the whole story of who we are.

By: Kat Boogaard

Source: https://blog.trello.com

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