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Curate yourself

October 5, 2018 By: Josh Ingram

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I’ve never had a job in my field of study. In the early 2000s, when I was earning my bachelor’s degree, I was unprepared for the lack of employment opportunities for a recent humanities graduate living in Northern Ontario.

Searching online for potential work opportunities led me to job postings for event organizers and travel agents, careers I didn’t really see myself in. I had originally considered becoming an elementary or high school teacher—however, so did my entire graduating class. I shifted my focus when I realized there was a glut in the market and that not enough current teachers were retiring, a problem the Province of Ontario is still dealing with today.

It wasn’t until my third job that I realized my proficiencies were what kept me afloat as I hopped from a physical advertising production house to a boutique marketing agency to a non-profit organization. My academic training had become moot; it was the skills I had acquired during my education and early work experiences that the modern employment landscape cared about.

As an English major I learned how to interpret texts and convince my classmates of my theories and arguments. Doing so required creativity, research and integration skills, attention to detail and time management, all of which are skills that cannot readily be automated.

I bring up automation because it’s a challenge that the modern workforce is currently facing. According to the Brookfield Institute, 42% of the Canadian workforce is at high risk of being affected by artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. It predicts that retail sales jobs and administrative roles can and will be performed by robots.

We already see automation all around us, from automated tellers at grocery stores and fast-food chains to getting music recommendations from the AI in the operating system on our phones. The jobs that are in danger are those that involve regular routine tasks. Unfortunately, plenty of disciplines currently being taught at our postsecondary institutions are not taking this shift into account.

Multiple consultant reports agree that the entire labour landscape has shifted drastically. Modern jobs have been cross-sectorally grouped by skills, making it easier for employees to transfer from job to job. Most reports agree that the training for specific jobs within a defined cluster is often portable. For example, when a person trains for one job, the skills they gain are usually suitable for 13 other positions. These studies are intrinsically important to the millennial workforce, as millennials regularly work contract positions. In fact, 41% of millennials expect to be in their current job for two years or less.

These reports sometimes read like vocational personality tests, or social media quizzes that identify which celebrity pet you’re most like. That’s not to undermine the validity of these studies; however, you’re unlikely to find the exact perfect match for your skills—nor should you. A teaching position is not the same as a market analyst.

After reading “The New Work Mindset,” a report published by The Foundation for Young Australians, I found myself falling into the “informers” category. According to the FYA study there are 142 occupations within the informers job cluster, which involves “jobs requiring skill in providing information, education or business services.” The report goes on to identify data analysis, report writing, financial analysis, risk management and policy development as the technical skills most commonly requested in the cluster.

In my previous position as a deputy creative director in the private sector, I created marketing concepts and selected ad buys, teaching and convincing clients of the best avenues to advertise their products. Now I’m running a non-profit organization where I’m responsible for policy direction and convincing the public about the best direction for our city, a role that you might expect to be very different but that actually involves many of the same skills as my last position. In fact, if you were to look at both job postings, you would have a difficult time discerning between them as they both involve strategic direction, risk management, financial forecasting, leading small teams and writing

These are the types of skills that are being mapped as the skills of the future. Leading experts tell us they need proficient “technologists,” “careers,” and “generators,” skills that are humanistic and intrinsic to creativity. The bonus is that each of these job clusters is expected to have job growth. For my category, informers, the expected rate of automation is only 7.6%.

I encourage you to explore your cluster, determine where your abilities lie and graft them onto sectors that show growth, as opposed to stagnation. Find the abilities of the future that will drive this generation’s labour market and invest in them, whether through pursuing massive open online courses, more traditional training like a postgraduate certificate or professional development opportunities at innovation hubs. Be sure to also cultivate both mentor and peer-to-peer relationships that will help to illuminate your trajectory and abilities.
Don’t let the fast pace of the changing work landscape leave you behind. Augment yourself, change with it, and curate you.

Josh Ingram is a former Studio Y Fellow, Cohort 5. To learn more about Josh, click here for a short bio.

MaRS Talent Development offers specialized programming to talent in the GTA’s tech community. From pre-graduates to senior-level professionals, we engage and support the innovation ecosystem.