carEveryone wants the job of the future and a recession-proof career. Unfortunately, the robots are coming for us – or are they?

A study from the McKinsey Global Institute that measured the “automatability” of more than 800 jobs found that some jobs may be completely automatable, but many more are only partially replaceable. Jobs that require high emotional intelligence, creativity, and physical dexterity are much harder to automate.

It is not just automation that threatens the 9-5 pack. The rise of the gig economy, which emphasizes outcomes and eliminates the middleman, has made it fashionable and fiscally strategic for employers to move toward consultants and freelancers and away from full-time workers.

Given these developments, it’s no wonder that traditional jobs are being replaced by online delivery platforms and/or consolidated into multifunctional roles.

The career advice of the future is to be the automater rather than the automated. No longer is being an expert in one role good enough; tomorrow’s irreplaceable employee will be useful in many ways.

What will the (near) future of employment be? Let’s take a look at some examples:

Health Experts

Physicians are relatively safe, but the physician/MBA, physician/pharmacologist, physician/JD, or physician/engineer will be in very high demand moving forward. Possessing the unique ability to strategically address industry changes and trends, these specialists in medicine, pharmacy, medical devices, and their corresponding global legal issues have the talents and wherewithal needed to navigate the medical needs of the future.

At the other end of the spectrum will be certified nursing assistants (CNAs), the lower-cost alternative to the almost non-existent licensed practical nurse (LPN). A dearth of nurse educators means fewer LPNs are produced in favor of turning out the more highly trained registered nurses (RNs) and nurse practitioners.

Personal Finance

Fiduciary financial planners look out for their clients’ financial health and well-being. They evaluate lifestyles and life stages and make recommendations to help customers strategically plan for mortgages, college expenses, retirements, and any potential “rainy day” that may arrive. As if that weren’t enough, fiduciary financial planners also utilize the same software, algorithms, and high-volume discounts as other financial advisors, which will likely force traditional stock traders to look for new jobs to replace their extraordinary salaries.


Moving things from point A to point B with military precision will be critical as the practice of “just in time” delivery continues to spread. Transport vehicles will include drones, trucks, driverless cars, trains, and 18-wheelers. People in logistics will help companies win business, and they’ll be on the front lines of the war for talent.

Do logistics benefit from automation? Clearly. However, it is people who will plan for automation, design the machines, and manage the exceptions.

Conversely, a little automation can be good for the overall growth of an industry. When was the last time you took a taxi or traditional car service? Can’t remember? That’s not surprising, given the meteoric rise of app-based ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft. Car service fleets have been relegated to special occasions like weddings, proms, and company outings. Look for further industry revolution as driverless vehicles become the norm.

The Reinvention Economy

Humans and computers can live in symbiotic harmony as long as we understand where each fits in the employment ecosystem.

Manufacturing jobs of the Rust Belt will never return. Sprawling malls anchored by department stores have become ghost towns.

Automation succeeds when it replaces routine, repeatable, and error-prone tasks; technology makes humans faster at their jobs. Reinvention is the central theme for workers in today’s economy. Preparing for future employment in an ever-expanding knowledge economy requires flexibility, creativity, and critical thinking. Skilled trades that require manual dexterity will always be in demand. High-touch professions like education, medicine, and law enforcement will never be fully automated.

How do you reinvent yourself for the future? You don’t. You reinvent yourself for the here and now. As Richard Riley, the former secretary of education, put it: “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist … using technologies that haven’t been invented … in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”

Elaine Varelas is Keystone Partners’ managing partner.

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