Principles to Guide Career Changes in the Age of Automation

WITI News Staff

November 03, 2019

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Automation is expected to radically change the workplace. A new report from McKinsey cites the potential impact of changes on working women with an opening salvo that warns: "Concerted and creative new solutions are needed to enable women to seize new opportunities in the automation age. Without them, women may fall further behind in the world of work."

One recommendation was that organizations create career paths for women increasing opportunities for advancement into roles not projected for elimination through automation.

As a woman who has experienced job role redesign due to technology adoption, I know that even well-intentioned organizations aren't always mindful of preparing employees for new roles. Plus, given the representation of women in technology careers, it's not clear how employers have prioritized the advancement of women, so much of our advancement will be left up to women.

These four principles could guide thoughts and actions for career changers who want to stay open to workplace evolutions.

Explore new interests
Yes, some job roles and work tasks will disappear with automation technologies, but new opportunities will be created. Staying informed about our professional domains and setting personal learning goals about new areas of interest will be key. Additionally, we must be prepared to fund our own professional memberships, conference fees and training to build our knowledge base and job skills.

Define a pivot point
I developed an interest in Algorithm-Based-Hiring, as owner of a diversity recruiting job board, and claims of AI's potential to eliminate bias piqued my interest about equity and fairness in hiring. That intersection of this new interest, my expertise in Human Resources and personal purpose became a pivot or "jump-off" point to delve further into how AI technology is changing talent acquisition practices. These interests led me to communicate with HR executives, recruiters and HRIS practitioners about the attitudes and perspectives of HR practitioners towards use of AI in hiring.

Think ahead
As you consider a new career direction, ask yourself two questions. First, where will I be in a year if I start working on a change right now? Second, where will I be in a year if I don't? If, in a year, you imagine yourself to be more concerned about the future rather than more prepared for the future, it makes sense to set a new path now.

Career Advisory Board (CAB)
Career changes are not solitary activities. Yes, we will do a lot of solitary thinking and final decisions will ultimately be ours, but it is good practice to leverage insights from others. Each of us should develop a personal CAB including researchers of future technologies, other career changers or professional mentors. Be open to meeting complete strangers via social media who are generous with advice and support.

Regardless of your timeline, know that career changes are always a real possibility. Having a plan of attack or some foundational steps to be ready is just a wise thing to do as automation forces the redesign of work and workplaces.

Dr. Marcia F. Robinson is an award-winning, senior certified Human Resources professional and Chief Engagement Officer at She writes and trains on career management, entrepreneurship, higher education, leadership, automation, human resources and the future of work. Marcia founded to support the career and professional development of the diverse communities educated and influenced by America's 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). Her current research interests lie in how automation and Algorithm-Based-Hiring will impact employment, work redesign and workplace experiences particularly for underrepresented minority groups. Connect with her on Twitter at @MarciaFRobinson.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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