Four keys to stay­ing em­ployed in the fu­ture

Hartford Courant (Sunday) - - Ctopinion - An­gel B. Pérez is vice pres­i­dent for en­roll­ment and stu­dent suc­cess at Trin­ity Col­lege. By An­gel B. Pérez

The world of work is chang­ing at un­prece­dented rates. In the United States, only 27 per­cent of peo­ple work in the field in which they ma­jored in col­lege. By the time to­day’s high school stu­dents are 38, it is pre­dicted they will have held be­tween 10 and 14 jobs — and we don’t even know what those jobs will be. One-third of the jobs to­day’s stu­dents will en­counter don’t ex­ist. In ad­di­tion, up to 50 per­cent of the cur­rent jobs could be­come au­to­mated in their life­times.

De­spite th­ese statis­tics, stu­dents are bar­raged with an­ti­quated mes­sages about prepar­ing for their fu­tures: Your col­lege ma­jor de­ter­mines your fu­ture. A par­tic­u­lar de­gree guar­an­tees you a cer­tain job and in­come. Play it safe. Ma­jor in some­thing “tra­di­tional” and you’ll al­ways have a job. But some of the most im­por­tant tools stu­dents can ac­quire are not main­stream.

Here are strate­gies stu­dents can use for suc­cess­ful vo­ca­tion and life nav­i­ga­tion: Be­come a Stu­dent for Life: Learn­ing how to learn is the sin­gle most im­por­tant skill to carry stu­dents suc­cess­fully into the fu­ture. Given the un­prece­dented change that em­ploy­ees will face through­out their ca­reers, con­stant re­train­ing will be im­por­tant. A pas­sion for read­ing, writ­ing and cre­ativ­ity will make em­ploy­ees com­pet­i­tive. Cu­rios­ity is also crit­i­cal. A deep de­sire to al­ways ask “Why?” and “How?” shows em­ploy­ers gen­uine in­ter­est in growth and de­vel­op­ment. Those who seek to learn more will stay ahead of the curve. Em­brace the Lib­eral Arts: Many col­leges of­fer a lib­eral arts and sciences cur­ricu­lum. The term lib­eral arts comes from the Latin phrase “artes lib­erales” (free­ing of the mind); a be­lief that study­ing a broad ar­ray of sub­jects gives stu­dents true flex­i­bil­ity. Stu­dents who en­gage this cur­ricu­lum usu­ally pick one ma­jor but are ex­posed to a wide range of sub­jects. Stud­ies show that lib­eral arts grad­u­ates have strong skills in crit­i­cal think­ing, writ­ing, anal­y­sis, quan­ti­ta­tive data and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Among the top 10 skills re­quired for suc­cess listed in the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum’s Fu­ture of Jobs re­port are com­plex prob­lem solv­ing, cre­ativ­ity, co­or­di­na­tion with oth­ers and cog­ni­tive flex­i­bil­ity — skills learned through lib­eral arts. Stu­dents study hu­man na­ture, so­ci­eties, be­lief sys­tems and other is­sues crit­i­cal to a well­rounded ed­u­ca­tion. CEOs in­creas­ingly are hir­ing lib­eral arts grad­u­ates be­cause they re­al­ize the need for their skills. In fact, In­fosys, the global tech­nol­ogy con­sult­ing firm that is open­ing an in­no­va­tion hub in Hartford, ac­tively sought a lib­eral arts part­ner and chose Trin­ity Col­lege. In­fosys Pres­i­dent Ravi Ku­mar said, “Build­ing a new hy­brid tal­ent pool, which draws on broad-based lib­eral arts foun­da­tions and pro­motes cog­ni­tive di­ver­sity, will add im­mense value to the tech­nol­ogy con­sult­ing in­dus­try and ad­dress an im­por­tant skills gap for the 21st cen­tury.”

Be­come Ro­bot Proof: In his ground­break­ing book “Ro­bot-Proof: Higher Ed­u­ca­tion in the Age of Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence,” Joseph Aoun ar­gues that many of to­day’s jobs will be au­to­mated. While most be­lieve this will only im­pact low-skill la­bor, the changes will af­fect many other sec­tors. Work in le­gal re­search, data anal­y­sis, ac­count­ing and med­i­cal imag­ing are all within “ro­bot’s reach.” A ro­bot-proof ed­u­ca­tion, Aoun says, equips stu­dents with a creative mind­set to in­vent, dis­cover and cre­ate. He be­lieves that stu­dents should study “hu­manix,” a cur­ricu­lum that cul­ti­vates lit­er­acy in data, tech­nol­ogy and hu­man­i­ties. This will help them work along­side ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and make agile tran­si­tions dur­ing times of change. Scott Hart­ley, au­thor of “The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Lib­eral Arts Will Rule the Dig­i­tal World,” says, “In many cases, tech­nol­ogy will not re­place hu­man work­ers. It will lib­er­ate peo­ple to spend more time on as­pects of work that re­quire hu­man skills, such as com­plex prob­lem solv­ing.”

Be­come Cul­tur­ally Com­pe­tent: The world of work is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly global. Con­sider a com­pany such as Face­book, head­quar­tered in Cal­i­for­nia with thou­sands of em­ploy­ees on six dif­fer­ent con­ti­nents. To­day’s young peo­ple will move in global cir­cles. A stu­dent to­day might well at­tend high school in Jor­dan, get a col­lege de­gree in Amer­ica, study in Ar­gentina and land a job in Sin­ga­pore. The more stu­dents be­come fa­mil­iar with dif­fer­ent lan­guages, be­lief sys­tems, re­li­gions and iden­ti­ties, the more they will be pre­pared to work and com­pete cross-cul­tur­ally.

There has never been a greater time to em­brace the fu­ture. This gen­er­a­tion of stu­dents will make crit­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies and re­solve dilem­mas that seemed in­sur­mount­able. Take ac­tion now, for as the Ro­man Philoso­pher Lu­cius Seneca re­minds us, “Luck is what hap­pens when prepa­ra­tion meets op­por­tu­nity.”

LEOLINTANG/GETTY

In the United States, only 27 per­cent of peo­ple work in the field in which they ma­jored in col­lege. By the time to­day’s high school stu­dents are 38, it is pre­dicted they will have held be­tween 10 and 14 jobs — and we don’t even know what those jobs will be.

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