The impact of mechanised and digital automation has spread from warehouse floors to courtroom chambers with any repeated or predictable action being reassigned from a role to an algorithm. Adding momentum to this tidal wave of change is the accelerating rate AI is learning to replicate previously considered human only abilities. In the wake of this change is you, the person in the middle whose job is either gone, endangered, or markedly altered and ever changing.
Carving out and maintaining a full and satisfying career in a world of unknowns takes skill, and many traits that have for ages been referred to as the “soft skills”. A class apart from “hard skills” which are standardised, taught, and tested, soft skills are notoriously difficult to measure and are often at play when people discuss culture fit to describe suitability for a role.
Put simply, hard skills will help you get a job, and soft skills help you to keep it. They are related to your personality and showcased in how you interact not only with others, but with challenge, change, stress, and opportunity.
Soft skills are a hot commodity, and big businesses are finally taking note. Telstra’s Group Executive – Transformation and People, Alex Badenoch has said:
When we look at who’s successful, it’s not always the smartest person in the room, or the person who has got the most experience, … It’s often the person who has an ability to take information data and apply judgment. Judgement’s really important. Read full article here.
As a career coach working in recruitment and HR consulting, I have for years seen the edge that well-developed soft skills give people in the workforce. They help people to advance further and faster than their academically or technically superior colleagues. Automation has removed a reliance on an individual’s technical abilities, and reassigned responsibilities within a role to more human centric ones such as:
- Outside the box thinking
- Problem solving
- Emotional Intelligence
- Stress Management/Resilience
- Time Management
When asked for my career advice in the wake of automation, I must admit that it doesn’t vary much from my career advice in all respects: sharpen your human skills, drill down on your values, and keep an open mind.
What makes these generic instructions still relevant in the context of mechanised and digital automation?
Careers are taking previously unforeseen paths and newly invented roles are already reinventing themselves. There’s a fair chance that the role you’re in or searching for, was not a role you even knew about 10 years ago. I’ll bet you are using technologies and systems now that are newer to you than your favourite pair of jeans. (#slack anyone?)
The truth is that hard skills have never been enough in work, we’ve always needed team work, accountability etc. Automation makes the divide wider between those who champion soft skills and those who don’t. The takeaway is, don’t undervalue your human or soft skill, and invest in developing them as you would any other skill.