Technology takes away jobs. But it also creates jobs.

For example, Southern California Edison recently finished installing all their electronic meters. As a result, nearly all of the 972 electric meter readers they used to employ were either transferred or are now out of work due to advances in technology. Keep in mind that a senior meter reader can make $68,000 a year, so this is definitely an example of a middle class job not going to China, India, or some other place, but instead disappearing altogether. 

However, thanks to technologies like cloud computing; the social media explosion; the smart phone, tablet, and mobile revolution; and 3D printing, to name just a few, there are currently hundreds of thousands of jobs available today with no one qualified to fill them. And these are not all tech and engineering jobs either. For example, we need sales and marketing people with knowledge of how to use new tools to do their jobs better. In addition, recent research indicating that we could have as many as 20 million jobs available by the year 2025 with not enough college graduates with the right degrees to fill them[1] has prompted career-oriented institutions such as DeVry University to focus its degree programs on meeting the real demands of the 21st century.

Whether you are happy in your current position, are thinking of a career move, or are unemployed, it’s time to focus on the future and learn new things.

First, assess what you do for a living. Are you doing a repetitive job, one with well-defined procedures, or one that relies on rule-based skills? If so, it’s time get retraining now because you will be replaced by an intelligent machine or system soon, just as the meter readers were!

Second, realize that we are in an unprecedented period of change where we are literally transforming every business process including how we sell, market, communicate, collaborate, train, educate, and innovate. That spells tremendous opportunity for anyone in every industry who has updated and relevant skills.

Additionally, look at how technology is changing your current industry and career. Are your skills and knowledge behind or ahead of the curve?

Look at the hard trends, such as the 78 million baby boomers who are getting older, new regulations that will create new opportunities, new technologies and industries that are growing, and the general direction the future is heading.

If you are thinking of a career change or looking for work, what kind of careers should you be retraining for? Based on hard trends, here are some examples:

  • Healthcare is growing because we have aging populations. Think of all of the jobs outside of the hospital and clinic setting: Physical rehabilitation, in-home assisted living, weight loss and exercise coaches and trainers…you get the idea.
  • Energy, especially natural gas, alternative energy, and low emission systems for oil, gas and coal will need to grow to keep up with our increasing high-tech demand.
  • Manufacturing is getting a rebirth thanks to 3D printing (additive manufacturing), advanced robotics, and other new automation systems.
  • Building and construction will always be needed, because no matter what technology does, we’re still going to be building and constructing things. Learn the new tools of the trade to get the best jobs.
  • Maintenance, such as plumbers, installers, and HVAC technicians, who learn how to use new tools including tablet computers and business apps will be in increased demand.
  • Sales and customer service are vital, because robots do not do a good job at either.
  • Digital home security, and especially cyber security, is a huge growth area.
  • Engineers, including biomechanical engineers and many more new engineering specialties, will be needed.
  • Designers and graphic artists who are experts in robotics—in building them, maintaining them, and installing them—will find plenty of work.
  • Trainers and educators who learn new tools such as developing and applying gamification systems will be needed more than ever. Even though we will be using technology to teach and train people, we still will need human trainers and educators teaching the higher levels of the cognitive domain—analysis, problem-solving, and synthesis.

These are just a few areas where hard trends are taking us and humans shine.

At this point, it’s important to ask yourself, “Am I in a place to thrive in my current job, or am I in a place where technology will make me unemployed?” To remain employed or to find a job you can keep long-term, expand your skills based on hard trends and tomorrow’s needs.

1The Undereducated American, Georgetown University