How to get ready for jobs that don’t exist


Education and hiring in a new paradigm  - emerging jobs, disappearing jobs and portfolio careers.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit on an alumni panel, discussing with prospective students the pros and cons of undertaking an MBA.  This made me reflect on a couple of interrelated questions:

  • what will the future of education look like?

  • how will businesses prepare their workforce for the future?

Preparing for jobs that don’t exist

The emergence of sharing economies, growth in digital marketplaces and other disruptive forces are changing the way that businesses operate.  We need to think about how we are preparing for the capabilities required of our future workforce.

As more jobs become outsourced and automated, what are the skills that will be important to grow and foster? While there will always be a requirement for deep technical knowledge, my guess is that for most industries the focus will continue to shift to critical analytical skills, creative thinking and learning agility - an ability to adapt to new industries, problems and tasks.      

This requires re-thinking of both education and hiring practices.

Hiring for an uncertain future

As businesses prepare to hire in rapidly evolving industries, I see less emphasis being placed on industry experience.  Increasingly, we are focused on developing a highly adaptable workforce that can quickly apply thinking skills across new environments. Organisations that are ready for this shift are beginning to remove “10 years industry experience” from the “must haves” in position descriptions, opting instead for a focus on critical thinking capabilities and emotional intelligence, particularly in leadership roles.

Adding further to the challenge in preparing for the future workforce is the rise in the portfolio career.  More people are seeing the benefits of diversifying their income streams and experience by dividing their time between employers and assignments, operating as consultants or contractors.  Board roles, part-time contracts, and short contracts are all becoming increasingly accessible through digital platforms. 

Again the contemporary employer sees the benefits that come from experience and exposure across a range of industries. Commercial thinking brought to a government problem, the ‘footprint’ challenge that applies equally to bank branches and to retail outlets, the rise in expectations for seamless digital experiences across almost every industry.  There is a convergence, there are patterns, and cross sector pollination is a rich source of learning. 

Workforce planning for a shifting landscape

Recently we’ve seen huge redundancies from key institutions in Australia. This has often been accompanied by a balance of newly created roles to accommodate the emerging needs of the organisation. Data analytics, information architecture, cybersecurity and programming roles are on the rise. The cost of redundancies is high, and on-boarding new people costs an average of 1.5 times the annual salary.  It’s a costly exercise, both in terms of $ and the impacts on culture and organisational knowledge.

Certainly, a period of renewal is required to help organisations get ready for change, but can we think more cleverly about how we prepare for the changing needs of our businesses?  By understanding current and future capabilities, rather than roles, we can transition more of our highly capable and talented people into the future of our businesses.  

Education for new and disappearing roles

When it comes to preparing for an unknown future, a commitment to a 4 year degree is a significant one.  With a traditional 4 year degree, you run the risk of the degree becoming irrelevant by the time you graduate.  The function you’ve learned, now automated or outsourced.  With an MBA, at least, you learn a broad set of skills that will be relevant across management disciplines and industries. 

Increasingly, employers are working with education providers to design ‘micro-credentials’.  Courses that will meet their workforce needs, as they need them.  For those people still finding their path, or wanting to explore a range of subjects, shorter commitments in learning make sense for both time and money.  For employers, they may be able to hire sooner, and shape their workforce as their business changes.     


Innovation will flourish for those employers who seek out and encourage diversity in thinking.  To make the most out of diversity, employers need to do away with old recruitment and education models that don’t acknowledge the rapidly changing nature of work.  Understanding core capabilities and transferrable skills is at the centre of contemporary practice in hiring and education. This requires a deeper understanding of how people think and operate.