“Horrible IT companies sacking people”​: WAKE-UP call to 4 things that will change in the FUTURE OF WORK

We fear job loss almost as much as death.

It is natural. Job loss at the first level means a drop in the standard of living. Specially in debt-driven-lifestyle countries like US where the situation can change from going-out-every-weekend to homeless-defaulting-on-mortgage overnight. The Florida Tent City is a testimony to this phenomenon. So many working professionals, who had decent lives, had to take refuge when the downturn changed their lives overnight.

Unfortunately, even countries like India, whose traditional money values have been “living within means” and “debt-only-if-unavoidable” have begun to imitate the American money values. Previous generations of Indians never saw credit cards and installments as a gateway to “happiness”. Therefore, today, even in countries like India, job loss threatens to destroy a comfortable lifestyle in no time.

Recently, lay-offs by IT companies in India have been in news. Some articles even called these companies “horrible” and were published with woeful employee testimonies stating how they had given their life to the organization, which made them work 12 hours a day, and yet threw them out of job conveniently — when the time came.

Feelings of panic and apprehension are very natural. However, anger and criticism may not be of much use for one simple reason.

That is, the layoffs are perhaps not a mere one-time occurrence, but an indication of what the “future of work” may be like.

Not just for the ones who got laid off, but everyone.

Following are 4 changes we might want to brace ourselves up for:

#1 — Shorter career-spans

We grew up thinking careers last for 20–30 years, atleast. That is because we saw our previous generations have that kind career runway. But increasingly, that is being proven wrong.

Merrium Webster defines career as:

A field for or pursuit of consecutive progressive achievement especially in public, professional, or business life; A profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling.

Today we see clear evidence of that not being true. Many professionals are reaching the proverbial plateau much sooner in their careers — in about 12–20 years. Once they become stagnant, apart from their own frustration, they become very vulnerable to a round of lay-off for that very reason. Or they themselves opt out of that career.

Hence, many professionals, in the current workforce — at all career stages — will have multiple careers, instead of a single one.

A term making rounds is portfolio careers, which goes even one step further — meaning people may work multiple part-time jobs, freelance instead of one regular job. Studies predict that the generation in schools and colleges will have portfolio careers.

The reality for those already in the workforce, will not be too far from that, in the coming years

#2 — Future of work is self-employment

Rise of websites like freelancer.com, upwork.com and hundreds more out there, is clear indication of the “dawn of the age of freelancers”. Traditional employment models will face stiff competition from alternate employment models like time sharing, part time and freelancing — which are currently stereotyped as non-serious work modes for those who need work-life balance, or a side income, etc

A freelancer may still not be valued at par with a regular job-holder. But, time is near when they will become the backbone of the business world.

This further means a few things:

  1. We will need to take complete responsibility of managing our own careers, there will be no bosses and organizations to blame or lean on
  2. Quality of work will become more important, as there will be no excuses or hiding in an open market
  3. We may actually engage more with our social circles, because we may no longer have office colleagues to fulfill social needs
  4. We will need to be enterprising, whether or not we choose to be entrepreneurs
Self employment will place the power of our careers in our hands
And with great power, will come great responsibility

#3 — Certification over degrees

The advent of learning portals like Coursera, EdX, Treehouse, Udemy is clear indication of the future of skill-based learning. My conversations with job-seekers tell me that certifications from these portals are still to get recognition at par with traditional certifications from the colleges directly.

It is a case of old habits die hard

But that is about to change very soon. In an open market, I care more about how a blogger I want to hire, writes — rather than any creative writing degree, which does not guarantee anything. I am happier if they take up lessons on Coursera continuously to polish their art, which needs to reflect in the actual work.

College years have their value in allowing for development as a human being, discovering (or losing) yourself, sort of a “coming of age”. But that does not justify the outrageous amounts of investment in the current scenario. That may have had some logic earlier when they could actually ensure a “career”. But not so much now, definitely not in the future.

The concept of micro-college is being pioneered in parts of the world, and futurists are advocating the value of shorter need based degrees.

Ultra-expensive college degrees — which leave you with debt, take years to complete, and leave you without skills that you actually need — are increasingly losing their business case

#4 — Rise of the “home office”

With the change in engagement models, the brick-and-motor model will become less prevalent. Work-from-home will become more common, or alternatives like co-work spaces — where people in the same location working on a project — will come together at a location (which is not an office, but one that provides some facilities). Bangalore, in India, has seen a rise in the number of shared work spaces, in the past few years — though that is largely used by the start-up community as of now.

In countries like US, people are more accustomed to designing one room as home office, with office-like amenities — and also peace and quiet — away from the hustle and chatter of other members of the family during work hours.

In India, while people do work from home, a dedicated space for a “home office” designed for that specific purpose is not very prevalent. With new working ways, when you might even have co-project members coming over, a home-office might become a new feature of urban Indian homes.

Perhaps it is an opportunity for real estate developers, and even home owners in terms of new rental models.

Possibilities are many.

I am excited about this future.

  • For once, I think the entrepreneurial spirit will rise. Maybe there will be many smaller set-ups instead of fewer massive organizations. I like the idea that people will do new and different things. Focus on their talents and gifts.
  • Maybe we wont spend hours commuting to work, leaving us with more time and energy to connect with ourselves, family and friends
  • Maybe we will even stop feeling compelled to compare our salaries, designations outside the traditional organizational hierarchies
But for that we will have to look beyond the temporary period of unsettling chaos that will happen — including lot of lay-offs

Perhaps, those who are getting laid-off first, are also the first to get an opportunity to re-invent themselves.

I wrote it in one of my earlier blogs,

Square One is a good place to be in. You get to make a brand new start.

Again, we all understand, this future may be scary. But, it is also inevitable.

And, the difference between succeeding and perishing in that future is,

Knowing the difference between
responding with FEAR and responding with FORESIGHT

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Swati Jena is a writer and entrepreneur. She is the founder of GhostWritersWorld (www.ghostwritersworld.com); @writingspells on twitter

She writes on a variety of topics, her favorites being leadership, technology, diversity, culture, education and self-help. Some of her other articles on LinkedIn include:

  1. “If you are nothing without the suit, you don’t deserve it”: 3 cardinal tests for anyone who calls himself leader
  2. “If Robots will do everything, what will humans do”: Why AI Rhetoric deeply worries me
  3. A 50-over-50 list? Pressures of adults “growing up” in a word of over-achieving youngsters
  4. The Monkey Catcher’s Lesson: Why we get stuck in our jobs, situations, emotions..
  5. Flirt with your product ideas, don’t fall in love
  6. Love in the time of Artificial Intelligence: Valentine’s Day 2030
  7. 3 unforgettable lessons I learnt from an Indian Ed Tech Leader
  8. 3 taboo questions Millennials are asking, leaving hiring managers shocked
  9. Why the ‘Corporate-style Women’s Day Celebrations’ gives me the creeps
  10. Man or Woman? Who should lead gender diversity? Why we are simply asking the WRONG question
  11. The (difficult) art of doing nothing and why it matter in a world proud of “busy”
  12. “So why are you leaving?”: Don’t treat retention discussions like a ONE TIME date
  13. The OOUCH of maternity leaves: Why managers secretly dread it

14. 500 Uber rides without driver talking on the phone: My personal starfish story

15. Sophisticated-fear-based-management: 3 unmistakable signs

16. “Here is a muffin that will make you successful”: The unspoken truth about success

17. 5 reasons we should ‘stop fighting for a cause’

18. Interns or cheap labor? Making internship count

19. LOL … driverless cars for India??: When AI meets Cows, Rajinikanth and Ganpati

20. “I love solving problems”: The BIG problem with problem solving