AI may be coming for your job, but all is not lost

Many workplaces are now using artificial intelligence tools to automate tasks such as data entry, billing and collections, customer service and scheduling. If that sounds like most of your job description, then should you be worried? The answer is “Probably.”

The World Economic Forum (in The Future of Jobs Report 2020) estimates that 50 per cent of all employees will need re-skilling by 2025, as automation and AI continue to transform the workplace. The same report has identified the top emerging job roles between 2020-2025 as being related to data, AI and machine learning. Specifically, data analysts and scientists, AI and machine-learning specialists and business development professionals with AI skills. Data analysis and interpretation are expected to be the key skills in demand.

So yes, AI may steal your job. But all is not lost. Humans can’t compete when it comes to gathering and processing data, but we can differentiate ourselves elsewhere. If you invest in developing the skills to analyze, interpret and communicate what AI produces, you will likely come out the winner. Humans are still needed for creativity and critical thinking. Only humans can oversee strategy, balance conflicting business priorities and ensure that ethical guidelines are followed. Perhaps of most significance, there is no machine that can build trusting relationships with customers, clients and colleagues; that can only be done by living, breathing human beings.

The key to your future career success lies then in acquiring today the competence you will need for tomorrow. Focus on enhancing your skills in these five main areas:

Understand the basics of AI

Develop at least a rudimentary understanding of machine learning, natural language processing and computer vision. This will help you both appreciate AI’s usefulness and recognize its limitations.

Develop data literacy

Choosing to learn how to use specific AI platforms will not hurt you, but it is even more critical to develop general data literacy. Your ability to read and interpret data visualizations, understand statistical concepts such as correlation and regression, identify trends and patterns and convey this knowledge effectively to others is what will set you up for continued success. Comprehension is needed, but communication is essential.

Expand your emotional intelligence

In a world where communication is increasingly facilitated by technology, your emotional intelligence is what will separate you from the crowd. Understanding automation and data analytics will position you as an innovative expert. But creating trust, showing empathy and building and maintaining relationships will establish you as a trusted adviser to your customers, clients and colleagues. Your ability to collaborate effectively across disciplines will allow you to make the best use of AI-generated data, and confirm you as a go-to resource.

Enhance your critical thinking

While AI can generate data, it will be up to you to question assumptions, identify potential biases, consider multiple perspectives, use evidence to support arguments, make reasoned judgments and evaluate the validity of the information that is produced. Critical thinking, used along with emotional intelligence is a powerful combination. It allows you to not only make informed, thoughtful, logical decisions, but also to assess and alleviate how the information and outcomes might affect you and others.

Embrace lifelong learning

The world of AI is dynamic, marching steadily forward, with no end in sight. As AI evolves, it is essential to stay informed about new developments, capabilities and opportunities. This could mean taking courses, engaging in online learning, reading and learning from colleagues and mentors.

AI can seem formidable, but only if you let it. The implicit benefit of AI and automation is that it can free humans to focus on more complicated issues and complex decision-making. For continued career success, start toning down your competence in collecting and processing data and emphasize your strengths in data literacy, emotional intelligence and critical thinking.

Merge Gupta-Sunderji is a speaker, author, mentor to senior leaders, and the chief executive officer of the leadership development consultancy Turning Managers Into Leaders.

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