The talent of staying relevant
Experience was once the mainstay of employment, now it’s relevance. Fiona Anson, Future Skills expert with UTS Innovation and Entrepreneurship, discusses upskilling throughout your career and how to stay relevant in a world of change.
Why is there an increasing emphasis on relevance over experience in careers?
The future of work is changing every day. And especially in the startup sector, some roles are so new that how long someone has been doing the job can’t be the key metric anymore. Take for instance AI, natural language processing, machine learning, or cyber-security, longevity and experience isn’t something you can look for because these jobs haven’t existed for long enough.
So, how should new graduates and mid-career executives navigate a future of work landscape that is changing so fast?
You could say the best defence is continued skills renewal. It’s about re-skilling and staying on top of what is current in your field. Change is leading the market in every area and employers are looking for how quickly you can adapt. You’ve got to stay on top of what’s going on right now, and especially for new graduates entering the workforce, their career is likely to switch track many times. They’ll be expected to seamlessly adapt to new technologies and techniques, or change professions as jobs are automated or possibly disappear.
What roles do you see, especially in the startup sector, that might be in high demand now and might be threatened in the future?
The number one is software developers, they are in really high demand right now. However, there’s a lot of work being done in artificial intelligence which could mean in the not too distant future you won’t need a developer, you’ll just tell the AI what you need and it will build the software. So while they’re in demand now, that’s a job down the track that we may see the demand for drop. Anything that can be automated is potentially under threat at the moment.
So, if you are a software developer, what else should you be thinking about to stay relevant?
One thing artificial intelligence can’t quite do is that real creative problem solving, so any up-skilling that focuses on solving problems in new ways is a great place to start. AI and automation are all about rote work - things that can be repetitive. A software developer could think about moving sideways into software architecture or into a role requiring more critical thinking. They’re the roles that are growing in demand. To put it simply, it’s the jobs where you need to identify problems and think critically about how you’re going to solve them, not just what you’re going to do day-to-day, that will be in really high demand.
How are universities such as UTS responding to offer smart and flexible options for anyone, at any time in their career, to up-skill or re-skill?
UTS is already known for designing pioneering innovation and entrepreneurship degrees and for working side by side with industry. The startup ecosystem needs a pipeline to develop talent but also higher education partners to up-skill professionals throughout their career. This means universities need to adapt and offer new approaches to learning that are flexible and to personalise learning experiences. At UTS we talk about the importance of lifelong learning. That means offering a suite of new options from ‘stackable’ degrees to bite-sized micro-credential courses to short courses. Think of it as a menu for ‘always-on learning’. You can design learning to suit your needs or career path and to dip back into courses when you need to up-skill.
Looking ahead, what advice do you have for startup founders about the talent they employ and nurture?
Startups are all about change. They can disrupt something, change something or solve a problem. That’s an incredibly dynamic environment. At the end of the day, startups employ people, and people are looking for fulfilment. One of the ways they get fulfilment is by being challenged, and you can do that through learning opportunities. Startups need to embrace the commitment to helping their people continually learn. Career development opportunities attract talented staff. People also want to work in places that satisfy their curiosity and you do that by exposing people to learning and by encouraging people to learn.
Fiona Anson leads Enterprise Learning at UTS Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Talent is integral to any business sector. This couldn’t be truer of the startup ecosystem, where human intellectual capital is behind the delivery of the innovative high-value products. The StartupAUS 2020 Crossroads is a comprehensive analysis of the startup ecosystem. For more information and the full report visit: www.startupaus.org/crossroads2020