How future-proofed is your career?

Most of us would like to think that nobody else could do our jobs quite as well as we could – let alone a robot! But NZIER research indicates nearly half the current jobs in New Zealand are at risk of computerisation and automation within just 20 years. That’s 885,000 jobs. And in a small country like ours with a population of around 4.5 million – that’s a significant number.

If you think this is sounding like the Industrial Revolution revisited, you wouldn’t be far wrong. Although it won’t just be manufacturing that’s affected. NZIER CEO Laurence Kubiak says the impact of disruptive technologies on a range of services and service industries will be “unprecedented”. For example, around 68,500 professional and 61,000 manager roles are at high risk of automation.

Speaking to a group of career professionals earlier this month, Laurence said this was not a futuristic study – it was “largely an extrapolation exercise given what we know today ”.

The research suggests several career changes may be required over a person’s working life given the pace of technological change.

And we shouldn’t be complacent, thinking that because we are a small nation in the South Pacific that we will somehow have more time to adapt. We’re actually moving ahead of the trend – New Zealand’s household internet penetration is over 90 per cent, more than double the current global average.

Just this week it was announced that Domino's has been given the green light to test New Zealand pizza delivery via drones (think of the potential impact on related delivery jobs, such as courier drivers for instance).  

There is no doubt, the world is changing at a pace. And it means we have to think differently about the world of work.

So, what does all of this mean for you?

Well, that depends on your career, but there are some key questions you might want to consider:

  • Will the skills and talents I have today still be relevant and valued in 10 years time?
  • Do I have what it takes to reinvent myself if my role disappeared completely?
  • Would I have the skills, knowledge and attributes needed for freelancing or self-employment if I had to take responsibility for generating my own income?
  • Could I adapt fast enough to take advantage of the new opportunities, as traditional careers disappear?
  • Do I have a really good understanding of my transferable skills?

If the answer is ‘no’ to these questions, you may need some help to future-proof your career.

Although there isn’t hard data on exactly which jobs will be obsolete, it’s safe to predict that the rate of change will be such that those with high self-efficacy, resilience, adaptability and an entrepreneurial bent are likely to be fare better.

If these things don’t come naturally to you, however, it’s not all bad news. A career coach can help you develop the attributes and skills needed to keep pace with the changing world of work so that you are not left behind. But the challenge is not to leave it too late – unless you have extremely well established competencies in the ‘dealing with ambiguity’ and ‘self knowledge’ categories, you might want to allow yourself some time!


Lucy Sanderson-Gammon, MBA, is a career development coach, trainer and consultant. She helps mid-career professionals who have fallen out of love with their jobs to find work that is meaningful to them – at a time in life when they have more choices open to them than ever before. Find out more about Lucy's coaching services here.