Workplace trends are not fads. They drive changes in the kind of work being done, the way it’s done, the people who are doing it, the communities benefiting from it, and so much more.
Paying attention to workplace trends can help you make career decisions that will move you toward the future you want to have.
Understand how careers emerge
There are lots of jobs today that your parents never dreamed of at your age. Cyber forensic investigator? Nanoengineer? Solar installer? Who knew? Emerging occupations are the jobs of the new millennium, created by advances in technology and consumer demand. Explore tomorrow’s world of work in these careers.
If you’ve thought about careers a lot but still don’t love any you’ve come across, don’t worry. It could be that your ideal job simply doesn’t exist yet.
New career opportunities appear all the time. As an example, think about technology. Chances are that when your parents were in high school, they didn’t consider becoming cyber forensic investigators, nanoengineers, or solar installers. That’s because these occupations rely on new technology, or social changes that hadn’t happened yet.
New occupations can also come about because of consumer demand. For example, patient advocate is an emerging occupation. It’s not a result of new technology. It came about because more and more people want help using the health-care system.
It can be hard to predict what new occupations may be created by the time you’re ready for a career. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep an open mind and pay attention to workplace trends.
Some of the most effective career planning you can do includes:
- Exploring options related to what you like and what you’re good at
- Watching for new roles once you’re in a field you like
- Staying open to the new and unexpected as it comes your way
Keep an eye on current trends
You can also stay on top of trends by watching your news feeds or networking with people in the industries that interest you. Consider influences such as the economy, new technology, industry activity, and social concerns.
The following are some examples of current trends:
- Remote work became a reality for many office employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote work opportunities continue to expand. Many employers will now allow you to work remotely. You might even be able to work for an employer based in another part of the world.
- Contract hiring will increase, accelerating the growth of the gig economy. Employers can’t train their existing labour force fast enough to meet the changing needs of the economy. Instead, they will hire workers or contractors to fill their needs.
- Automation and artificial intelligence have changed the way many routine, manual jobs are done. They highlight the need for transferable, softer skills or hands-on work.
- Increasing concern about the environment and climate change has led to growth in the green economy.
- Alberta’s push to diversify its financial base has meant an expansion of the province’s knowledge-based economy.
- Retiring baby boomers may expect products and services that their own parents never imagined.
Use trends to plan your career
Let’s look at 3 examples of people who found a way to make change work for them.
1. Adventure and upgrading during an economic slump
After her boss leaves, Rani slides back into her cubicle. The economic slowdown means she’ll be stuck in her clerical job at this import/export business for at least another year. She had hoped she would be in line for a promotion despite her lack of Japanese, but now that’s not going to happen. And she doesn’t feel like going back to school for Japanese lessons. Rani knows she should feel lucky that she still has her job, but is she really? She’s young and adventurous. Will she be trapped in this cubicle for the rest of her life?
The cutbacks in Rani’s department show that the economy is getting worse. She may be hoping for a promotion, but in this economic climate, her lack of Japanese will definitely hold her back. Organizations only hire or promote less-qualified people when there are too many jobs and not enough workers.
Rani is bored with her work and knows she should upgrade her skills. Yet she doesn’t want to go back to school to learn Japanese, even though her company does most of its business in Japan. What she really wants is adventure. After some research, she realizes that her options are to:
- Stay in her current job
- Stay in her current job and take upgrading
- Quit her job and try to find something in a tough economy with her current skill set
- Upgrade her skills overseas
Rani discovers that she can combine adventure and learning while she travels, by living in Japan. And because of the slowdown in the economy, her employer might be more willing to give her a leave of absence—it’s one less salary to pay during these cutbacks. Rani will return with enhanced skills, probably just when the economy improves.
2. Finding opportunity in a demographic trend
Peter can barely reach his wrench from where he’s standing, bent over the car motor. He puts both hands on the car’s frame to take the pressure off his back and tries to stand up straight. The pain shoots through him. “This can’t go on anymore,” he thinks. Even though he has good days, the bad ones are getting worse. He can’t keep making a living this way, but he still has bills to pay.
Peter’s injury is interfering with his work and his quality of life. He does not want to stop working. But he can’t imagine what else he can do with his training in small motor and engine repair.
Peter looks at social trends. Baby boomers are growing older, and people are living longer. The sale of motorized wheelchairs and scooters is booming—and these vehicles need repairs when they break down. Because they are smaller than a regular car, Peter may be able to work on them in a more comfortable position. He could even consider starting his own business and making onsite calls.
He looks at his options:
- Stay in his current job
- Quit and go into debt
- Find or create work that can accommodate his injury
Peter decides on the third option—to keep working, in a way that better fits his needs.
3. A fresh role in the green economy
Emily signs the registration forms with mixed feelings. Her youngest is off to Grade 1 next fall, and the chapter of her life as a stay-at-home mom is ending. She’s not sure she wants to go back to her full-time job in wildlife biology. She would like flexible hours because her children are still small. Should she go back to school and try to work in a different field?
Emily has a great skill set with her degree in wildlife biology, but since going on maternity leave, her department has moved to temporary or contract work.
Emily has noticed a new trend. Individual companies are paying more attention to how their activities affect the environment. She knows she may not find a permanent job with a single company. But she might be able to find several of these businesses and act as their environmental consultant. In the beginning, with only a few clients, she could even work from home. This would allow her to be around when her children come home from school.
She looks at her options:
- Try to find part-time work at her old place of work
- Change careers
- Create a consulting career with her current skill set
Emily decides on the third option, starting with offering her consulting services to her old employer. She’ll be using her existing skills, but structuring her work in a different way.
Which trends could benefit you?
Each person in these examples has considered different workplace trends and chosen options that take their skills and interests into account. You can do the same.
By looking at the trends affecting the industries you want to work in, you can find ways to create the future you want.