Remember your very first day of school? Or your first big breakup? Or your first job? These moments in our lives shift our realities and disrupt our day-to-day. Change can be scary or exciting or even flat-out unwanted. But so often, change turns into a good thing. A child’s first day of school brings new friends and new knowledge. A breakup brings learning and strength. Your first job probably equipped you with skills for the next opportunity.
Robots and automation are changing the way we work, and that probably sounds daunting if you’re freaking out about your job being eliminated, but never fear. The good power of change is here.
A recent study by McKinsey found that about 160 million women might be pushed out of their careers because of workplace automation. So what exactly is workplace automation, and what should you do if your career is at risk?
Workplace automation, at its core, is the replacing of human labor with machine labor, and it’s been present since the Industrial Revolution, when factories first started making it possible for items such as clothing to be made in large quantities. We would still be hand-stitching our summer sundresses if it weren’t for workplace automation.
Although innovations make our lives easier in many ways, they change the way we hire employees. As industries evolve, employers begin to seek different skill sets, and some jobs are eliminated.
Thousands of women worked as telephone operators for decades before losing their jobs in the ‘90s or even earlier to the changing telephone system. Now our phones and other technologies have evolved to do administrative tasks—like answer and transfer calls—for us. In fact, today, 70 percent of “clerical support positions, such as administrative assistants” are held by women and disappearing fast. Women often hold the majority of low-paying, menial jobs, which are the first to be automated and eliminated.
Don’t panic. The news isn’t all bad. With job losses come new jobs, jobs we might not have had if it weren’t for automation. McKinsey’s study also predicted women will gain back 171 million positions by 2030. Whew.
If you’re among the 160 million and want to go back to work sometimes before 2030 (most of you, yes?), there are several ways to find job security.
Make a career change
Career changes can be challenging. They often require learning new skills and even going back to school. Jobs are opening up in fields like health care, accounting, and teaching, but if you don’t have a degree in nursing, finance, or education, you’ll end up spending more time and money on top of possibly losing your current job. Maybe you choose that path, but you don’t have to.
Consider your skills
Take stock of your current skills and see if there are jobs where you can utilize them. Are you certified in anything? Are you fluent in HTML? Scroll down to the Skills and Certifications sections on your LinkedIn profile and compare them to the descriptions of jobs you’re interested in.
Stay put . . . sort of
You could also consider a lateral move within your company. Your job may be disappearing, but that doesn’t mean you have to disturb your day-to-day. Your company has chosen automation technologies for efficiency—are there any open positions you can take to achieve that goal?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Being a woman in the workplace is challenging, no matter what the conflict, and losing your job is even worse. Utilize your support system of women around you to build connections—you never know what opportunities may arise.