Two-Thirds of Americans believe that in 50 years robots and computers will do much of the work humans do today. Already, many jobs that once seemed safe bets are at risk: office workers, administrative staff, manufacturing workers and even lawyers.
Some studies predict that 5 million jobs will be lost to automation by 2020.
So what skills can you acquire to protect your employability in the future?
Surprisingly, they're not related to a specific position or industry but are grounded in emotional intelligence. Here are some of the top skills that can never be automated or outsourced:
1. Knowing yourself. If you're aware of yourself and how you function in the world, you're in touch with how you feel, and you know your strengths and weaknesses. You also know how your emotions and actions can affect the people around you. These attributes--and especially the ability to help others develop them--are important to anyone working with a successful (human) team.
2. Building relationships. The more things become automated, the more we need connection and relationship. It's the positive, caring voice you sometimes find at the end of a long phone routing menu, or the email from someone who's gone out of their way to help you solve a problem. Human beings are naturally social creatures--we crave friendship and positive interactions just as we do food and water. So it makes sense that the skills involved in building and maintaining relationships are never going out of style.
3. Active Listening. We tend to pay a great deal of attention to our ability to speak, but successful communication requires a speaker and a listener. When someone is speaking it is vitally important to be fully present and in the moment with them. Whether you agree with the speaker--whether you're even remotely interested in what they're saying--focus on their words, tone and body language and they'll feel heard in a way no machine can duplicate.
4. Expressing empathy. Empathy--the ability to understand and share the feelings of another--is a key element in building trust, which, in turn, is a key element of leadership. Having empathy will give you the ability to put yourself in someone else's situation. It's a trait that no automated feedback can generate.
5. Giving feedback. Providing effective feedback in a useful format and context benefits for both the giver and the receiver. Leveraged properly, feedback can lead to real growth and development. And effective feedback will always require a person-to-person connection.
6. Managing stress. The skill of being able to manage stress--our own and that of others--will never be obsolete. Stress impacts a team's ability to do their jobs effectively, and it affects how we work with other people. We experience stress when we feel threatened or believe we lack the resources to deal with a challenging situation. Create a line of defenses against stressful situations that you cannot control--use your network, be sure to get enough exercise and sleep, and learn to relax.
If you can manage these emotional intelligence skills you'll be prepared for the future, no matter what position or title or job you have.