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How to Prepare for the Future of Work

IT Services
Thought leadership
Algorithmic Age
Algorithm of work

How to Prepare for the Future of Work

I’m frequently asked about how somebody should prepare themselves for the future of work. It’s a great question,...

7 Minutes Read

I’m frequently asked about how somebody should prepare themselves for the future of work. It’s a great question, and one that everybody should be asking themselves. But it’s also a tough question, because there are a gazillion ways to skin an onion or peel a cat. You could ask 10,000,000 people and you’d get 10,000,000 answers - so how could anyone research that through a primary research survey? That’s beyond the budgets we have here at the Center for the Future of Work.

So, all I can say to answer this fundamental question is, well, this is how I did it. How I do it ...

  • Grow up in a loving family.
  • Grow up in a family with a distant father and an emotional mother.
  • Grow up with two older brothers who go to Cambridge.
  • Spend your teenage years arguing with your older brothers about everything - which pole is best, which beer is best, which band is best, which book is best, which film is best, which child is best.
  • Read Shakespeare (reluctantly).
  • Play a lot of rugby and be encouraged to get your retaliation in first.
  • Play the viola and be encouraged to cry at Elgar.
  • Get “tired and emotional” at an early age and learn to hate yourself in the morning.
  • Work on an assembly line (as a 15 year old) and put all the widgets in the packing box back to front.
  • Get fired.
  • Get a cleaning job in a hospital at 18 working alongside 50 year old immigrants.
  • Forget to plug the insulin fridge back in after cleaning the laboratory in the hospital.
  • Be bailed out by 50 year old immigrants (“I did it I’m afraid Sir, not the boy”).
  • Play in a rock and roll band.
  • Have a leaving party from a temporary job where two middle aged women give you a small bottle of pre-made gin and tonic as a leaving present.
  • Spend 3 years in a bedsit reading books about philosophy.
  • Run a comedy club and watch Robin Williams from back stage.
  • Watch 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • See Elvis Costello.
  • See The Clash.
  • Spend years commuting on the Northern Line.
  • Spend years commuting on the M25.
  • Be the tea boy in a tier-one consulting firm.
  • Get the cold shoulder in a tier-one consulting firm.
  • Get a ‘failing grade” from a client of a tier-one consulting firm.
  • Work for a monster.
  • Work for a gentleman who reports to a monster.
  • Die presenting to the executive leadership team of a leading IT services company.
  • Get married to somebody who loves you.
  • Make some predictions that come true.
  • Stand on the shoulders of giants.
  • Make a terrible joke to the CEO of a leading software in front of 10,000 people.
  • Win some “thought leadership” awards.
  • Put your surfboard on a big wave.
  • Make friends with an accountant.
  • Read everything.
  • Talk to everyone.
  • Stand up for yourself.
  • Give yourself space.
  • Give yourself time.
  • Have kids.
  • Have a dog.
  • Remember where you came from.
  • Hang out with salespeople.
  • Remember who you are.
  • Find a good patron.
  • Work with good people.
  • Be cautious.
  • Move to a foreign country.
  • Say no.
  • Spend more time than is ideal on Twitter.
  • Subscribe to the New York Times.
  • Sponsor The Guardian.
  • Write.
  • Learn how to play “Yes, and ...”
  • Learn that “it’s not about you”.
  • Read even more.
  • Don’t get cocky.
  • Write like nobody’s reading you.
  • Realize that it’s an ultra-marathon.
  • Smell the roses.
  • Work harder than you imagined you’d end up working.
  • Keep your eyes on the prize.
  • Read more than anyone else.
  • Write more than anyone else.
  • Rack up more air miles than anyone else.
  • Keep your distance.
  • Wear black.
  • Don’t grow a beard.
  • Differentiate yourself.
  • Arbitrage your strengths.
  • Arbitrage your weaknesses.
  • Take risks.
  • Don’t be daft.
  • Learn how to dial it back.
  • Hang out at the bar.
  • Don’t hang out at the bar.
  • Know what you want.
  • Mix odd ingredients.
  • Watch how your kids live their lives.
  • Be more cynical than the most cynical person you know. Occasionally.
  • Read James Clavell.
  • Read John Le Carre.
  • Give up your seat to an elderly person.
  • Give a tramp money.
  • Get invited to spend time with the leading figures in artificial intelligence.
  • Make your bed in the morning.
  • Run a lot.
  • Realize that sometimes “nothing happens for decades” and then sometimes “decades happen in weeks”.
  • Remember the days are interminable and the years flash by.
  • Internalize that we are all ignorant - just about different things.
  • Read.
  • Think.
  • Talk.
  • Show up.

Being prepared for the future of work is an imperfect science. I couldn’t really advise you how you should be ready for the future of your work because then I’d be you, and you really shouldn’t think about preparing for the future of my work, because then you’d be me.

Unless you want to live precisely my life, and end up precisely where I am (wherever that it is, and whether you think where I’m at is admirable or pitiful), my experiences are just some amongst money that people all around the world are going through.

Net it all out, and though we live in an algorithmic age, there is no algorithm of work or life. The second there is things will get awfully boring. Everyone has to make their own way. Live on their own wits. It’s easily done – you just have to put one foot in front of the other. The future of your work is simply the next step you have to take.

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