"When I grow up, I want to be an SEO specialist."
No disrespect to the art of optimizing search engine results, but I wasn't quite living out my childhood aspirations. A month after graduating from college I arrived at my first "real job" where I helped clients improve their website marketing. What did you want to be when you grew up? Perhaps you dreamed of being a Social Media Manager. Neither manages to capture the imagination of a young child in the way astronauts or firefighters have been able to do over the years. And both are a far cry from the career as a film director that I grew up envisioning. But, these were my first two jobs out of college. The jobs didn't even exist when I was born and social media as a career was just beginning to develop as I finished college. If you work in the tech sector, there's a good chance the job you have today didn't exist in your childhood either. That dynamic is part of what makes my current job as a futurist such a complicated, yet compelling endeavor.
Our output at the Center for the Future of Work is all about investigating what is yet to be. This work often resides in the province of the imagined and unknown. While grounded in reality, writing about the future of work is an inherently speculative practice. Even the quarterly Cognizant Jobs of the Future Index we began last year feels abstract and theoretical at times with its wide reaching look at the job market. So, we draw a great deal of excitement from seeing our work manifest out in the real world. There's nothing like seeing a role from our 21 Jobs of the Future reports in real life, or "Spotted in the Wild" as we like to say. We've been tracking those occurrences internally, and it turns out that what we've seen anecdotally lines up pretty well with the findings from the Q1 2019 CJoF Index report. Namely, the continued emergence of new roles in the health/wellness sector. Below, I've shared some of the Jobs of the Future we've spotted thus far this year.
When we imagined this role, the target market we envisioned for the service consisted of elderly people seeking companionship and light exercise. Much to our surprise, the role has instead emerged on the campus of a New England college. An enterprising student posted signs for "The People Walker" and even crafted a company tagline that lets you know what its all about, "We walk people." The service is a low tech endeavor. There's walking. There's talking. No special technology required for either of those tasks. But the emerging job draws parallels to other more modern roles with its inclusion in the gig economy. Its a job that can be turned on or off at the convenience of the worker looking to squeeze in additional revenue streams between traditional schedule staples like class or work study. It also provides participants with a respite from the scourge of screen time addiction that is top of mind for wellness experts.
Fitness Commitment Counselor
A week prior to writing this, I went to a spin class for the first time. It kicked my ass. I work out consistently but almost walked out 5 minutes into the intense cycling class, saved only by my pride and the exhortations of the course instructor. This dynamic got me wondering about how that might change in a more virtual environment. Apparently, I'm not the only wondering this. For others that need a kick in the pants to stick to their fitness goals, LiveKick has emerged. The company provides virtual personal training services analogous to our Fitness Commitment Counselor role. Their trainers customize individual regimens for customers with enough touch points to keep them motivated throughout the week.
Man Machine Teaming Manager
The robots are coming! And we don't see that as a bad thing. While most envision an employment apocalypse with robots replacing us all, our view is that they will mostly augment workers and the work they do. The teaming manager is meant to smooth over that process and maximize the relationship. Anki, a robotics company in England, has taken that role to its extreme conclusion as a strong advocate for robots' well being. Their job posting for a Robot Life Coach reads as more of a therapist for bots getting the hang of work than a manger, guiding them toward mastering specific tasks. Anki's approach highlights that teaming managers will need to be sympathetic to robots' work abilities and limitations in order to bridge the gap between humans and their future "co-bots."
Voice UX Designer
Ecommerce brought shopping right into our homes (and eventually anywhere else we could bring a smart phone). The reverberations of this paradigm shift are still playing out in the physical retail world. If this technology took us from bricks to clicks, then the rise of voice controlled interfaces is expected to take us from clicks to conversation. The path forward for ecommerce was paved by talented digital user experience designers. So, the next phase of interactivity calls for voice UX designers. Job postings for that role have already started sprouting up at places like Jargon. The company helps other organizations create voice applications to control devices in various contexts. Such work alleviates the language barriers that face a global user base of voice activated devices.
While all four of the aforementioned roles appeared in the more immediate time horizon of our Jobs of the Future reporting, the Man Machine Teaming Manager wasn't expected to arrive quite this soon. As is often the case with technology forecasting, developments seem far off into the distance. Until they're not. The popularity of smart speakers and other smart home applications look to drive demand for voice UX designers sooner than later as well.
In 2016, the US Census released its most recently updated occupational list. The list includes 46 new jobs that did not appear in the last update six years prior. That gap is reflected with addition of jobs like Blogger, Cell Tower Repairer, and Bioinformatics Scientist. The next Census is set to kickoff with data collection next year, so we don't expect to see any inclusions from our 21 Jobs of the Future reports on the next update. We're more likely to see a glut of "Social Media Influencers" in the near term. But hopefully there's a kid somewhere out there imaging life as an Augmented Reality Journey Builder or Flying Car Developer and when 2030 rolls around she will submit that to the occupational inquiry for the Census.