The Tampa Bay Times recently ran an excellent article titled "Living in the age of uncertainty." (July 8). Jeff Harrington and Robert Trigaux listed several categories of uncertainty that face today's students and job hunters. What will the future hold? In one word — change. The status quo is a thing of the past and change is the new reality. Most of us don't like change because it exposes our weaknesses, it makes us feel isolated, it makes us work, and it forces us to take a long, hard look at ourselves. Don't let change frighten you. Yes, it means we lose some control and are forced out of our comfort zone, but it also forces us to make new decisions, learn new things, interact with different people, adjust our schedules and maybe even adjust our attitudes. Here are some changes you can count on:
Tomorrow's jobs will be different. In fact, many of today's jobs won't exist. Machines are taking the place of some medical professionals and they already have transformed all forms of manufacturing. Technology has done away with numerous jobs. Cable television will change because programs are available on mobile devices, and digital TV gives us more options. Many people are already producing and uploading their own programs online.
Jobs that seem like science fiction now will be commonplace in the future. For example, think of geologists exploring Mars, people mining under the sea, new forms of wastewater treatment and mass energy produced from nonfossil sources.
Education. It always has been important. Now it's paramount. You can't get started in the job market without a high school education. More training (certificate, degree or equivalent) is better, especially in medical, blue-collar areas and technology. A college degree in an expanding field is excellent, and often, advanced degrees are necessary. But, don't stop there. Once you've earned that diploma, certificate or degree, expect to keep learning for the rest of your life as the market, technology and world change around you.
Broaden your knowledge about people, customs and ways of doing things. Chances are you won't be working exclusively with people of your same background, ethnicity, nationality and culture. Learn at least a few phrases of other languages, and pick up some knowledge about customs, culture and geography so you'll relate better to your current and future colleagues. A lot of this information is available online, on CDs and in libraries.
You will change jobs many times throughout your life. Be proactive and understand that to succeed you must plan ahead and be prepared to move on. Often that will mean to a new location. Sometimes it will mean to a whole new career.
Expect to work much longer into your life. As we live longer and remain healthier, many of us will want to keep working well past our 60s and 70s. In fact, some experts say we should keep working not only to meet our financial needs but for our physical and mental well-being.
In short, embrace the uncertainty and see change as an opportunity. As English author A.A. Milne said in part, "You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."
Marie Stempinski is founder and president of Strategic Communication in St. Petersburg. She specializes in business development, public relations, marketing and employee motivation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her website, www.howtomotivateemployees.org.