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Alexa Is Stealing Your Job: 3 Ways to Stay Ahead

Whether you realize it or not, artificial intelligence is alive and well in your workplace and personal life.

That customer service agent who helped you book an oil change for your car? She was probably a chatbot. That email you received about hotels in New Orleans? It appeared because last night, you and your partner were chatting about always wanting to go there. That follow-up appointment with your doctor that just arrived on your smartphone? Artificial intelligence—not your doctor’s staff—was responsible for getting it there.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has stepped in to assist the business world, and, as a result, it’s stolen jobs. Fooling yourself into thinking this won’t happen to you is an excellent way to find yourself unemployed and potentially unemployable. Not only are you in danger of losing your job, but you may also be in danger of not finding another one because your skills have become redundant.

The good news? AI isn’t all doom and gloom. There are things you can do to get ahead of the AI curve. What you shouldn’t do is pretend it won’t happen to you.

That’s what happened to Hazel when the computer revolution took hold in the early 1990s. I was a corporate instructor, and I was training the staff on how to use a computer (back in the IBM DOS days). Hazel refused to learn. She rolled her eyes and insisted the company was wasting money on computers, they’d never be good secretaries, and that the whole “computer thing” was a fad. She refused to adapt, and she lost her job.

I hear the same thing about artificial intelligence. Not only is it not a fad, but it also requires us to get ahead of it the same way we needed to get ahead of computers. If, before the printing press, you were a calligrapher, you lost your job. If, before cell phones, you were a camera company, you had to adjust what you offered, or you would lose customers.

We need to do the same. 

Here are some tips to get ahead of artificial intelligence:

1. Ask: “Can my job be computerized?” Artificial intelligence can “learn” what you do. If there’s a chance your job can be computerized, you need to be honest with yourself. Have a look at this list, prepared by Oxford University economist Dr. Carl Benedikt Frey and Oxford University Professor of Machine Learning Michael Osborne, to see the likelihood of your job changing soon.

For instance, let’s assume you’re a payroll professional. According to this chart, you have a 97 percent likelihood of having your job computerized. Look at your responsibilities and ask yourself, “What tasks could be performed by a computer or AI?” Identify (honestly) what a computer can’t do, and make sure you maximize your skills in that area.

Right now, companies turn to payroll professionals to ensure everyone gets paid on time. But I’m sure you can imagine a future where AI will know if Susan wasn’t at her workstation on Monday and wasn’t working remotely. In many companies, this information is already available, but your company may not be utilizing it yet. Payroll that’s powered by AI will know exactly what hours we’ve worked and what the pay should be. AI will start the check run and ensure that payments are accurately deposited into each employee’s bank account. Which means we all need to start considering, “What can AI do, and what can only I do?”

2. Evaluate what’s changed with your job. Ask yourself, “How has your job changed over the past 20 to 30 years?” Get into specifics. How have computers impacted your role? What about cell phones, pagers, and Skype? Are you able to work from home or anywhere in the world? Are you now more international vs. domestic? Do you need more or fewer people to help you do your job than was required 20 to 30 years ago? Don’t take a positive or negative view of your answers; list them factually.

Imagine you experienced an unexplained “Sleeping Beauty state,” which caused you to fall asleep back in 1990, and you’ve just woken up now. What would be different about the job you had back then? What would you need to know to perform your job today? List the things you’d have to learn, what’s disappeared, and what you wouldn’t have any idea how to do. Think about the educational requirements for your job. Which courses would you have to take? What skills would you need to develop?

3. Rethink company loyalty. Times have changed when it comes to company loyalty. My grandfather worked for the postal system for his entire life. He never knew another paying job. One employer, one job, for 40-plus years.

Don’t do that. If you tie your star to a company that doesn’t adjust to AI, you’ll go down with them and find yourself looking for a job with skills that aren’t worth much.

Of the Fortune 500 companies that existed in 1955, only 54 remain. Ninety-three percent of them have not withstood the test of time. There are a variety of reasons for this, but a refusal to see the future or adapt to changing consumer needs were significant factors in rendering them nonexistent.

Think about how much your life has changed in the past 20 years, never mind in the last 60. To stay employed and employable, we’ve all had to learn new skills. Imagine what your life would look like if you didn’t learn, refused to look into the future, or had no desire to stay relevant. By turning our backs on AI at this point, we are doing the same thing that some of the nonexistent Fortune 500 companies did.

Artificial intelligence won’t take everyone’s job. But it will hurt those who refuse to acknowledge or prepare for their future. Don’t let Alexa steal your job. Instead, stay educated and ahead of the AI curve.

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