This post is part of TED’s “Build Back Better” series, featuring thought leaders and change agents evaluating our systems and practices to create a more sustainable, efficient and just world. To see more ideas from the series, go here.
What will the world — and specifically, the world of work — look like over the next decade?
While most of us are content to guess, there are other people who are actively figuring it out and their findings and educated assumptions could help us all prepare for the future. Among them is Ben Pring, IT futurist and cofounder of Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work, which tracks trends across technology, business and society.
Practically every industry in the world has been forced to adapt due to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdown and economic fallout. It’s an understandably disorienting time — but it’s also one in which new careers and jobs are emerging.
“If you can position yourself and acquire the right skills, there’s a lot of opportunity, certainly if you’re a tech-centric person,” says Pring. “There’s a huge explosion of education and training material available to every one of us. Why not take advantage of that? There’s so much you can learn.”
So, which new jobs will be created in the coming years? Which jobs have already been invented in the last three months?
Here are 10 potential career paths that could become highly relevant, according to Pring.
WFH (Work From Home) Coordinator
During lockdown, millions of people had to quickly learn how to set up their home office, manage their schedules, and interact with their children and family members without getting distracted. These challenges could be made easier with a guide or assistant. “For big businesses who are suddenly scrambling to manage a huge explosion of people from home, this is becoming a dedicated role,” says Pring. This coordinator needs good managerial skills in order to support a company’s collaborative culture and morale, while also helping employees maintain their productivity.
Virtual Sound Mixer
If a baseball player hits a home run but there’s no one in the stands to see it, does it still make a sound? Thanks to the work of virtual sound mixers, the answer will probably be yes. Pring noted that European soccer leagues have been the first sports teams to come back, but their stadiums are empty due to social-distancing concerns. But while watching a recent match, he noticed that the empty stadium was far from quiet. To give it a sense of atmosphere, the producers added sounds that were sophisticated and relevant to what was happening. “I could imagine the sound engineers doing that real-time mixing,” says Pring. “Five weeks ago, no one ever thought of that job.”
Voice UX Designer
Where do you think Alexa gets all her answers? Someone has to write dialogue for voice-activated devices, and demand for this already-existing job could be accelerated by our current reality, says Pring. As people want to touch fewer items around their house and in public, they’ll be turning more and more to voice-activated gadgets. This job is good for playwrights, creative writers and journalists who can script human-like conversations.
“While there’s a lot of technology in health care, the consumer experience of it has been really unchanged for a long time,” says Pring. Until now. Since doctors’ offices were largely closed — except for emergencies — in recent months, many people turned to telehealth consultations which was a radical change for most practitioners and their patients. “For millions of people, telehealth has completely changed the healthcare experience, and I can imagine the genie doesn’t go back into the bottle,” he adds.
Chief Purpose Planner
“Today there’s a need for businesses to articulate their purpose much more clearly,” says Pring. This person would set the high-level strategy and direction of a company. A creative role that’s similar to marketing and public relations, this job could help banks, airlines or other large, international corporations craft top-line goals and ideals.
Clean Hygiene Consultant
Who among us walks outside without carrying hand sanitizer now? With the public’s greater focus on health and cleanliness and the expectation that pandemics will keep occurring, there’s a growing need for people who can turn making the world a cleaner place into an actual career. “Wellness consultants” have been around for a while, and this would be its newest iteration — one that fuses well-being with public health. For this group of people, their mandate would be to make the world a cleaner, healthier and more livable place.
Virtual Events Planner
Video conferencing platforms like Zoom and BlueJeans have exploded in popularity since the pandemic began. However, as anyone who’s been to a glitchy Zoom party can tell you, there’s a lot of room for improvement. “People are thinking about how to create a virtual event that’s more sophisticated” with better socializing and networking, says Pring.
Subscription Management Specialist
Many people have reevaluated their budgets and tightened their belts during the last few months. What if there was someone who could do it for you? Pring imagines this idea as an online service or app that people would use to look at all of their subscriptions and see where they could cut their expenses. It would also simplify the subscription process and facilitate relationships between brands and customers. The skills for this job would align with those of social media managers, business analysts, or product managers, according to Cognizant.
Socially Distanced Office Designer
“Companies and hotels are having to think about redesigning their offices very seriously and in a very strategic way,” says Pring. If many workers continue to work from home, that will lead many big businesses to have excess capacity in their real estate portfolio, he says. As offices condense their holdings, they’ll need interior designers who can recalibrate and redesign interiors for a safer and more efficient and more flexible future.
This job doesn’t really exist yet, and it depends on a major shift in college education. Traditionally, young people go to college for four years, where they study a particular field and then try to monetize their knowledge for the rest of their working lives. But Pring points out this model has been eroded by many factors, including the gig economy, rapidly changing technology and the high costs of higher ed. He wonders: What if instead of going to university for a single concentrated period, you’d go through alternate periods of learning and working after graduating from high school? Coordinators could offer “lifetime learning for all alumni,” according to Cognizant’s prediction, and they’d help manage a person’s learning over the course of their life. “This might be a completely new job that would help reconceptualize higher education to align it with change and volatility,” says Pring.
Go here to learn more about Cognizant’s Future of Work and Ben Pring’s work.
Watch Ben Pring’s interview with TED’s Chris Anderson now: