The Future of Work: Anticipating and Embracing Industry Disruptions

“Disruption” is such a business buzzword you might be tempted to tune this article out. We all know Uber was a disruptor, and Netflix shook up the media industry. But the lessons you can learn from examining how you personally identify and react to disruptions will tell you a lot about your ability to survive and even thrive in a rapidly changing job market. Can you learn to anticipate and embrace the career change that comes with industry disruptions? Yes. You can.


The current work climate

Results from the aptly named “Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023” from PwC depict a workforce that anticipates change and largely believes it is necessary for survival. Overall, one-third of workers believe their companies won’t be viable in 10 years without change—and the younger workers are, the more likely they are to express that sentiment, with 49 percent of Gen Z workers saying their companies must change within a decade or shutter.

The outlook isn’t much different on the employer side, with World Economic Forum research predicting that 44 percent of employees’ skills will be disrupted in the next five years. Cognitive skills, creative thinking, and technological literacy are all in increasing demand.

Learning how to adapt to change at work

“Nothing is certain except death and taxes,” said Benjamin Franklin. He could have added “change” to that list. Recognizing that change is inevitable is the first step to embracing disruption in a way that benefits your career. These tips can also help shift your mindset:

  • Be curious, not close-minded: When confronted with change, it’s important not to rush to a snap judgment. Start by asking thoughtful questions and trying to understand the bigger picture. Do some research about your industry. Are similar organizations facing the same challenges? How are they approaching the situation? This depersonalizes the situation—it’s no longer just about your day-to-day life—and helps you understand the larger forces at play.
  • Surround yourself with positive influences: While you’re working hard to be curious and open-minded, make sure to keep company with others doing the same. Negativity is contagious—and so are positivity and adaptability.
  • Understand what’s within your sphere of influence: No matter your faith tradition, the message of the Serenity Prayer is always valuable but especially when faced with rapid change. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Your preference might not be automating components of your job using artificial intelligence, but that’s the way the world is going. What you can change is your understanding of the tools at hand.
  • Have confidence in your ability to adapt: The entire workforce just went through a seismic episode of forced change with the covid-19 pandemic. How did you react to working remotely or working in a restricted environment with significant safety protocols? How did you adapt to using Zoom and Slack to communicate with colleagues who used to be down the hall? You just did it, right? You had no choice—and it turned out OK. It will be again.
  • Look for opportunities to develop your skill set: Volunteer to assist another team. Ask if you can help create training on a new program or business process. Meet with your supervisor to develop stretch goals. Follow your industry’s influencers on social media to track trends. When new technology is introduced, be an early adopter. (For instance, if you haven’t tried ChatGPT yet, you’re already behind.)

It's natural to yearn for the good ol’ days—after all, how many of us struggle with being “always on” technologically and setting boundaries with social media? But as much as we like to gripe about it, having constant access to the world’s knowledge base is amazing. Change is good, and by embracing it, you’ll achieve things you never dreamed possible.

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