Human Resources

Preparing for jobs that don't exist yet: Business perspective

Over the last year or so I’ve attended a number of events where the challenge of preparing for jobs that don’t exist yet has been topic of the day. To get some perspective I posed three simple questions to range of different professionals. Dom Waghorn of digital agency Syzygy and Geoff Smith of Experis UK & Ireland answer below from a business point of view.


Dom Waghorn is Strategy Director at digital agency Syzygy, which helps companies build the digital experiences of the future.

There has always been an ebb and flow of jobs and skills. Are things really worse now or is this hype?

A lot of us are currently doing jobs that on paper didn’t exist 20 or 30 years ago – but that doesn’t mean they don’t have clear provenance in other disciplines. User Experience may seem newish but its heritage lies in industrial design, ergonomics and psychology, which is why UX practitioners often have diverse and interesting backgrounds. The point is, jobs may come and go, but skills can be applied and transferred in many ways. A thirst to learn, and critical thinking can be more important than 20 years’ experience.  

What practical steps can companies take to prepare for the jobs that don’t exist yet?

Typically, by the time companies know they need a specialist, it’s too late to train up internal people and expensive to buy in consultants and freelancers from outside. So how to plan for an unknown future? As well as partnering with universities (like everyone), recruit talent that have their ears to the ground, get bored easily and who like making and breaking things. What they do and what they are interested in will give you a sense of what may become mainstream in the coming years – helping you put in plans for recruitment and training.

What does all this mean for teenagers who are currently putting the building blocks in place for their future careers?

Teenagers are one step ahead; they already know there’s no such thing as a career for life, let alone a job for life. Career paths are no longer linear and the young people who are flexible and not afraid to pivot are the ones that will succeed. We look for classic T-shaped candidates, who can specialise in a particular area but also have broader interests and influences to feed into projects. But frankly, the teens that do best are the ones smart enough to catch a trend early, are self-taught in skills that are limited in the market – and can then write their own pay check. 


Geoff Smith is Managing Director at Experis UK & Ireland, a global leader in professional resourcing and project-based workforce solutions.

What practical steps can companies take to prepare for the jobs that don’t exist yet?

Firstly, build optimum teams that can support changing demands. We work closely with our clients to ensure they have a long-term workforce solution and plan in place when it comes to knowing what skills will be needed three to five years from now, and the know-how required to deliver business success.


Secondly, hire individuals with the aptitude and enthusiasm to learn new skills, and then give them the freedom to experiment once they’re through the door. By doing this, businesses can ensure they remain competitive.


Thirdly, by offering the right training and development opportunities, organisations can support their employees in learning the latest skills as these evolve. This needn’t be a complicated process – a lot of the skills that professionals already have are easily transferrable. We help our clients use core competency testing to assess the learnability and overall potential of candidates to ensure that the individuals put forward are the best fit possible. 


What does all this mean for teenagers who are currently putting the building blocks in place for their future careers?

As a father to three young daughters myself, this is something I’m helping them with every day! Technology is evolving at such a pace that we simply can’t be sure what jobs will exist 20 years from now. However, teenagers can prepare themselves for the jobs of the future in various ways. For example, developing softer skills such as problem solving, interpersonal skills and being an effective communicator will certainly put them in good stead, as increasingly employers are looking for these capabilities. It’s also important to foster a curiosity and ability for life-long learning. I see it as being less about the specific, technical skills individuals have on their CVs – just because they don’t choose to read maths or computer science at university doesn’t mean they won’t eventually become data scientists in later life – and more about being inquisitive and hungry to learn new skills.


Also read:

Can we prepare for the jobs that don’t exist yet?

Preparing for jobs that don’t exist yet: Academic perspective


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