How to keep your job in an increasingly automated world

How to be successful in an automated world

It's estimated that in the next 15 to 20 years, 32% of jobs will likely change significantly due to automation — and 14% could be completely automated.

Right now, 60% of adults lack the right skills for emerging jobs — but that doesn't have to be the case. In his new book, "How to Win in a Winner-Take-All World," New York Times senior economic correspondent Neil Irwin shares tips for how to succeed in the new economy.

One of the most important things to be aware of, according to Irwin, is that showing up and working hard isn't good enough anymore. "I think we all learn when we're growing up, 'the thing you're good at, do more of it. If you're good at a certain sport, keep at it,'" he said. "But the reality is that what the modern workplace — the modern company — rewards is flexibility, the ability to adapt and work across different specialty functions and make teams work better together."

Irwin likened it to a relay race: "it's not just going fast when you're in a relay race, it's also about getting the hand-off right," he said. "Modern companies need that hand-off to work well." 

That's likely going to mean getting comfortable with discomfort, which Irwin believes workers can learn to embrace. "We think of adaptability as something you're either born with or not," he said. "I think it's a trait that can be cultivated. We're not natural public speakers. You work at becoming a better public speaker and you can work at becoming more adaptable by doing different things when you're young."

Workers will also need to adapt to the fact that company loyalty is a thing of the past, Irwin said. "This idea that it's like a marriage isn't really true anymore. It's more like a series of hook-ups. You do it two or three years, move on," he said.

"That's fine to stay at one place for a long time. But you have to make sure you're growing and finding new opportunities within that organization," Irwin noted. One way to grow in your organization is to become what Irwin describes as a "glue person": someone who helps the teams they're on come together and be better than the sum of their parts.   

Irwin added that, while we should fear automation "a little bit," major panic over its advancements are overblown.  

"The key is not to fear or not fear automation, the key is to make sure you understand how your industry is changing, how automation is going to affect it and that you can be the person who drives that automation, drives that change, rather than the one who's the victim of it, who is displaced and has to find something completely new," he said.