When you hear the word “work,” what comes to mind? What makes up “work” in the modern economy? 

In my mind, there are many types of jobs. Some are service oriented, while others demand certain technical skills or labor. Though there is a wide diversity of “types of work,” I would make the generalization that a newly large segment of society views “work” as going into an office and typing on a computer. I do not say that to marginalize this type of work – I am in this category of people who types on a computer for work! 

I say that for the sake of emphasis as I think through the following scenario:

Take yourself back 100, 500 years ago. The meaning of “work” was fundamentally different. You were good at work because you were strong, athletic, and quick in the fields / factory / yard. You got good jobs primarily via birth. 

Now, you are potentially good at work for being intelligent or for typing quickly.

Could you imagine, just for a second, trying to convince someone from 500 to 1000 years ago that “our version of work” is demanding. That we get tired from sitting in an air-conditioned room just typing? 

I do not think they would believe it. 

I think the common response would be…”that is not work, that is sitting around doing nothing.” 

Now how do you imagine this same exercise will transform over the next 50-500 years? A wide time frame, with lots of potential outcomes, but do you think we will not even believe “what is considered to be work” in the future? Will it look just as lackadaisical or will it be even more impressive? 

I think this is a fascinating question because, as students, we invest so much of our time in trying to gain skills that we think will be valuable in the future. Yet….

Perhaps typing will be antiquated just as hand-writing is starting to.

Perhaps reading will be irrelevant as everything is spoken to us. 

Making powerpoints…front-end code…simple number crunching…COMPLEX number crunching…

How do you build skills that are massively valuable and defensible? 

You could compete with Robots and wait for the future of work to change or you could lean into your unique background and really become differentiated. 

Or do nothing and that also may work. 


Also published on Medium.