Keeping Up with the Machines: How to Talk to Your Employer about Investing in Your Professional Development

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The need to invest in people has never been more important. The advent of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will mean jobs lost, jobs created, and jobs changed in ways that we can only predict right now. McKinsey, the management consulting firm, estimates that roughly half of all jobs in the United States are at risk of automation in the next 20 years. So, where does that leave you? What do you need to do to make sure you’re expanding your skillset to include both technical know-how and soft skills?

Additional education or training can sound costly and time consuming to an employer, but here’s the good news: The recent tax act is putting more cash into the hands of your company and in some way, shape or form that may make its way to you. It could mean higher wages, or even a nice bonus. But with the promise of a transitional workforce in years to come, right now could be the best time to talk to your boss about making an investment in your professional development.

The Changing Job Market
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room—automation and AI. A common worry is that machines will be taking over and jobs will be lost. And, while that fear is valid to some extent, it’s not all black and white. The gray area, and maybe the most important area, is how jobs will change. History shows us that companies can ride the wave of technological change by investing in the workforce and adapting policies, institutions and business models to the new era.

McKinsey estimates that 60 million to 375 million individuals around the world may need to transition to new occupational categories by 2030. Today, thanks to online technology, there are plenty of learning opportunities available to employees who want to gain competency in emerging fields such as big data, machine learning, deep learning and the Internet of Things.

The Soft Skills You Need
But it’s not all about learning new tech: Academics and futurists predict that workers of the future will spend more time on activities that machines can’t perform. Soft skills will play a huge role as we transition to this future workforce. This includes managing people, applying expertise and communicating with others. We will spend less time on predictable physical activities, and on collecting and processing data. With this change, it makes sense that job requirements will also shift, demanding more social and emotional skills and more advanced cognitive capabilities like logical reasoning and creativity.

How to Make It Happen
You know that you need to adapt in order to contribute to the next generation of jobs, but how do you get the green light from your boss to begin gaining these skills? Here are some suggestions.

>>Show your boss the return on investment. While developing some skills—like soft skills, for example—are harder to measure and quantify, you can position your training as a means to improve a development process or business issue. In other words, do your homework on what matters to your employer and make your case for how the skills you want to learn can further those goals.

>>Bring solutions instead of obstacles. You’ve stated your case, but how do you account for the time it will take for you to complete your training? Will a peer have to take over your tasks for the day? Will you need to take a week away from work or just a few hours? Cover your bases. Offer to stay in touch while you’re out and then brief your team on your newly acquired knowledge when you return—so that everybody benefits. If taking time out of your workday isn’t an option, consider recommending on-demand training courses that can be completed outside of business hours or during your lunch break.

>>Talk about the big picture. Your manager may be so caught up in his or her daily responsibilities that even they don’t have the opportunity to take a big picture view. Paint it for them. Talk about what you think the future holds for your industry and how skills development right now paves the way for the years to come. Who could say no to that?

>>Join CompTIA AITP. If you’re looking for a one-stop shop to access business and soft-skills training as well as networking and resources to help you advance your tech career, CompTIA AITP is the association for you. Members also receive discounts on CompTIA certifications and gain access to industry-leading research on emerging technology. If you’re a student, career changer, or advanced technologist, CompTIA AITP has something for you.