Top tips for careers that will survive (or how to future proof your career)

When I started work the career opportunities were very different to those on offer today. The internet was still an idea so there were no jobs in web development, on line retail or digital marketing. In addition many industries were structured very differently e.g. the energy sector was run by the government (in the UK) and you could only buy from your local electricity board or British Gas. The biggest projection for work at the time was working in a ‘paperless office’ and I’m still waiting!


The primary causes for change are many. There is an excellent report by NESTA (a UK charity and global innovation foundation). which details the current causes for change and I’ve summarised these below so you know what to keep an eye on:

ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY: how we are managing climate change consensus largely intact, but with notable and the emerging ‘green economy sector' and 'green jobs’ in light of to political reversals.

URBANISATION: it is expected that 70% of the worlds population will live in cities (currently just over 50%) attracting high-value, knowledge intensive industries, more varied employment and consumption opportunities. However there are unseen risks from fiscal policies, infrastructure investments and high public debt ratios.

INCREASING INEQUALITY: in income and wealth. an increase in middle class squeeze and disparities in education, healthcare, social services and consumption.

POLITICAL UNCERTAINTY: remaining high since 9/11 spike with policy uncertainty (lack of credibility and consistency from the institutions and policymakers) impacting negatively on economic activity in government-influenced sectors e.g. defence, finance, construction, engineering, and healthcare.

TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE: there are ongoing fears about impact of automation on employment with estimates of future impact ranging from 9-47% of US employment at risk. On a positive note technology amplifies human performance in some occupations and is creating entirely new occupations and sectors.

GLOBALISATION: leading to increasingly integrated labour markets with benefits (e.g.,advanced manufacturing, knowledge intensive services) and costs (e.g., employment and wage impacts, trade deficits, legacy manufacturing). Post-financial crisis headwinds (e.g., sluggish world trade growth, rising protectionism).

DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE: causing pressure to control age-related entitlements vs. investments (in education, R&D, infrastructure) affecting healthcare, finance, housing, education and recreation. The rising Millennial generation brings divergent consumption and work behaviours.


Over the years futurists have predicted what will happen in the workplace as a result of the above changes including which jobs will emerge, change or disappear. I review these reports on a regular basis and have collated common threads from each one to try and give an idea or current trends by business sector / profession.

1. ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT: Various role emerge in these sectors which continue to evolve in parallel. Jobs will continue to emerge in organisations that work in the development of alternative fuels (solar, wind, tidal, hydrogen) and the nuclear industry. To balance our need for full there will continue to be a need for roles in energy conservation and the reduction of the human environmental impact across all industries.

Top jobs: energy conservation, environmental engineering, smart meter installation, design and production of new technologies.

2. TECHNOLOGY: There are many career opportunities as technology evolves e.g. we will see growth and convergence in nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science (aka NBIC) to reprogram our physical "software", extend life, reduce deaths and alleviate poverty. Traditional computing technology will also need more people e.g. for programming, software development, opencourseware and data management.

Top jobs: there are a wide range of opportunities in this area including programming, software development, data analysis and data management, Big Data specialists, ecommerce, social media management, information security, cyber security, gaming, VFX/CGI development.

3. ROBOTS AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: A critical part of the technology group and the one area that people think will cause a loss of jobs! The growth of robotics will appear in many industries resulting in the creation of jobs in design, engineering and operation. However, the emergence of reliable robots will replace many mundane and routine jobs that exist today.

Top jobs: designing, engineering (building) and operational roles for robotics continue to grow in demand and importance including AI and Machine Learning Specialists, User Experience and Human-Machine Interaction Designers qnevBlockchain Specialists.

4. ENGINEERING: Engineering across all sectors sees quite dramatic growth - probably as a result of the work on robotics, driverless technology, 3-D printing etc.

Top jobs: a wide range of roles involved in designing, engineering (building) and operational roles especially in robotics (as above) electrical and civil engineering as well as process automation experts and production management. However Sales Engineers, who have technical knowledge of the goods and their market are the most in demand.

5. CARING: Despite an increase in technology our ageing population, and the improvement of medical and health research, is creating a boom in the care / healthcare industries. The hospitality industry also continues to grow providing ‘caring’ roles that are driven by demand rather than need.

Top jobs: Many existing roles continue to be in high demand such as nursing, life science, medical technicians through to sports therapists and fitness instructors. Hospitality roles range from those in hotel and catering through to the travel sector. And don’t forget Vets and Veterinary Nurses! As 44% (and growing) of UK households own a pet we will continue to need people with the skills to care for them as well.

6. FOOD: We have to eat so it makes sense that jobs involving the creating and delivery of food will not disappear. Increasing demand for organic, healthy, locally sourced food via sustainable agriculture will require small-scale methods (not factory farming) creating a demand for millions of agricultural workers.

Top jobs: as well as traditional roles found in food production there is a growing demand for food technologists and specialist / artisanal food production.

7. EDUCATION, RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT: The move to ‘life-long learning’ as a requirement for individuals, society and commercial development is growing, In response to this view, and the changes and developments mentioned above, schools, universities and other providers should expand to keep up with training and development needs to supply the necessary workforce.

Top jobs: Careers in all forms of learning and R&D across all industries will also continue to grow ranging from teachers in educational establishments, training specialists at work, organisational development specialist, people and culture development and innovation management.

8. SALES AND BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT: As the economy improves roles that drive business growth are critical providing a wide range of opportunities from direct sales to customer account management.

Top jobs: As well as sales roles there will continue to be a demand for related roles within marketing and customer services.

9. CREATIVE / INNOVATION: It may seem obvious but jobs that require any level of creativity, thought or innovation will continue to grow across all sectors - and not just the obvious (e.g. photographers and fashion designers). All of the technical developments mentioned above will need some creative input from the aesthetics of robotic design to improving food supplies.

Top jobs: Designers, Marketers and Writers all benefit from new digital technology and easy access to roles and Game Designer roles will continue to grow.

10. SKILLED TRADESPEOPLE: despite the growth of technology there are some areas where the human touch is needed and studies show a steady growth in the demand for skilled tradespeople. Whilst some of these jobs can be automated there is still an appreciation for ‘hand-crafted expertise’ that is driving this demand.

Top jobs: Joiners, plumbers, electricians, home decorators and gardeners are examples of ‘home improvement’ tradespeople in demand. The second group consist of people whose skill is required to create new or improve existing items such as glass makers and furniture restorers. Both of these groups can expect to be in demand for at least the next 10 years.

… and finally, careers that may be at risk (but watch this space as things can reverse quite quickly!!)

Oxford University researchers also ranked the occupations most in danger of being replaced by computers and robots. They identified these jobs as being most at risk:

  • Banking: loan officers and bank tellers
  • Administration: data entry and clerical
  • Insurance: underwriters, appraisers and claims processors
  • Finance: tax preparers and accounts clerks
  • Title Examiners, abstractors and searchers
  • Mathematical technicians
  • Library Technicians
  • People working in sewers
  • Watch repairers and assemblers
  • Cargo and freight agents
  • Photographic process workers
  • Telemarketers
  • Umpires, Referees, and sports officials 

I’m not an expert in many of these sectors so I would love to hear from insiders on what impact this is having right now. In the meantime, if you want to follow a more secure career path take a look at the following articles.