It’s easy to see that work has changed in last 100 years, but what will happen in the future? All that is certain is that there will continue to be change, but there are a number of clues about likely trends – here are some ideas to factor into your work reinvention.

Industry sectors

Deloitte⁠ produced a report in 2014 which highlights 25 areas of potential job growth for Australia. It included heavyweight industries such as agribusiness, tourism and wealth management, but also obvious candidates like personal care, retirement living and leisure, reskilling an ageing workforce, niche delivery of health and parcel delivery.

Flexible workforces

There is already a trend towards casualisation of the workforce, with fewer permanent full-time jobs and increasing numbers of casual employees.  Recently, we’ve also seen the rise of what is being called the ‘gig economy’, often in areas of digital disruption like Uber and Airbnb.

Typically, gig workers are classified as independent contractors rather than employees, which means no guaranteed pay, no workers compensation insurance and fewer rights if there’s a dispute. The benefits often include easy entry, flexibility, no minimum time commitment and the ability to do other things such as study or start a small business. These new business models may prove to offer good opportunities for older workers – provided you do your research first and understand the nature of the arrangement.

The knowledge economy

With the decline of manufacturing and other traditional industries in Australia, and the rise of automation and other technology replacing the need for human input in some areas, we are moving rapidly towards a knowledge-based economy.

Lifelong learning will be essential, either in or out of formal studies. Whether you love learning new things or not, if you want to stay relevant in a changing world, upscaling and reselling are not optional.

The emphasis is likely to be in areas that humans have the thinking edge over machines, including creative ways of looking at problems. Transportable skills (those skills that can move with you to a new job or even a new career) are highly valuable.

Portfolio careers

Portfolio careers happen when you split your work between two part-time jobs, or have a business on the side, or in some other way work in more than one field at the same time. I have had portfolio careers most of my working life, as I have a broad range of interests and love variety. For me, this has allowed me to stay in touch with one area (such as writing) while working also in another (such as community work). For others, it may be a way to continue something you love that doesn’t pay so well with a more prosaic income-earner – often those with artistic leanings end up doing this. It may also be the only way to leverage the opportunities that are around you. I have a friend who would love to find a permanent full-time position (and keeps looking), but at the moment is making the most of a variety of contract and part-time work.

Digital nomads

This refers to the ability to live far from your work, or to travel from place to place using technology such as Skype to connect with clients who may not even know you are on the road. I think it adds a nice option for older workers, who may want to leverage the flexibility It offers – just make sure you have access to the internet wherever you go.

Adult gap year

I have fantasised about taking a year out ever since I watched Stefan Sagmeister’s inspiring TED talk on the power of time off. His idea is that instead of taking retirement as a long continuous chunk at the end of life, we could break it up and take a year in every seven as a sabbatical. I was immediately taken with this, though I have yet to actually do it.

For older workers at a crossroads, this might shape itself as an adult gap year, where you stop, rest, explore and reset for the next phase. I think it sounds brilliant if you can find a way to make it work. Of course it doesn’t have to be exactly a year, even three or six months could do the trick.

What trends can you leverage to prepare for your next stage?


Joanna Maxwell


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