How to Robot-Proof Your Career

When thinking of the threat that robots pose to the human ability to earn a living we generally think it’s a farfetched scenario that we don’t need to bother with. However, as it’s always better to be safe than sorry, it might be a good idea to start thinking of future proofing your career. Change is always a threat if we don’t make continual efforts to develop personally and professionally.   

Will there be RR (Robot Resources) as well as HR (Human Resources) in a few years? Robots are already part of the workforce. The milk on your cereal this morning, assuming your diet is not dairy-free, is milked by a robot. When the milk is taken to the packing plant, it is likely that it’s also shifted around the warehouse by a robot too. And that’s even before elevenses!

Robots beat the human in terms of being able to do repetitive tasks without need for a break, employment laws, pensions, sick or holiday pay. They can brave temperatures that we could never survive and as robotic engineering advances, they will eventually become more dexterous and nimble and able to complete tasks that previously only humans could do. It’s not all bad news, however. What makes robots good replacements for humans in some sectors, also makes them poor substitutes in a number of different sectors. Therefore, it might be wise to turn to jobs that require a bit of humanity. Recently there has been a focus by the BBC on Artificial Intelligence and the potential impact for the future. The BBC looked at robotics and what artificial intelligence means for life, work and leisure. 

Thanks to sci-fi, we’ve grown to fear Artificial Intelligence. But, if we are to take as granted that robots don’t have a master plan to exterminate us all, do we really need to be afraid of robots replacing us in our jobs in the future as they become more sophisticated? Is there any chance that humans will become redundant?

According to BBC, there’s no fear if your job is not automated and relies heavily on you being human. If your job has a high social or communication aspect or it is highly skilled, then you can rest assured that you won’t be replaced by a robotic rival. There is an argument that robotics will create more employment, and this in part, is true. It is likely that the demand for highly skilled individuals -engineers, artificial intelligence experts and programmers-  will increase. Happily, there are many jobs that robots will never realistically be able to do. Those jobs that are complex and require empathy or negotiation skills, social interaction skills or managerial skills will be a benefit of the human race.

However, there is a danger posed to the jobs of those whose roles are largely automated and don’t require extensive training and education, for example, driving jobs, cleaning jobs and bar/waitressing jobs. The worry is that low skilled and low educated workers - those most vulnerable financially- will be affected to a large degree by the increasing reliance on robots to perform automated tasks. And these people will sadly find it the hardest to adapt to new careers. 

1. Learn New Skills

Robots aren’t the only threat to your career. The changing face of the workplace means that employment is constantly changing and it is now common place for employees to find themselves offered short term contracts and to change jobs at least seven times during their career. There is no longer a ’job for life’ as our parents may have experienced; we are more likely to face the ’portfolio career’ - a collection of different roles that are taken throughout our working lives. Future proof your career by ensuring that you are always learning new skills, especially ones that do not involve automation and that are more closely linked to the humanness of being human; management, coaching, advising. According to the BBC report Are Robots a Real Threat to Jobs, up to 35 percent of jobs are at risk of being replaced by robots in the future with ’low paid workers being five times more likely to be replaced by machines’.  

2. Avoid Jobs That Can Be Automated

The best way to stay in employment and avoid being replaced by a robot is to avoid a job that can be easily automated. But if you are already in an automated field don’t feel blue. Gain experience, try and build supervisory and managerial skills and build on what you already have. The qualities of being human will be more valuable than ever before; ’some skills which computers cannot replicate will become increasingly valuable in the employment market’. 

3. Retrain for a New Career


To keep being employed no matter what, you can consider a change of career. If there is something you have always wanted to be but never had the chance, perhaps now is the time to work towards it - especially if you are in a job that is heavily automated and could easily be replaced. Use the BBC search to see how safe your target job will be in the future. If it won’t be as safe as you would have hoped it would be, you can start looking at other options. The BBC predicts that people in automated jobs will be replaced by robots over the next twenty years. You can start retraining now and develop a new career - pick one that can’t be easily replaced. If you are not sure what to do next and you do want a change, talk to a real human for career advice (another tricky job to replace).

See Also: Should You Reconsider Leaving Your Job for a Counter Offer?

Take a look at the BBC’s Will a robot take your job? search and type in your job and see the results. Created by Oxford University researchers Michael Osborn and Carl Frey, the search box judge’s how safe your job is from robotic replacement within the next 20 years. Here are a few example searches: 

  • Bar work: 77% (high risk of automation)
  • Beautician: 37% (fairly unlikely) Can you imagine a robot doing your hair?  
  • Bank or postal worker: 97% (very likely) There are currently 146,000 postal workers working in the UK  
  • Chef: 37% (not very likely) There are currently 250,000 chefs working in the UK 
  • Speech and language therapist: 0% No chance of this job being automated. Good news for the 21,000 speech and language therapists working in the UK 
  • Telephone salesperson: 99% at risk.  
  • Upholsterer: 39% (not very likely). 14,000 upholsterers in the UK 
  • Teaching assistant 56% likelihood  
  • Youth and community worker 13% (quite unlikely) 
  • Police Officer 22% (unlikely)
  • Higher education professional 3% (quite unlikely) 167,000 higher education professionals working in the UK 

As you’ve probably noticed if your job involves social skills, empathy, communication, negotiation and all of those attributes that makes a person very human, then you are very unlikely to be replaced anytime soon. Compassion may well save you, according to the BBC. Social work, therapists, psychologists and nursing are one of the safest areas and the least likely to be overtaken by a robot. The other careers that fare well include jobs that are creative, innovative or require highly skilled individuals. If you are already in a job that is likely to be automated, gain supervisory skills to keep your future safe.

Have you already robot-proof your future? What measures have you taken? Share with us in the comment section below.

Are Robots a Real Threat to Jobs?