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The Future of Work

By Newcastle University

What do current trends suggest the future of work will look like?

What do social media, 3D printing and space tourism all have in common? In addition to cloud computing, Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality and drones, they’re some of the drivers behind the fourth industrial revolution, the global trend that is rocketing both the world and our workplaces into the digital age. But whilst the benefits for advanced tech may be obvious to us by now, how is this digitisation of all things set to impact the choices we make in our careers?


Since technology has accelerated many industries, reduced demand on physical labour and become part of our everyday lives, we’re now able to monetise our knowledge, opinions and even our personalities. Our preferences, values and the things that are important to us have changed too, which is all shaping the way we plan our careers differently to the generations before us.


Varied, Flexible Career Paths

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Those born between 1946 and 1960 were the last generation to favour a long, linear career trajectory within a single occupation. There are many socioeconomic reasons behind this, but the bottom line is: if you’re a Millennial (born 1981-1996) or part of Generation Z (born 1997-2012) you’re much more likely to lead a varied career that involves a combination of further education, volunteering, employment and self-employment, that’s not necessarily linear.

If you’re part of Generation Z, you’re also the first generation to be described as ‘born online’ because of the way we now consume, interact and use the internet in every aspect of life, including to express our identities. You're considered to be more financially minded, entrepreneurial, and socially and ethically concerned than the generations before you, and these priorities are influencing what kind of work you want to pursue and what the future of work looks like overall.


Digital-First Workplaces and Agile Working

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Collective times of difficulty, uncertainty and change such as recessions, pandemics, global emergencies and social movements naturally all impact the world of work too, but it’s not all negative. Challenges can create unexpected opportunities. For example, with the Covid-19 pandemic accelerating the need to be digital-first for many companies and organisations, the new normal looks to be a good fit for the aspirations and expectations of Gen Z.

Remote working and a bigger shift to online trade has not only caused the tech sector to thrive, it’s made our digital spaces more competitive, which has driven a demand for transparency and authenticity. It’s also brought work-life balance and agile working to the fore with employers, employees and the self-employed alike all recognising the need for flexible operations and skillsets.


An Increase of Self-Employment

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Working for yourself, whether full or part time, is more than just a passing trend amongst the latter generations. According to the Office for National Statistics there are five million people currently working for themselves in the UK, representing 15% of the total UK workforce, and those aged 18-30 years old account for 27% of newly self-employed individuals across the past 4 years.

Being your own boss teaches you adaptability, resilience and confidence, which are all valuable skills both in today’s and tomorrow’s world of work. Whether you’re a social media influencer, selling through the likes of Depop, eBay or Etsy, offering creative or consultancy services, or launching your own business, you’re developing an entrepreneurial mindset and toolkit that will help you lead an independent career, stand out to employers, or do a bit of both.


Personal Preference and Work-Life Balance

Ultimately, your career will look a lot different to your parents and grandparents’ and that’s ok. The world of work is evolving to favour bespoke, non-linear career paths that place work-life balance, personal preference and agility at their core. Careers are not a ‘one-size fits all’ and the future of work really is what you choose to make of it.


Whatever stage you’re at in your Career, whichever industry you’re in and whichever path you wish to choose, be sure to make the most of the guidance and resources available to you from our Careers Service now and for 3 years after you graduate.
Book ahead for a confidential, bespoke 121 appointment with our Careers Consultants and START UP Advisers via MyCareer.