The nature of the jobs market changed forever over the course of 2020 and there is a necessity to adopt strategies to adapt to a new reality that millennials are going to have to face in their careers in the post-COVID workplace in 2021. Not only that, but we’ll need to continue to adapt to a remote working environment.
Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, every business has had to radically alter the working environment and move boardroom meetings to Zoom, while Microsoft Teams serves as the go-between for managers and workers. The whole world has basically been forced to abandon the conventional office space for online, digital platforms and we’ve been thrust head first into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
What is 4IR?
While the First Industrial Revolution was driven by inventions like the steam engine, the power loom and other enhancements to manufacturing processes, the Second Industrial Revolution was characterised by the adoption of production line manufacturing, developments in railroad networks, electricity and new communications technology such as the telephones. The Third Industrial Revolution (a.k.a. the Digital Revolution) is characterised by the switch from analogue to digital platforms, the adoption of computers and the creation of the Internet. And the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is the coming together of a number of paradigm shifting technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, 5G, 3D Printing, Virtual Reality (VR), Internet of Things (IoT), Self-driving vehicles and Robotics Process Automation (RPA).
However, 4IR is unique in that it’s difficult to imagine ways in which human beings will be able to compete with this new wave of automation, with machines that will be able to match human competency and vastly outperform us in productivity.
COVID-19: The gamechanger
While the Fourth Industrial Revolution has been, and largely still is, something for us to look ahead to and the associated technologies have yet to reach widespread adaptation, we have now reached the natural conclusion of the journey through the Third Industrial Revolution. While there’s still a much broader argument to be made for the necessity for Internet access to be considered a human right in this new world where we rely on the Internet, there’s no doubt that 2020, a year that has been defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, has forced all suitable businesses to adopt remote work and virtual offices.
It’s not that platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack etc. didn’t exist in 2019. It has been possible for people in sedentary office jobs to work from home for many years, but most businesses have been reluctant to take on the additional capital expenses required to transition from the outdated in-person office model. And this is the starting point needed to make the first move in your post-COVID career building strategy: customising your workspace.
Your post-COVID office
In the past, you may have been judged on whether you were professionally dressed by colleagues and/or potential employers. In 2021, while you should also be dressing professionally, your workspace is the metric we use in the absence of face-to-face interactions. While you’re discussing your schedule for the next week to your boss, they’re not making eye-contact with you, they’re looking at the pile of laundry peeping out over your shoulder, and don’t have much faith in your ability to do a good job.
What’s more discouraging, however, is to be talking to a frozen picture. So after you’ve tidied up your work space, go out and find a broadband/fiber detail that will ensure that your video conferences are never held up by your bad internet connection ever again. And while you’re at it, get yourself a webcam with decent quality, wireless headphones for your own comfort and a lapel mic so that people can hear you properly when you’re speaking.
Bear in mind, an employer is choosing to keep employing people, rather than automate their jobs, because they want that human face-to-face interaction.
In this post-COVID, virtual workplace, you need to be doing everything you possibly can to be presentable, approachable and easy to reach. If your picture and your sound are always clear, you look presentable and you’re always easy to reach without interruption, then you’re offering something extra that elevates you above other people and the software that could potentially replace you in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
SOFTWARE, SOFTWARE, SOFTWARE!!!
Whether you’re a MacOS or a Windows user, whether you like working on a tiny laptop that’s convenient to carry around (although, why would you need to if you’re home all the time?) or a desktop with massive processing power, your workplace (your computer) is nothing without the right software.
Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms, where you pay monthly or annual subscription fees for “software on demand” have changed the game. No longer can you get by on that outdate Microsoft Office 2011 package and Photoshop CS7 just isn’t going to cut it these days.
Sadly, this means everything just gets more and more expensive. If your employer takes care of all these costs for you, you’d have to justify the costs to accounting. But it’s far worse for gig workers and freelancers, because those $12/month fees all tend to add up. The good news is that most of the software comes with free trials, so you can give it a test run and decide which subscriptions you’re going to cancel and which of them justify their fees in terms of the increase in productivity.
But the take-away from this is that the quality of your work and, more importantly in some case, your productivity will be influenced by the software you’re using to complete your tasks. Virtual assistants will prove to be critical for people operating in fast paced environments and/or have many deadlines to meet at any given time. And, with cloud computing software at the forefront of the massive steps that businesses will be taking forward over the next decade, it may actually be the case that the quality of your software will be far more important than your computer’s processing power. So stop saving up for the $5000 MacBook Pro and rather set aside $100 a year for 50 annual subscriptions to productivity software (you shouldn’t need 50, but the point stands).
Privacy and Security
In an era where we won’t be physically present at work, criminals don’t need to be physically present to cause harm either. When you’re finished reading this and start putting the work into your post-COVID workplace, the very first step, ahead of all the vital things above, is to put security protocols in place for yourself and/or making an effort to alter your online habits.
Corporate espionage and identity theft will become rampant in the coming years and you do NOT want to be a victim of it. The harm it can do to you as an individual and the company you work for are far too high for you to be neglecting this feature of your home office.
Subscribe to a VPN service right now. There are plenty of them on the Internet. It’s probably the best way to protect your identity, but doesn’t mean you can let your guard down. Using project management software and instant messaging platforms with end-to-end encryption is a must and password vaults that securely generate and store credentials to your various accounts are helpful and also beef up security. As for the master password to your password vault, don’t even save it anywhere, digitally. Write it down on a piece of paper and keep it in a safe place.
And, yes, cybercrime is evolving at a rate that it would be quite futile to defend yourself against. But the same could be said for just about any crime and every layer of protection can go a long way to safeguarding yourself from cybercrime.
Learn about cryptocurrencies
Despite being a big fan of the concept of a world that has fully adopted cryptocurrencies, I’m not crazy enough to believe that that future system, if it ever comes into existence, will be doing so any time soon.
However, cryptocurrencies certainly are on the rise. Many people have turned to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a means to stabilise capital amidst the global economic meltdown that we’re experiencing and market speculations have taken the value of Bitcoin to new highs, to the point where it has now safely surpassed the peak of the 2017/18 Bitcoin rush which was just less than $20,000. And it’s still climbing… comfortably. The other major cryptocurrency, Ethereum has had less success in terms of its price, which is still roughly half of its peak value of almost $1,300 in January 2018. Ripple’s value at the end of November was almost triple what it was in December 2019 – the price has fallen a bit since, but remains more than double what it was a year ago.
Prices are one thing, but what’s actually important is the trading volumes and the market caps. Bitcoin trades at volumes roughly $40 billion dollars every day and its market cap is roughly $440 billion – which is roughly the 2017GDP of Belgium Thailand and Iran.
Many online merchants accept crypto these days anyways, and there’s no doubt that digital currencies are on the rise. And those looking to augment their post-COVID careers in 2021 should look to familiarise themselves with how the systems work and learn to use the platforms available for making and receiving payments.
Transaction fees are low, payments are processed faster and cryptocurrencies are extraordinarily secure thanks to blockchain technology. Sooner or later the world will be adopting these platforms and leaving the failing financial system that we’ve grown to hate behind. So why not look into being an early adopter in whichever way you can?
2021: Careers in the post-COVID world
The more that I look back on 2020 and observe news over the last few weeks, the more I have an ugly feeling that 2020 was just a warm up. The COVID-19 vaccine was supposed to be the answer to our prayers, but there’s no doubt that distribution is going to be a massive undertaking and so much can go wrong. There is also a mutated strain of the virus that is going to add more complications to the equation. And I hate to be overly negative, but sorting all of this out, while playing a balancing act with the economy make for a pretty bad omen when it comes to the shape of our post-COVID careers in 2021. But at least now you have a few ideas that you can use to stay ahead of the curve…