Yes, your job will be replaced – that’s no longer the question. The first question is what will replace it? Technology will replace some, but your biggest threat is not software or robots; it’s another person with greater leverage. ‘Leverage’ means influence, advantage or power to act. It is what people hire you for. If I ask you what your employer hires you for, and you answer with a list of skills, you are definitely on the list to be replaced. The question here is, ‘When?’ Sadly, schools, governments, industry leaders, unions and managers are still telling people to train for skills, but did you know mid-level skills are being replaced faster than low level skills? In other words a person who works in a fast food chain is safer from being replaced than a mid-tier manager. Technology is designed to replace skills, especially those that perform a process.
Leverage is what keeps your employment (not job, because jobs will keep changing) safe.
For example, if the boss is your mother, you have leverage if no one dares to fire you. If you have secret your boss doesn’t want you to tell, you might have leverage. But assuming you want the sort of leverage you can apply anywhere then you need to start building it today.
High performance gives you slight leverage as employers will fight harder to keep high performers than good or average performers. However it’s not a great piece of leverage because at some point they simply may not need that thing you do anymore.
Leverage could be having such a good relationship with clients that losing you means losing business. It could be being so versatile that no one else knows the ins and outs like you do. In some jobs, being ahead of the curve is great leverage because you can help prepare your company for its next challenges. Perhaps it’s your cultural heritage that gives your company an edge with a potential new market. Whatever it is, you have to actually use it for it to count.
There won’t be a world where jobs will run out. There will be a world where not enough people can do the jobs that are needed. Figuring out which ones these are, and preparing yourself for them may be the best leverage of all. Unfortunately most companies are either blind to the changes or in denial so maybe it’s a good idea not to rely on your manager for advice on what you should be doing in the future.
Bonus tip: don’t tell people about the ‘leverage you have’. Keep it off your résumé and out of your performance discussions (instead tell people about the results of that leverage). It’s one of those things that people have to recognise for themselves. If you have to say what it is, you probably don’t have it.