Imagine training to be a blacksmith just as cars were being invented. Or learning to drive a steam train as the network went electric. As scary as it may seem, it’s almost certain that some school children have their heart set on a career that could be a dead end before they’re 30.
In the last ten years, secretarial jobs have all but disappeared and things like publishing and journalism have started to look questionable. My early career aims of being a professional footballer now seem remarkably prescient despite the fact that I was hampered by an almost total lack of skill in my desired profession; but what advice would I give today? It’s hard not to get trapped by your own preconceptions, your own career choices and by those who you’ve seen achieve success around you. In short, it’s hard not to be prejudiced. You need tools.
It seems a good bet that in the future, as now, people who can bridge the gaps between specialisms will prosper. There’s actually a name for these gaps that derives from social network theory. We all know what social networks are, but are we all familiar with structural holes? You’ve guessed it, they’re the gaps between social groups and by extension, the gaps between specialisms. People who can fill structural holes have value because they pass valuable information between groups. So next time you’re asked for some career’s advice, write down a whole bunch of occupations that you think will be around or might prosper and then take the next step … think about the bridges between, the structural holes. It might be law and robotics, it might be technology and education, it might be materials science and marketing, it might be archaeology and theatre.
I think in future, the world may well belong to the polymath, the person who can bridge the traditional maths/science disciplines with what were traditionally arts inspired.