Career Grid – A Matrix for 21st Century Careers

If you’ve seen the ingeniously scary “Shift Happens” video from Karl Fisch, or any of the several derivatives others have tried to create, you already know this: The world is changing fast. Numbingly fast.

(And if you haven’t seen the video, it’s well worth the look:

Poke around YouTube or other video sites if you’d like to see newer, updated stats. These are scary enough, and I like the background music for this one.)

Whither The Careers

Notice the scary information about careers? Half of this year’s top jobs were unknown just a few years ago (mobile app developer, anyone?). And “old” careers are disappearing as well, obviously.

Fisch originally put this together as a Powerpoint presentation designed to scare educators out of their lethargy. Along with his colleagues Scott McLeod and Jeff  Brenman, he assembled and posted the video and have created no small sensation.

Everybody who sees the work probably formulates their own questions. The one rattling against the side of my head ever since I saw this the first time:

What does this all mean for people’s work, careers and missions? With change happening this fast and this broadly, won’t we all get swept away?


But I think it’s much more likely that these deep and profound changes will open entirely new opportunities for people who are ready for them.

“Ready for them” means adept, alert and adaptable. And “ready for them” is a clarion call to each of us: those who need to prepare for careers and those who have the mission of helping others prepare.

If the go-to hot careers of 2015 haven’t even been invented yet, how will we help people prepare to succeed?

CareerGrid: Our WatchTower Matrix

One of our primary jobs as learning developers is to keep a watch – to climb up on our virtual watchtower, to try to see over the horizon and around the curve – to get as early an indicator on hot career possibilities as we can.

To do that, we work on two angles: Trend watching and inferential scanning.

Trend Watching
Our purpose is to extrapolate career and learning implications from larger trends. The key is to identify trends, then pull the career and learning implications from them.

To do that, we obviously have to select trends. Here is our hot list of trends to watch for the next few years (at least):

  • Software runs everything
  • The world is running out of fossils to burn
  • Miniaturization also liberates and unshackles
  • Access to information shifts decisions toward the user’s highest ROI
  • Biology is the new physics

Inferential Scanning

We currently scan a wide variety of feeds, engage a diverse group of Twitter users, and tune in to several great “big picture” thinkers to get a sense of the environment and its impact on our trends.

We are currently working on a more sophisticated scanning tool and approach. Our goal is to be able to hear the first “chirp” of a new career opportunity while it is still way out at the far edges of the arc of possibility.

More on that as it happens.

CareerShape: Our Framework

As we observe trends, we run them through a fairly straightforward filter to determine whether they will have an impact on 21st century careers. That filter derives directly from our views about the shape careers will take in the 21st century.

Bluntly, we believe the day of the “job” is over. The person who simply gets up in the morning, goes to work, and punches either a real or metaphorical clock is a dinosaur. That person will see his or her work commoditized, shipped to the lowest cost provider, or taken over by a machine, and probably soon.

The future belongs to the person who creates. Creates value, creates ideas, creates efficiency. The future belongs to the person who contributes.

To that end, our CareerShape filter consists of a few simple maxims. When we spot a trend in the larger environment, we run it past these maxims. If it fits within that framework, we watch it and begin to plan for ways to create learning programs around it.

Our maxims:

  • More knowlege leads to more niches. Dig the niche deeper and smaller (go small or go home!)
  • Places no longer matter, unless they matter! Work that can be done virtually or, if not, can be done on a mobile basis.
  • Independence rules. Freelance and entrepreneurial opportunities provide an empowering and challenging environment, while reducing labor costs for large organizations. Freelancers and independents rule the future.

We are frankly not that concerned with demographics, as opportunity is available to anyone from any age or population group. We understand that equity issues occur all over the field, but believe in the power of human spirit and the liberating effects of technology and the free market to overcome them.

We consider globalization a given. Unless a job or process is location specific (farming, mining, environmental work), it is susceptible to being packaged and shipped to another part of the world.

Note that I didn’t say it is susceptible to being shipped overseas and “done cheaper.” We believe virtual work will engage a dynamic and vibrant worldwide workplace.

Currently, Americans often associate commoditized work with “offshore” factories or call centers. In fact, we believe that process will soon become two-way.

Along those lines, for American readers, we fully anticipate a renaissance in American manufacturing. Stay tuned.