Can your career future be predicted? Futurist Ruben Nelson has been asked to be a speaker at the 2008 National Career Development Conference in Montreal. I asked Nelson about what it means to be a futurist and what he predicts will happen to the workforce.
“While we are rooted in the present and build on the experiences of the past it is the future that our clients want to explore; future employment prospects, future needs of employers, future understanding of global human resource needs,” says Rob Shea, president of the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counseling (CERIC), host of the conference, which concludes today.
What is a futurist?
“Some prediction is involved,” says Nelson. “You make a prediction basing it on data today. Most people are under the assumption that tomorrow will be a repeat of today.”
From the clues given to you today you can make numerous scenarios on what could happen tomorrow. It’s about cause and recognizing the possible effects. Futurists notice what changes are occurring but haven’t been noticed yet or not getting enough attention, explains Nelson.
“By our actions today we are shaping the future. It’s what mothers know,” says Nelson. “Its no special kind of data that’s pushed into my ear by little green men!”
So why act on a possible outcome? It’s not a conclusion of a rational argument and it may not always be right, but sometimes you need to go on what little you know” explains Nelson. “If you suspect it is a bear in the bushes, you wouldn’t go in the bushes to confirm, you would start running!”
What is happening in the job market?
“It is more uncertain today than it was even five years ago,” he says. “It’s becoming more fragmented. The world we live in today is the way movies are made today.”
Jobs are much more unstable and fragmenting into smaller pieces of work. Highly skilled people will be individually hired on a project by project basis. Putting together a project team rather than hiring someone full time is happening more often, Nelson explains. Nothing new, right? But what about the effects?
“This could lead to a far more precarious life.”
Due to this instability people could be dealing with more stress and frustration than ever before and are walking “pressure cookers” and this also has an effect that raises many questions posed by Nelson.
Could our pressure-cooker lives be a pre-condition for random acts of violence that are on an increase although crime rates are going down? Despite the increasing number of people seeking higher education, there has been an increase of domestic violence, which was once correlated with lack of education. Are people going home and snapping?
What if there was a correlation between the new unstable workforce and the amount of people who couldn’t cope with their mortgages in the United States? Could this trend have played a part in the global economy? However the future is not entirely grim — an unstable and fragmented market has its upside. Next week Nelson tells us how this can affect you and how to deal with these changes in the job market.

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