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Career guidance for grandson Paul

"I personally think there's going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than there were for programming majors and maybe even engineering," he said. "When the data is all being spit out for you for you, options are being spit out for you, you need a different perspective in order to have a different view of the data." In particular, experts in philosophy or foreign languages will ultimately command the most interest from employers in the next decade, Cuban said. Mark Cuban Says This Will Be the No.1 Job Skill in 10 Years Money, February 20, 2017

Dear Paul,

As a high school sophomore, I'm glad you are actively looking at colleges and considering your future career options. A dual major of Chinese and engineering sounds like real winner to me. Anytime you have skills and expertise in two possibly overlapping areas, your value to an organization increases dramatically.

Over the next few years, I expect you will consider and re-consider a number of vocational choices. And these choices will not necessarily be easy to make. Mark Cuban and many other "experts" are speculating on what AI and robotics and other technologies, along with globalization, will mean for future jobs and careers.

While I am certainly no expert in this area, it's safe to generalize about a number of things:

  • Jobs that require routine cognitive and physical work will be filled by machines. Even countries with cheap labor markets are automating factories and services. Learning to program or manage these machines is the better option. Better yet, learn to manage the programmers. Or imagine new and better ways to automate, program, or manage!
  • Learn to communicate effectively in lots of ways. While writing and speaking will continue to be essential skills, know how to communicate visually as well - through graphics, video, and design. Good ideas without the means to "sell" them won't get noticed.
  • A track record of successful problem-solving will be more important than the college you attend. The reputation of a good university might help you get your first job, but from then on, it will be your resume that gets you the rest. Your resume will need to consist of projects completed, problems solved, new initiatives led, not just dates of employment. Keep track!
  • Be prepared to continue learning - and take responsibility for that learning. Heaven knows that a very small percentage of what I was taught in my graduate library program is still applicable now over 30 years later. New technologies have completely re-constructed the profession. The rate of change will be even greater for you and your capacity for re-training yourself will be more critical than ever. As will be your personal, not your employers', responsibility for that happening.
  • Seek what gives you personal self-worth and value. Find work you look forward to doing every day. Have the courage to change vocations when you no longer care about what you are doing. I don't think you will ever regret placing purpose above salary. Your mom and dad a great examples of how making a difference in the world is as mportant than making a salary. 
  • Don't skimp on the arts. We learn about the hearts and souls of humanity through literature, music, dance, theater, fine arts, etc. Understanding what motivates and moves others is as or more important than understanding their cognitive processes. I've always appreciated your love of literature and music.
  • Give yourself time to play. Find work that allows you time off from work. Hobbies, exercise, travel, time with family, even the occasional binge of TV watching is needed. Sucess is not in how many hours you spend on the job, but how much you get accomplished while on the job. Seriously. If my grandparenting has taught you anything, I hope it just how much a little adventure makes the world.

I worry, Paul, about the state of the world you are inheriting. But I am convinced that you and your brother will find ways to lead wonderful, productive, loving lives despite the swirl of economics and environment and changing technologies. Make up your own rules.


Grandpa Johnson

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