We are living in exponential times

Back in 2006 a group of teachers in Colorado in the US put together a short video for a faculty meeting about the challenges they faced as teachers, teaching a generation of kids in what they called ‘exponential times’. You may have seen this video, but if you haven’t, it’s definitely worth five minutes of your time. Some of the versions are a little out of date but the message is still pretty much the same (plus there’s a link to the 2013 edition at the foot of this post).

The relevant section is about one minute in, where the video states that ‘The top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004′. It’s worth just having a quick think about this in the context of the world we live in today. The phrase ‘social media’ was only born in 1997, and this was in Silicon Valley way before it appeared in popular culture around the world. Now you can have a job as a social media consultant. How about Search Engine Optimisation? Who had ever heard of that ten years ago?

These jobs simply did not exist. The video continues in a similar theme, riffing on the impact of ‘exponential times’ on conventional employment. Forget about a time when you joined a company and then worked there for the rest of your life. The future is already different… the video quotes US Department of Labor as estimating that school leavers would on average have 10-14 jobs by the age of 38 and that (according to the statistics available at the time) 1 in 4 workers had been with their current employer for less than a year, with 1 in 2 there for less than five years.

Here in Australia, one of the major newspaper groups recently made a little publicised, but incredibly important change to its career/employment section: the editors were instructed to change their focus from full time career type jobs, to the needs of part-time workers, to reflect the focus of job hunters in today’s economy.

What can we take away from this? Certainly the world is changing rapidly, as is the world of work, but there are always opportunities available for people who are prepared to either re-train or who are involved in a process of continual education. Organisations (like Ivy College) are embracing the fast changing world of education by providing online and offline components for the learning process, to fit in with the very wide array of different circumstances of students, who often hold down full time jobs while they are studying.

You are never too old to make a change, and, while some jobs are decreasing in demand, new types of work are emerging all the time, with motivated people with the required new skillsets being snapped up by employers, or even setting themselves up as contractors and new businesses.

2013 update: http://youtu.be/XU0vFsaTZyk

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