Surviving the future: Presentation to Nottingham Business School

Yesterday I was invited to go to Nottingham Business School and talk about the future of career to the Future of Work conference (#fowconferencenbs2024). In the talk I tried to take on some of the big shifts that are happening in work (the growth of automation and AI and the climate in particular) and to argue that they should take a more critical look at some of the futures that they are presented with.

The Future of Work conference is a brilliant curricular focused careers intervention, which asks students to participate in a conference where they hear from employers, careers professionals and experts about their careers and the future of work. At the end of the conference (they have to attend at least 10 hours), they then write a blog post discussing the future of work and what it means for them and their careers. The whole thing was very buzzy, with lecture theatres packed and speakers coming in and out throughout the day.

This is what I said in detail…

During the presentation I polled students (who were mainly second year undergraduates) with a number of polling questions, which I thought that it would be interesting to share here. Firstly I asked whether they felt that they would have a better life and career than their parents.

In general they were pretty positive about this. Overall people were feeling that life was on the up for them, that they would experience social mobility and that they would have a better career than their parents. This optimism is heartening (if a little surprising).

Secondly, I asked them what they were most worried about disrupting their career.

In general people were most worried about the immediate transition to employment (so a fear about finding the right job or there not being enough work). But there were also a decent number who were worried about big picture issues like the climate and AI. Interestingly concern about world war was riding very high, which wasn’t what I had expected.

Next I asked them how much they felt that they needed to have decided on a career by the time that they actually leave university.

They were pretty split on this one. A lot of them thought that this was pretty important, while others though that it probably didn’t matter. I was trying to push the idea that career is something that is built rather than decided and that what they needed to do, was not to choose a career, but rather to make a good purposeful first step and then continue to manage their career.

At the end of the presentation I asked them how they were feeling.

The most popular perspective was ‘Life is what you make it’ which hopefully chimed with the ideas of agentic career management that I was pushing. But, there were also a decent amount who picked ‘what happen, happens’ which is rather more fatalistic than I hoped.

All in all a great day. Thank you to everyone at Nottingham Trent who organised it.

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