Lately, it seems that more and more jobs that used to be performed by humans are being taken over by one form or another of artificial intelligence, or AI. But, despite all jokes made to the contrary, there is still a need for real actual human beings, say experts. You just need to have what is required to work with a machine that thinks. Machines augmented with AI have long been replacing human workers on assembly lines, factory floors, and in manual labor. Most recently they are being added to jobs that usually were thought to require the judgment and intuition of a person, in fields like finance, law, and medicine.
But humans have not been made obsolete yet. There remain plenty of jobs for those who develop, program, manage, and market AI to work alongside it or improve its operation. As an exercise in irony, recruiters are now using AI to find employees with the correct qualifications and intelligence for these slots.
However, as job descriptions have gone from traditional roles like ‘chief clerk’ to modern titles like ‘chief digital officer’ the attributes for job seekers have changed too, though employers and employees alike are having difficulties effectively specifying what they are.
“Most people will tell you that to work in AI you need traits like a ‘growth mindset,’ you need to be ‘adaptable’ and have an ‘owner mentality’ – those are the buzzwords. The reality is that the job itself has to be properly defined,” says Caitlin MacGregor, CEO, and co-founder of Plum, an Ontario-based online recruiter.
Plum matches prospective employees with possible employers by using a specialized algorithm based on their surveys. Like a dating app but for job opportunities rather than your love-life. But, Macgregor goes on to say, no one’s quite sure what to make of these opportunities in the new economy.
“They default to questions like where people went to school, what degrees they have, how many years they’ve worked, what titles they’ve had. Those markers never really were able to predict success; in this digital age, we need to be really clear what does,” she says.
“We know based on 30 years of research that intelligence is the number one predictor of performance, across all roles and all industries. We need to be measuring for intelligence before we even pick up a résumé, instead of waiting until someone has been three months on the job,” Ms. MacGregor adds.
At the same time, the qualities that usually accompany intelligence, like adaptability and flexibility, are desired as well, according to Marlina Kinnersly, CEO, and co-founder of Fortay.co, an AI-based hiring site similar to Plum.
“You want them to be able to think fast and learn on their feet,” she says.
The Toronto-based firm looks for workers who will be a good ‘culture fit’ or ‘team alignment’ for the corporation but also thinks independently enough to add new perspectives to the company, says Kinnersly.
However, the search isn’t on until the company can truly describe what their corporate culture is. “That’s their baseline to find the right candidates,” she says.
In a paper for Brookings Institute, Christian Bodewig, a World Bank executive, reveals a few qualifications for employees working along AI should have. Amongst these skills, he lists cognitive skills in numeracy and literacy, creative critical thinking, and advanced problem solving, as well as contentiousness and whatever technical skills required for the specific job as all being important.
In contrast, Thomas L. Friedman, a columnist for The New York Times, says employers want “someone who will get up, dress up, show up, shut up, and never give up.”
Potential employees should acquire these skills as early as possible, according to Bodewig because “the window for building cognitive skills closes with late adolescence.”
Overall, in this new AI dominated employment market, an intelligent, independent thinker, and team player needs more than he has in the past to procure job security. Math skills help, according to Henry Kim, an associate professor of operations management and information system from Schulich School of Business at Toronto’s York University. A point he is always reminding his 11-year-old daughter too:
“She loves Anne of Green Gables, so when she grows up, she wants to run a café in Prince Edward Island where Anne is set. I told her that that is actually a job that AI robots can’t do, so she should go for it,” Dr. Kim explains.
“But you have to make money to open that café. Which means you’ll need a good-paying job in a workforce of the future, where a lot of the well-paying white-collar jobs we have today will not exist. However, there will definitely be well-paying jobs in the future for programming and working with AI robots.
“So, I tell her … do your math homework.”
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