- The AI Tsunami is Coming for White Collar Jobs. Don't Sugar Coat It!
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August 23, 2023

Let's be honest folks - AI has already disrupted white-collar jobs in a huge way, and will continue at an accelerated rate for the years to come. I know this may be scary to hear, but burying our heads in the sand won't help. The best thing we can do is face the future with open eyes so we can start preparing now.

An article on CNBC prompted me to write this when IBM Chairman and CEO, Arvind Kirshna said AI is "absolutely not displacing — it's augmenting. The more labor we got, especially if it's not human-based at all, we can create more GDP. We should all feel better about it." Sorry Arvinda, it's not about what we "should all feel", people need to hear the truth so they can respond effectively. 

I think we do people a disservice when we suggest AI is only going to "augment" human capabilities, not replace jobs entirely. While it's politically correct to say that automation will enhance efficiency, the truth is that many occupations will become obsolete in the not-so-distant future. Sure, some roles may be enhanced for a time, but eventually the capabilities of AI will exceed what humans can offer. Rather than blindly believing comforting narratives, we need to confront the reality of mass displacement so we can help people upskill and transition before it's too late. The writing is clearly on the wall that AI advancement will radically transform the job landscape. Let's not sugarcoat or ignore the signs. The responsible path is to speak frankly and help people prepare the best we can.

I'm not saying this to freak you out. My goal here is to have an honest conversation about what's coming so you can make informed choices. The more we understand the changes ahead, the better we can adapt and thrive. Don't get me wrong, I'm fundamentally optimistic about the future. New technologies bring new opportunities. But the transition period will be rocky if we aren't proactive, and we need to elevate this discussion into the mainstream dialog. 

How will AI impact white-collar roles?

I don't know; none of us know, but here is how I see it. In the very near future, technologies like artificial intelligence will automate many repetitive cognitive tasks. Any job that analyzes data, processes paperwork or communicates with people could be affected. Hell, I think my roll as an Executive Coach will be displaced in 5 to 10 years as these tools mimic and build on my knowledge and actions. 

AI software can review legal documents, fill out insurance claims, or answer customer service inquiries. Accounting and financial analysis are also functions ripe for automation. Eventually, even complex jobs like doctors, lawyers, and marketers could see parts of their roles automated by AI. Radiologists are already leveraging algorithms to analyze medical scans with greater speed and accuracy. Legal assistants can research case law in seconds versus hours. Marketers can use data analytics to generate personalized ads and content. 

I'd estimate that by 2035 95% of white-collar jobs, as we now know them, will be drastically redefined or out-right eliminated. 

The key is being adaptable.

To stay employable in the future, adaptability will be critical. Rather than focus on specific skills, you'll want to nurture general abilities like creativity, empathy, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking.

These human strengths will be vital even as machines take over routine work. By remaining flexible and open-minded, you'll be able to pivot into new roles as old ones become obsolete.

It's also wise to keep learning new skills throughout your career. Look for opportunities to expand your knowledge base to seamlessly shift gears. With the pace of change accelerating, upskilling will be essential.

We will adjust; I genuinely believe we can create a fantastic future if we start building the mental and emotional muscles to ride this wave now rather than waiting until we're drowned by it. Getting clear on where things are headed by speaking the truth and taking proactive steps like honing adaptable skills while maintaining a growth mindset, I know we can all thrive in the future of work. 

We've got this!

author avatar
George Morris
I use my 20+ years of entrepreneurial experience and training to coach businesses on scaling up rapidly using Verne Harnish's Scaling Up framework. By doing so, my clients are more efficient and profitable, giving them the ability to make bigger impacts in the world. I deeply believe entrepreneurs are the best equipped to be the vehicle for meaningful change, and in the decade ahead, we'll see a substantial shift in how business is done. We'll move to a model where company purpose, impact, curiosity, and team health will be differentiators in overall business success. As Simon Sinek has pointed out, the finite games are the legacy of the past; we're moving to an infinite game.