7 Emerging Trends Shaping the Future of Work, Careers and Professional Development

“Making predictions is hard, not only because the future is hard to see, but also because the present is hard to grasp,” said Derek Thompson, staff writer at The Atlantic. Just when you think you have a handle on the present situation, things start changing again. But that shouldn’t stop you from speculating about the future. The more you run through scenarios, the more you can anticipate potential challenges and opportunities.

A recent Jungle Gym article shared 18 predictions about emerging trends that might shape careers in the near future. It got us thinking about the impact these trends might have on association programs. We condensed their list into seven trends shaping the future of work, careers, and professional development.

7 trends shaping the future of work, careers, and professional development

Discuss with your team how these trends might take shape in your industry and how your association can respond to—or take advantage of—them.

#1: New jobs require a nimble response from associations

The employment market is more fluid than ever and will become even more unrecognizable in the future. One of the Jungle Gym article contributors, Rex Woodbury, principal at Index Ventures, said, “Today’s graduates are expected to hold between 15 and 20 jobs over the course of a career. Many of these jobs haven’t been invented yet: by 2030, 85% of today’s college students will have jobs that don’t currently exist.”

How will students train for these jobs? How will professionals reskill and upskill for these jobs? Answer: at your association.

The problem is: many associations are handcuffed by a governance structure that takes forever to make decisions. How much longer is this governance model sustainable? Associations must have the willingness and ability to respond quickly to new developments, even if it means quickly developing a pilot program to test the waters.

You’ve got to stay on top of the employment situation in your market. Put together an employer advisory panel who can tell you:

•    How work is changing
•    What kind of hard and soft skills are needed
•    Where they’re seeing or expecting skills gaps
•    What new career paths are developing

Don’t let competitors get the jump on you. You must be able to respond nimbly with education and credentialing programs that provide the skills and knowledge needed for these new jobs. You can also partner with member companies who want to license your programs and/or host their in-house training on your LMS.

agile couple on climbing wall - trends shaping the future of work

#2: Everybody must be nimble

“To keep up with the increasingly fast rate of change, people will need to learn new skills faster than ever,” said article contributor, Mercedes Bent, partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners.

But do people know that? If you want to sell something, like an education program, you must first make sure the target audience is aware they have a problem—a problem your program can help them solve.

Like a broken record, constantly message about the urgent need to reskill and upskill to stay employable. Insert a Facebook-like quiz in your newsletter that shows people how much or how little they know about a topic. Drive people to webinars, microlearning programs, or bootcamps where they can quickly learn the skills they need and earn a digital badge that proves it.

#3: The great management relearning

Remote work has uncovered an unfortunate fact: many managers don’t know how to manage. In the office, they appeared to manage, but now that everyone is remote, they don’t know how to effectively coach and communicate with their team or foster collaboration and connection within the team.

Someone has to teach professionals in your industry how to manage hybrid and remote teams. Someone has to show companies how to assess and revamp their policies and culture for hybrid/remote work. Why not you?

Another tough truth: employees have more options now. The most talented professionals will seek employers who demonstrate respect for their employees’ wellbeing, values, personal responsibilities, and professional growth. A professional development budget should no longer be reserved for higher level positions. Professionals at all career levels will start expecting the perks once reserved for the chosen few.

#4: The side hustle and freelance boom

Since the last recession, more people have taken on side hustles or freelance work to create compelling content for their industry: newsletters, podcasts, videos, classes, and conferences. Think of the popular programs launched by solopreneurs in the association community, like the Non-Dues-A-Palooza conference or the Association Digital Marketing Certificate course. Association professionals with entrepreneurial mindsets and agile approaches to product development saw a market need and filled it. They knew their efforts might fail, but they took a risk and now reap the rewards.

Now, during the “Great Resignation,” people are questioning how they want to work. Many have decided not to return to the office and have turned in their notice to their employer. The freelance/entrepreneurial life beckons them.

Solopreneurs, freelancers, and solo practitioners in your industry have the technical skills to launch their business, but they need help with business management—training your association could provide. You could also set up peer advisory groups so these professionals can help each other learn and grow.

young female podcaster at the microphone - trends shaping the future of work

#5: Career-building extracurricular activity

Brie Wolfson, founder of The Kool-Aid Factory, wrote about the new hobbies, communities, and learning taken up by people during the pandemic. These “extracurriculars” have become meaningful fixtures in their lives. She said, “Where work promised to be the center of social lives, outlets for our skills, a reliable path to financial freedom, and the primary source of self-actualization, now our extracurriculars have proven to be capable of the same.”

Wait a minute here. Social activities, outlet for skills, path to career success, and source of self-actualization—haven’t associations always offered these extracurriculars to members? Associations provide volunteering, speaking, mentoring, publishing, and leadership opportunities that help members grow personally and professionally. These member benefits need to be marketed more effectively.

In new member onboarding and member reboarding, show members how to create a path for growth. Identify the educational programs that will help them develop the soft skills needed to advance in their careers and qualify for volunteer leadership positions.

#6: Multiplayer mindset

Your audience has grown up with multiplayer video games. Collaborating online with friends and strangers is totally normal. Mario Gabriele, founder of The Generalist, sees this type of collaboration moving into the work world as “emergent groups… arise to tackle different problems” in “headless projects.” Can your association facilitate more of these multiplayer, headless projects?

Sari Azout, founder of Startupy.world, said, “For many people, the idea of a long-term career is being replaced by a string of interesting projects with people they vibe with.” And where might they meet those high-vibe people? Here’s another opportunity for your association to facilitate these collaborations. Start designing plenty of opportunities for multiplayer educational groups, like hackathons and learning cohorts.

#7: The rise of niche communities

Kai Han, founder and CEO of Pallet, wrote about the prevalence of niche online communities. “These communities are increasingly becoming conduits for opportunity. Members are using them to find new jobs, contract work, and even co-founders. As more tools get built to support these behaviors, online communities will become a critical element of career progression and talent sourcing.”

He’s talking about Twitter, Discord, and cohort-based courses, but we’re here to remind the world that associations have been doing this all along. Given the past few years of disruption and change, you should rethink how you’re doing it and what you’re offering to match a different set of needs and preferences.

Change and uncertainty shouldn’t lead to feelings of doom and gloom. Associations are made for a world of niche communities, multi-player extracurriculars, and learning and relearning. This is in your core DNA, but it’s shackled by culture and governance orthodoxies collected along the way. Shed those bindings and release your potential so you can truly live your mission and become indispensable to your professional community.

future work skills
remote work
membership benefits
skills gap
Sign up for our newsletter to be the first to receive our blog posts and updatesSubscribe