When asked why I home educate my children, one of my primary responses is because I believe education should be designed to prepare children to be functioning, capable, adaptable and happy people in the environment that they live in and, perhaps more importantly, the one they will be living in as adults.

But what does that actually mean?!

To me being “functioning, capable, adaptable and happy” means a certain level of capability in all of the following (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Intelligence – not just knowledge but the ability to connect, adapt and apply that knowledge in familiar and unfamiliar situations.
  • Motivation – ideally one that’s intrinsic and self-driven, and not externally imposed by others.
  • Emotional awareness – conscious of their emotions and those of others, and the fact that there are also often ‘unconscious’ things at play for most people, in most situations. Being able to ‘read’ these unconscious elements is something I think we all could have the ability to do, but few people cultivate this.
  • Emotional management – able to manage and regulate their emotions which yes, includes feeling them too!
  • Adaptability – touted as the key to the future of work is the ability to be flexible and adapt to ever-changing situations.
  • Community-mindededness – along with the ability to socialise and talk to anyone comfortably and confidently, focusing on the result of their actions and behaviour, as it relates to their community and not just themselves (so yes, this includes environmental concerns and more).

The second though just-as-important part of my response – which I think many people will gloss over or miss entirely – is this bit: “…in the environment they will be living in“.

I usually start ranting about how the world of work is changing and has already changed, and how our current education systems aren’t typically able to adapt fast enough to keep up with these changes, and the ones we’re likely facing.

[Tip: Search on the #futureofwork on Twitter for an insight into what may be coming up].

Despite many attempts to modernise and change, the current education system we have was fundamentally designed to educate people for the industrial age – to train people who would follow rules, not think too much for themselves, have a job for life, not need to update or refresh their skills too often to remain gainfully employed, and to fundamentally fit in to a system and absolutely not stand out.

I appreciate there are currently different models and systems being used in different countries and different schools around the world but there is no getting away from the fact that schools and universities are still churning out students who just aren’t well equipped to handle the world of work that’s already here, and certainly not the one that’s coming.

So Just What Is The Future Of Work?

As the founder of a a venture which focuses on what I believe will be a key trend in the future of work – remote working – and as someone who’s been living in the online world of business and entrepreneurship for the best part of 15 years, I feel fairly well-positioned to be able to see how the working world may well look when it’s time for my children to launch themselves into this world. And here’s what I think it’ll look like…

More Flexible and Remote Working

Flexible working practices that are far-from-the-norm 9-to-5 jobbies will likely be more common, alongside the growing trend in remote work, allowing companies to hire far beyond their immediate local borders and go for the best talent, not just the closest.

What does this mean for our children and those of us who want to thrive professionally?

It means that competition will be greater since people will be hiring from a far wider geographic pool than just the local one so we will have to find more creative ways to stand out than standard qualifications, rote CVs and the expectation that just because we’ve gone to X school or Y university, we’ll already be head-and-shoulders above the rest.

It means that regular 9-to-5 jobs may no longer be the standard option and that working for companies halfway round the world will necessitate some socially-awkward, ever-changing working patterns, across all industries and not just those already accustomed to shift work. This is going to impact social lives, family lives, and the general tempo of life that’s currently fairly predictable for most.

It also means that people will have to learn how to navigate the changes of not being in an office and potentially working from home full time. While this may sound like the dream for some, it is not without its challenges and will require self-motivation, self discipline, excellent communication habits (especially written and oral via a screen – there’s a big difference from in-person communication), and a certain level of technological ability in order to stay connected with whoever you’re working, remotely.

No More Jobs For Life.

Gone are the days when you’d join a company aged 20 and 40 years later you’d receive a retirement gift with a crowd of loving colleagues – who became more like family – standing around celebrating your long, loyal career to the same firm.

The rise of the gig economy is already evidence that most of us are going to have to be far more proactive about managing our career paths, finding the best opportunities to progress, and generally taking much greater control over the path we take since there isn’t likely to be such set ones mapped out for us going forward.

Alongside this is the increase in working age we may all face – a third age if you like – where, instead of retiring, we’re retraining and refocusing our careers to continue working well into our 7th decade and possibly even beyond.

What does this mean for our children and those of us who want to thrive professionally?

It means that things like personal branding (ugh!), cultivating our networks (double ugh!), paying more attention to how we show up in the world, both online and off and professionally and personally, and how we stand out from the global competition we may now face when it comes to getting hired, are going to become key if we want to thrive professionally.

It means that we are going to need to be adaptable, flexible, motivated and above all utterly proactive if we want to carve out career paths in the future world of work. Things will no longer be mapped out for us and we’re going to have to take more control of finding better opportunities, re-training and re-skilling as required, and maintaining and cultivating relationships with everyone we meet.

It means that our financial literacy and management is going to have to improve if we’re going to need to replace the notion of pensions that keep us comfortable once we retire (we may not even retire!), and instead we’re going to have to become masters of our money to keep ourselves financially stable, whether we’re working or not, at various times of our lives.

Alternative Challenges (Or Are They?).

Working from home and no longer going into an office and being surrounded by colleagues. Having to schedule a video meeting to communicate with your boss instead of just popping by his desk during a coffee break. Having to work ‘unsociable’ hours to ensure you can collaborate with colleagues working half way round the world from you.

Earning a living in multiple different currencies, which is paid at varying times rather than on the same standard payday month in, month out. Worrying about whether the latest new form of AI (Artificial Intelligence/Robot) is going to take away part of your job and make you redundant. Realising that the degree you worked so hard to get – or the fact you’ve even got one and went to school in the first place – won’t even be looked at by or matter to certain companies any more.

These may present us with challenges we haven’t faced before. Loneliness in the ‘workplace’ (our home!), no longer relying on our office mates for our social lives or love lives, working across multiple time zones on a daily basis, becoming more comfortable with technology and being able to stay up-to-date as it develops and changes (which it does all the time)…

There’s no doubt we already face challenges, instability and uncertainty in our working lives but given the impact of technology which will reach and impact almost every part of our working lives, and the pace at which its moving, I think we’re in for a technology-fuelled wild ride in the coming years!

What does this mean for our children and those of us who want to thrive professionally?

It means that we will have to get used to change. Frequently. In the form of fast-paced technological changes, new opportunities from unexpected places, and new challenges from unexpected places and more. This will require adaptability and flexibility, and adopting a level of pro-activeness about our own success and happiness that I just don’t think people are used to.

The world of work is changing, it already has changed. The future of work will change beyond what we can likely currently perceive or predict. Certain skills that aren’t being (can’t be?) taught in schools, universities – or possibly anywhere really – will be required if we want (our children) to thrive in the world of work that awaits them and us.

None of this is meant as a criticism of schools or the education system. I don’t profess to be any kind of teacher at all – I haven’t got a teaching qualification, I don’t have expert knowledge of a particular topic, and I don’t even ‘teach’ my own children currently (though I do know for a fact that they are still learning).

In fact, given my experience of this world of work since I left the corporate world in 2003, I’m not sure much of this can be taught at all…but it doesn’t mean it can’t be learned.

The question is where this can all be learned, how it’s going to be learned, and how much fun one can have doing so 😉