Welcome to our new monthly advice column, Now What? Each month, our columnist Tori will unpack a different career dilemma from our community and she’ll bring on a few friendly faces from her network to contribute their wisdom too.
Tori Lazar is a creative business consultant and leadership coach for purpose-driven brands, creators, and leaders. She recently founded the creative leadership coaching studio, How to Fck Up Well. She also serves as the Director of Biz Dev & Partnerships for Female Startup Club, as well as an advisor to Black Girl Magik. Through her work, Tori aims to destigmatize failure and redefine it as an opportunity for growth.
"I'm worried that AI is coming for my job. Now what?”
Q: “I’m experiencing a lot of anxiety and low-simmering dread over what AI means for my day-to-day job and long-term prospects. How do I overcome the doom and gloom? Do you have any tips on preparing for AI's impact on my career and job security?”
The other day I read an interview in Anne Helen Petersen’s newsletter “Culture Study” with Jaime Green, author of The Possibility of Life. The book is an imaginative exploration of life beyond Earth, how that might shape humanity, and how we conceive of something that is (mostly) inconceivable. In the interview, Green emphasizes the connection between imagination, empathy, and the capacity for change. She says, “Imagination pushes the limits of what we can conceive of, but it reveals those limits, too.” After months of reading articles with varying perspectives and insights, I found this message to be the most helpful place to start when navigating AI and its impact on humanity – without becoming paralyzed by what-ifs.
I also asked my friends (and well-informed #womenintech), Samyutha Reddy, the head of enterprise marketing at Jasper, an AI copywriting and content creation software and Tazin Khan, a cyber security specialist at Cisco Secure and founder of Cyber Collective, a non-profit empowering people to think critically about their relationship with technology, to weigh in.
The AI media circuit is bustling with hype pieces and clickbait that feed on our anxiety. Fortunately, I did the dirty work for you. Here are a few credible takeaways that (hopefully!) won’t induce a total spiral.
- Goldman Sachs Research expects 1 out of every 11 jobs on the planet to be fully automated by AI. The top target is administrative roles. A whopping 87.3% of administrative assistants in the U.S. are women, with the average age being 50 years old.
- Dramatic shifts in how we interface with technology have happened before. Mobile was the most recent, about a decade ago. And although technological advances may displace certain types of work, historically, they have been a net creator of jobs.
- It’s likely that the technological revolution in work (AI) will collide with the cultural revolution (the rejection of “traditional” careers) and will lead to the continued rise of self-employment. Thanks to Millennials and GenZs, the U.S. will become a freelance-majority workforce in 2027.
With this in mind, I asked Samyutha and Tazin to share how they feel about the future of AI on a scale of 1-10 – 1 being “We’re in the midst of an existential crisis” and 10 being “We’re in the midst of a technology renaissance.” Here’s what they had to say.
Samyutha: “I'm at a 10. I'd say it’s a technological renaissance with far-reaching externalities. As a consumer, I'm beyond excited about a true digital assistant, once I can interact with them via different modalities, and that makes me more effective. I can't wait for those productivity gains to impact things like cancer research, mental health resources, etc. Of course, hearing from industry thought leaders that AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) is 50% likely to end humanity is not encouraging. But I worry most about the US government fumbling its approach to regulation and stifling innovation within smaller model providers and ambitious startups, which leads to more concentration of power within Big Tech and less visibility.
Tazin: “I fall somewhere in the middle. We’re undeniably living through amazing technological advancements, but I’m not sure I’d call it a renaissance. By definition, renaissance refers to a very “Western” and Anglo-centric time. It also means “rebirth” which is a testament to my perspective on the existential crisis part of AI. If AI is a “rebirth” then we have to remember the generational impact and history that has carried it into its existence. Through the work of scholars like Dr. Safiya Noble, Dr. Joy Buolamwini, and Dr. Rumman Chowdhury (to name a few), we understand how inherently biased and racist the internet truly is. AI is an accumulation of all of that. However, it’s also an accumulation of the strengths, vision, and opportunity we’ve created for humankind. It will take a lot of communication, diligence, intention, patience, uncomfortable dialogue, and inclusion of diverse lived experiences to ensure AI is a force for good for all.
Conclusion: AI is not going away. Change is happening, and it’s happening fast. There are a lot of gray areas that we need to be wary of, but if we embrace AI, there’s a promising chance we can leverage it in our favor and reinforce other shifts that positively serve us.
Before you can get to the “embracing it” part, we need to pinpoint what’s causing your anxiety in the first place.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Let’s say AI does impact your current job and career long-term. How do you suppose it will all work out? Run through a worst-case scenario first. Bring your biggest fears to the surface and acknowledge them. Then imagine a best-case scenario. Try on a glass-half-full mentality and take a cue from Rihanna—when your confidence is low, pretend.
- What is stopping you from achieving the best-case scenario? Be concise and narrow it down to one to three key obstacle(s). Start with an informal brain dump of your thoughts. Then edit them down by combining overlapping or related issues.
- What resources do you need to overcome this? Which resources are available to you and which are not? Unfortunately, privilege is a crucial piece of this puzzle. You need to be aware of how much of it you have so you can effectively advocate for yourself or join forces with others to do so on behalf of a larger community.
Pulse check—how’re we doing? Slap on a face mask, indulge in three beverages at once, go on a long walk, and do whatever brings you peace of mind. When you’re ready, here’s how to tackle AI.
Remember my bit at the top about how imagination fosters empathy and a capacity for change? It’s time to tap into your inner child and approach AI with the same wonder and awe you would have embodied as a 3-year-old playing with a cardboard box. I know it sounds cringe, but start with things you used to love as a child like reading sci-fi books, coloring, or doing puzzles. The purpose of this exercise is to rebuild your openness and love of learning. Follow Piera Gelardi if you need a boost of inspiration.
Get curious and think like a scientist. Do not aim for perfection. Simply get comfortable and play with the tech. Here’s Tazin’s take on this step, “Before creating an absolute perspective on the tools and platforms, play with them! You’d be surprised how much information you can collect for your value systems and beliefs when you let your guard down and get curious.” That said, once you’ve played around, make a hypothesis of opportunities and limitations for integrating AI into your work.
- Moving on to some serious stuff—aligning your hypothesis with ethics and boundaries. Samyutha makes a great point, “AI will never replace your creativity, but you will be replaced by another creative who uses AI to make themselves 10x more productive and effective and differentiated.” But just because AI might make you more productive doesn’t mean you need to or should take on more work. Know where you draw the line and how you want to regulate your usage so you don’t perpetuate hustle culture, inaccuracies, discriminatory outcomes, or embedded and inserted bias.
- Be proactive and get ahead of risk. (This TED Talk by Reshma Saujani might be what you need to hear at this point in your journey.) A simple way to do this is to ask your current clients, boss, or colleagues questions about their plans for AI adoption. Come prepared with ideas inspired by the findings from the above actions. Hopefully, you feel more comfortable with AI and how it fits into your work. Use that as fuel for confidence to articulate your value and thought leadership, express concerns and lessen your panic or denial.
Try these tips and tricks for managing your anxiety and keeping tabs on your AI journey.
Get in your daily dose of worrying. Acknowledge the anxiety, thank it for all it’s teaching you, and then move on. I’m serious. Scheduling time to worry (I’m talking max 30 minutes per day) has serious upsides—and if you don’t do it every day, that’s A-okay. Like a lot of people, I do my best worrying at night. So now, if something is eating at me, I spend 15-30 minutes dropping those thoughts in my notes app before I do my nighttime routine, and it genuinely helps me sleep in peace. I also tend to wake up with a better outlook on the day, and it’s a great way to track the ebbs and flows of your anxiety long-term.
- Reach out to people on your team or within your industry, and start a group think tank. This can take many forms, but some low-lift ideas are 1) A dedicated Slack channel, 2) A home on Geneva or Discord, and 3) A group chat on WhatsApp. Use the space to encourage one another and share updates on advancements, new ideas, tips, outcomes, wins, dilemmas, and anything else related to your daily experiences navigating AI. It’s a beautiful way to facilitate connection and community learning, which helps make the journey a little less lonely.
Just for Fun
Read, watch, or listen to these pieces of content to get the tea on all things tech and the future of AI.
- Read: Ben’s Bites (Samyutha’s rec)
- Watch: Coded Bias on Netflix (Tazin’s rec)
- Listen: Hard Fork (my rec)
That’s all from me. You got this.