Where the Hell is ...


The New York Times published a feature, “Old Skills, New Career,” on Friday that examines the question on everyone’s mind, perhaps with the exception of stand-up comics and UFC fighters.

Will robots or some form of automation replace me?


The story paints a gloomy picture for those with skills projected to lose the battle against computerized brethren:

“Even if workers want to learn new skills and find new occupations, there is no streamlined way to do so. People procrastinate, inaccurately assess their own abilities and are unaware of what other jobs entail, according to behavioral economists. The United States spends a fraction of what other developed countries do on labor market adjustment programs like job counseling and retraining. Assistance is piecemeal, and many people who qualify don’t use it.”

Naturally, I’m keen to know if there’s a future in public relations.

I think there is.

Sure, the stamina of a computer might come in handy when rewriting a news release for the 14th time. And a computer isn’t going to chirp when a senior executive adds a few adjectives like “revolutionary” and “cutting-edge” to the release.

But could a computer have figured out a way to address debacle after debacle at Uber and communicate its story to the outside world in a way that didn’t tank its reputation and send a flood of customers to Lyft? OK … that’s a poor example.

One more time —

Let’s see a computer land a client story in TechCrunch with news of a paltry VC investment of $3M and founders who didn’t graduate from Harvard or Stanford or the Indian Institute of Technology.

Feeling more confident, I turn my attention to the chart that consumes over half the real estate of the NYT Business Day section cover. I appreciate the simplicity in the data below. Blue means the paychecks will keep coming and the pinkish red means you need a Plan B.

New York Times old skills chart

Unfortunately, editorial at the NYT decided to not include PR. The chart includes ticket scalpers, stonemasons and elevator repairmen (shouldn’t this read elevator repair people?), but no sign of PR.

What makes this err in judgment all the more egregious is the horizontal axis balances “more emphasis on communication and critical thinking” with “more emphasis on physical work.”

If the ability to communicate is one of the macro variables that determines whether your career will have staying power, you would think the communications career path would make the chart.

At the risk of going Oliver Stone on you, I think there’s something going on here.

I just don’t know what.

Side note: If you go to the online version of the article, the chart is connected to the Labor Department’s database allowing you to plug in any job. If the government data is to be believed, PR practitioners are in good shape. I’m not going to research the future of real estate developers in New York City, however.


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