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MASS EXODUS: 3 million Aussies make major career move

Lucy Dean
·4-min read
Crowd of people walking over the crosswalk at sunset. Sydney, Australia
Millions of Australians plan on making a major move. Image: Getty

As many as 3.3 million Australians are planning a career change following the coronavirus pandemic, although many are feeling anxious about it, new research reveals.

Of those, 1.38 million are Millennials (24 to 39 in 2020) and 1.31 million are from Generation X (40 to 55), the ING Future Focus research developed with futurist Anders Sörman-Nilsson revealed. All up, that’s around one-in-three Australian workers and 45 per cent of Millennial workers.

However, while millions plan to change careers, 32 per cent are bracing for few job opportunities and 23 per cent feel anxious about actually finding work. And 15 per cent say they do not feel secure in their job, while a quarter of us are unsure that we have the skills required for the future workforce.

Many workers are considering new paths after losing work: 600,000 Australians were pushed out of the workforce in April, in the worst monthly unemployment increase in the country’s history.

“Covid-19 has made many Aussies rethink their work choice with some questioning whether their existing skills will always be needed while others have spent time dreaming about a change in career direction,” said head of retail banking, Melanie Evans.

“Millennials and those who fall into Generation X are at points in their life where stable incomes are really important. Many millennials are experiencing big life changes like marriage, children and home ownership. For Generation X they’re probably paying off mortgages and planning for their retirement.”

Evans said Australians are nervous about the future, but many are using the social distancing period to re-skill or up-skill.

What do Australians need for the future?

More than one-in-four (28 per cent) of Australians are learning new skills to either progress their careers or just do something new. But skilling-up has an extra bonus, Evans said.

“This increase in learning will help people feel more optimistic about the future of work beyond Covid-19.”

According to the report, the top in-demand skills are:

• Innovation and creativity

• Digital/data literacy

• Emotional intelligence

• Constant curiosity and adaptability

• Pattern recognition/critical thinking

• Virtual leadership

• Storytelling

These skills come down to two broader trends: the rise of “STEMpathy” and society’s evolving relationship with technology.

“Whilst STEM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education and coding have been touted as the skills of the future on a national level, the long-term trend suggests that we are better off reviving the at-times forgotten secrets of the right brain,” the researchers said.

That means that as artificial intelligence increasingly takes over work like fraud detection, data analytics and sequencing, humans will be required to tap into their essential creativity, innovation, empathy and emotional intelligence.

“The right brain is artistic, design-oriented, pattern recognising, futuristic, intuitive, feeling-based, empathetic and synthesizing. This fuzzy logic has not been fully grasped by machines yet and presents opportunities for us mere mortals. Skills that cannot yet be digitised have a premium on them.”

And in regards to technology, the coronavirus pandemic has given a glimpse of what the future workforce looks like, as we transition to remote work.

“Quarantine constraints seem to have unleashed our creativity and boosted a more human relationship with technology, which has become the key communication infrastructure in an age where we have been physically constrained,” the report reads.

STEMpathy will be the trick to getting hired, as emotional intelligence is something that just can’t be programmed.

“It will be important for people to have multiple skill sets that combine creativity and entrepreneurship with digital technologies.”

And workers who adapt quickly and seek out learning outside of their current role will become increasingly important.

The researchers suggested those looking to up-skill check out LinkedIn Learning, YouTube, Coursera and for those looking for a more rigorous training experience, TAFE courses and short-term university courses.

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