When talking to young people who have grown up taking the internet for granted, it’s often difficult to get across to them just how different today’s world is from the one that previous generations knew – especially when it comes to job opportunities. Whether you’re seeking employment or looking to start up a business venture of your own, a wealth of new possibilities are open to you, rooted in technology. This is, of course, an ongoing process, and we still have to learn how to take full advantage of what’s out there. Understanding what’s changed so far helps us to anticipate the changes that might come next.
It’s tough to get a good job when you don’t have many qualifications, and difficult to move into the areas that interest you most if you can’t fit further study around your existing commitments. The internet has been a gamechanger where both these situations are concerned. If you need basic help with things like writing or math, there are lots of online tools to help you learn, and you can do so anonymously if you feel embarrassed about it. If you want to learn something more advanced, there’s a plethora of technical and academic courses available, most of which you can take at home during hours of your choosing. At a relatively low cost – or even for free – you can significantly improve your employability.
Matching the right people with the right jobs has become easier than ever thanks to the internet. It has made it possible for job hunters to search for suitable positions much more quickly and straightforwardly, and the fact that applications can be made more quickly has benefited both job hunters and employers. What’s more, you might not even need to apply for a job to find yourself offered an interview. Joanna Riley made use of the internet by developing an AI system that searches through thousands of online résumés to find the right candidates for particular jobs. With access to big data, it has learned to interpret subtle details in them more effectively than a human could. It not only finds suitable candidates more quickly, but it also finds ones who better fit individual workplace cultures.
As the response to the lockdown necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, the way the internet has developed in recent years means that it’s now possible to do a huge range of jobs from home. Ever-improving telecommuting platforms have been accompanied by improvements in the quality and affordability of hardware like webcams and microphones. Now that the wider public has had a crash course in using all this, the implications are clear. It’s likely to be used more and more for interviews, meetings and conferences, drastically reducing the need for travel, enabling people to work while commuting or on business trips, and meaning that many people can do most, or all, of their work remotely. This is particularly good news for people whose health problems, disabilities of care responsibilities have made it difficult for them to get suitable work in the past.
For those who have care responsibilities, need to undergo frequent medical procedures like dialysis or – like 20% of Americans – suffer from insomnia, having the option of working flexible hours makes jobs much more accessible. It’s also good news for those who simply want to enjoy a better work/life balance. A combination of telecommuting tools and tools for collaborative working, such as live shared documents, make it much easier to work this way within a team than it has ever been in the past.
No matter how flexible work becomes, there will always be people who find it impossible to work full-time – and there will always be those looking for part-time jobs to supplement their income. One of the great things about the internet is that, by making it easier than ever for businesses to outsource work, it has made it simpler for them to scale up as they grow, getting bits of work done where needed rather than having to take on additional full-time employees they can’t really afford. This means that there are a lot more part-time and freelance opportunities around, making it easier for the available work to fit the needs of the population.
All of these changes mean that work is now available to a greater range of people in a wider range of circumstances than ever before. As the internet develops further, it’s probable that it will also lead to changes in the nature of the work we do and the way we think about making a living. One thing is for certain – now that this much has changed, nothing will ever go back to the way it was before.