One of my favorite tweets of all-time was by Chris Dixon:

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I found the witty tongue-in-cheek tweet by the former entrepreneur-turned-venture-capitalist to be a profound statement about disruptive innovation.

As a tech entrepreneur I have a keen appreciation for what Uber has accomplished by dramatically improving upon the way something had always been done, yet the reality of technological evolution changing an entire industry practically overnight needs to garner more awareness.

If you haven’t noticed, the Internet and wave of technology innovation is accelerating. I was first introduced to this idea and deeply fascinated by the concepts popularized by futurist Ray Kurzweil in Transcedent Man and Singularity. While some of his predictions seem unfathomable to many, I believe there is no doubt we are beginning to see what he proposed as the Law of Accelerating Returns

“technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history.”

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This exciting technological age is already impacting the way we live and as we move forward it’s going to increasingly impact how we make a living.

The future workforce is going to look different than what it looks like today — dramatically different. Think we have a skills shortage now? Just wait until we get to 2020

We are a long way away from robots taking over the jobs that farmers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, real estate agents, marketers, sales reps, recruiters, administrators, and what every other profession does today, but we can no longer ignore the role technology is going to play and how that impacts career paths.

I’ve spent the last decade of my life working in technology startups. The majority of that time I’ve been studying the relationships between innovation, business models, professional development and many of the concepts in this post. I live and breathe this on the front lines every day in the HR Technology space while I’m talking to thousands of recruiting executives all across the country. Our team is so deeply immersed in this space; we could not be closer to the epicenter. It’s something I find fascinating, but also something I realize there isn’t a great deal of awareness about.

There is a riveting economic evolution building quietly under Main Street

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The middle class jobs are where the most disruption will occur

  • There will not be a single climactic event. The transition will take time, however it is well underway and the beginning stages are providing the most opportunity for career growth — particularly for those who can bridge the old world with the new.
  • The Internet has changed the game. Those who are most connected to the jobs and closest to the digital economy are going to be gaining the type of experience that has sustainable demand.
  • The Internet originally started out as a medium to communicate, entertain, consume and share content and it’s evolved to a point where web based technologies are embedded into the foundations across industry sectors and institutions. The next wave is going to go much deeper and start influencing how we do our daily jobs to a much larger degree.
  • The sheer velocity of this transition has not only created a talent shortage, but has caught traditional organizations off guard who are notoriously slow moving to adapt to change.
  • This is complicated. The majority of employers are struggling to understand what is actually happening. “Finding talent” is a top 3 priority for every organization, yet the scarcity in talent has more to do with our educational systems and professional training vs a lack of talented people.

If you want additional validation for how significant this shift is, take a moment to consider what the world’s leading professional site is doing with their largest acquisition in their history.

The real reason LinkedIn acquired Lynda

Linkedin’s CEO Jeff Weiner’s commented that it “fits the last piece of the puzzle.” What started out as a professional social network is morphing into a business that has visibility into the economic graph and the skills required to fill those roles. If our traditional educational systems were adequately preparing the workforce, do you think LinkedIn would have acquired Lynda for $1.5B and called it the final piece in the puzzle?

There are three core factors contributing to the underlying problem:

  1. Organizations aren’t adapting fast enough
  2. The skills required for the future aren’t being taught in today’s educational systems
  3. The delta between education costs vs the ROI of that education is getting too far out of balance

Mark Cuban has been outspoken in the past about the ROI of a college education and perhaps it’s time to take heed of his advice for those individuals and organizations considering where to invest in their future.

When you add these three factors together on top of the fact that student loans are now the second largest source of consumer debt it becomes more clear that LinkedIn is acting on the same type of market dynamics that helped Uber reshape transportation.

The technology age and law of accelerating returns are here to stay. Regardless of what field you are in, it’s time to start considering how that might change your career choices and approach to continuous learning or risk becoming obsolete, as stated recently by Josh Bersin. Those who understand and embrace this reality of continual learning will see perhaps the most dynamic and exciting career trajectories over the coming decades.

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