Since early March 2020:
Millions of employees shifted to remote work in a matter of weeks.
The unemployment rate skyrocketed to 4.4% (and it hasn’t peaked) and many are gig economy workers, self-employed, and small business owners.
And, recent labor statistics show that the average worker changes jobs 12 times in a lifetime.
We’re living in the age of accelerations, a term coined by Thomas Friedman. Multiple accelerations in technology, climate, and globalization are happening concurrently and faster than ever before. Society and our economy are being reshaped right before our very eyes.
This also implies that work, jobs, and the workforce are being reshaped. In fact, the entire concept of professional identity is being destabilized. New forms of professional identity are emerging — along with hybrid jobs is the emergence of hybrid professionals.
With the coronavirus pandemic, we’re being forced to dramatically shift the way we work. Post-COVID, the landscape of work is going to look different. Work will not return to the way it once was. The hybrid economy is upon us. So, how should we prepare?
The Hybrid Job Economy
Burning Glass Technologies compiles job market analytics. In 2019 they wrote a report on how “new skills are rewriting the DNA of the job market.” They described that jobs are essentially tasks that need to be completed, so why not look at the DNA of those tasks to understand what’s happening in the job market.
In doing this, they scored nearly a billion current and historical job postings to analyze trends. They scored jobs as more hybrid if:
“They required skills typically requested outside their occupation group.”
“They required skill clusters that often combine multiple functional domains (e.g. marketing automation software).”
“They required a larger set of distinct core skills and competencies.”
What Burning Glass found was that in today’s labor market “technology is mutating jobs into new, unexpected forms.”
The report stated:
More and more jobs are “hybrids,” combining skill sets that never used to be found in the same job, such as marketing and statistical analysis, or design and programming. Certain skills are acting as hybridizing forces, spreading across different roles. Fully one-quarter of all occupations in the U.S. economy show strong signs of hybridization, and they are almost universally the fastest-growing and highest-paying — and also the most resistant to automation. Some of these jobs are new, some are new versions of existing jobs, but all of them pose much different challenges for workers, students, employers, and educators.
Burning Glass found that hybrid jobs are becoming the highest-growing and highest in-demand, with projections for “very high” hybridization jobs estimated at 21% over the next 10 years, more than double the pace for jobs overall. Not all jobs in the job market will be hybridized, and there are different levels of hybridization within jobs. Some will be more hybrid than others.
It’s important to note that hybridization doesn’t mean more technology is involved. In fact, hybrid jobs tend to require a substantial amount of human talent in the areas of judgment and creativity, things that can’t easily be automated. If jobs are being hybridized, then professional identities are too. How should we refer to this new type of professional in the workforce?
Welcome the Hybrid Professional
Hybrid professionals blend dissimilar skills and traits across unrelated domains to achieve new forms of work. A marketer who is also a data scientist and a coder is a hybrid professional. Fields such as UI/UX is a whole new category that emerged at the intersections of technology, design, and user research.
Professional identity is a complex topic. We tend to associate a person’s identity with their occupation or industry and define them by that. Instead, professional identity is a social construct that’s based on how a person perceives themselves. That’s a significant difference .
A person who works in education doesn’t necessarily see themselves as a teacher or an administrator. They might be an online instructional designer or a translator of exceptional learner needs. These are identities that transcend typical boxes and include cross-disciplinary, ambiguous, and mixed skill sets. It’s not easy to write job descriptions for hybrid professionals or to even give them job titles.
In this age of accelerations, as we rewire the DNA of traditional jobs into hybrid ones, professionals can be both experts and generalists. Professional identity used to be binary — either an expert or a generalist. People with many identities were called jacks-of-all-trades, multi-talented, or polymaths. However, hybridity is the integration and weaving together of multiple identities, not just having multiple identities. Hybrids work from the intersections, and that’s where an entirely new type of identity exists, a hybrid one.
Hybrid professionals claim their multiple talents along with their passions, and mold it into something new, even developing their own hybrid title. A hybrid title is a way to declare themselves as a professional who does something novel, and it differentiates them from the rest of the workforce because they don’t sound like everyone else.
A Chief Edu-Agitator or a Motherhood Sanity Builder are examples of hybrid titles that give some familiar clues as to what they might do but also leaves a lot to the imagination. Hybrid titles like this beg for potential employers and clients to ask them for more information about themselves. Such titles are gateways for hybrid professionals to define and express themselves instead of being lumped together with colleagues. It’s the identity they wish to bring to the workforce instead of the one that was assigned to them.
Future of Work
Heather McGowan, a future of work strategist, shares an analogy of an iceberg to describe how she sees what’s important for the future of work. While skills are key, she says we focus on them too much. McGowan places skills at top of the iceberg since it’s the only part we see above the water.
McGowan places identity as a foundational element at the base of the iceberg, hidden from sight. She emphasizes that adaptive and resilient identity are at the base of everything. In her diagram, knowing one’s purpose and adapting along the way are what propel a strong workforce.
Futurists predict workers will potentially hold 17 jobs spanning across five sectors in one lifetime. As the economy shifts, new roles appear and old roles disappear. Workers must constantly evolve and merge skills and talents. Hybridity is becoming a critical asset to remaining relevant, not just a nice to have attribute.
In a post-COVID world, employers will be looking for people who continue to grow, gain new skills, and are able to adapt their talents into changing circumstances and workforce needs. The lifelong career is becoming a portfolio career, a non-linear path that’s uncertain and unpredictable. This requires workers to know how to easily articulate their hybridity — what makes them unique and competent at combining skills in ways that are unlike other workers. Hybridity will be a valuable commodity in a rapidly shifting, competitive global job market.
For more information on Sarabeth Berk and her work please visit her website: More Than My Title.
You can contact her at: email@example.com