For this particular event, they had invited clinical psychologist Wendy Mogel to speak. Mogel specializes in, “the protection and promotion of self-reliance, resilience, accountability and exuberance,” all qualities I think parents would agree are desirable. In the course of her talk, Mogel pinged deftly between anecdotes from her work with students and parents to Key and Peele sketches and, her personal favorite, headlines from The Onion. At one point, she spoke about the anxiety she hears from many parents, an anxiety that seems to be rooted in the lack of control parents have over their children. This often comes out in pressure to pick a certain major or a certain career. “But,” Mogel said, “we don’t know what skills are going to be required for 21st-century jobs; it might be robotics or it might be foraging, Mandarin or welding.”
I really appreciated Mogel saying this to a room full of parents and educators. I think we have a tendency to look at the current job market, see gaps, and tell people to go fill that gap. But the problem with that is that those predictions are only good for a short period of time. We are not very good, historically, at imagining the ways technology and policy will change our lives and our careers. Because of that, I’ve always advocated for investing in skills like close reading, making connections, and analyzing data. Time and time again, these kinds of high-level, abstract abilities sustain workers in a wide range of jobs, and provide a supportive foundation when people change careers. People are working more years than ever before, and the best way to prepare for that is to expect that things will change. So if you decide to study robotics in college, maybe take a foraging class too, just in case.