Columbia Business School

The Future of Work

Presented by Columbia Business School

In a perfect world, the trend line of your career would go in one direction: up.

If only life were that predictable. “For MBAs it’s an interesting time,” said Agnès Cosier-Loigerot, Global Director, Career Development Centre, INSEAD. “The future of work is still uncertain in terms of what kinds of jobs we will be able to hold in 10 years.”

Still, inklings of the forces that will reshape the workplace are already perceptible, according to Cosier-Loigerot and her fellow panelists at a recent session on global career trends at the Columbia Business School Pan-European Reunion in Paris. They pointed to three developments that are likely to remake the world of work.

Soft Skills Meet Artificial Intelligence

It’s no secret that AI is seeping into nearly every corner of daily life, from suggesting music we might like to screening financial transactions for fraudulent activity. Where MBAs can add value, said panelists, is in marrying the capabilities of AI with human considerations of ethics and opportunity.

It takes discernment to tease out what, exactly, a raft of data is saying and how it can be applied to tackle a business challenge, they noted.

“Because of the AI impact, leaders will have to be creative, critical thinkers and complex problem solvers,” she said. “MBAs excel at that.” Companies will be looking for this mix of mindset and technical ability, she added, so it behooves job seekers to present a cogent story about how they can deliver both.

Look Beyond the Usual Titles

Cosier-Loigerot is also seeing new types of jobs cropping up. For example, she’s being asked to recruit chiefs of staff to CEOs of startups, a prestigious role in which the person who fills it is positioned almost as a co-creator. “MBAs are so well rounded, they can really bring a good complementary skill set” to the position, she noted.

Other up-and-coming jobs: international growth manager, and roles around change management, such as chief digital transformation officer. The best way to unearth these opportunities, says Cosier-Loigerot, is to talk to people holding similar roles within your alumni community. (Hint: search for the words “change” or “transformation” in job titles in your alumni directory.)

Know Thyself, Now More Than Ever

There’s a scarcity of talent out there, which is good news for job hunters — in a way. When candidates are sought after and multiple offers are on the table, it’s imperative to do due diligence on not only the salary and responsibilities but also the culture of the company itself.

“Culture is the tacit social order of an organization: It shapes attitudes and behaviors in wide-ranging and durable way,” said Caroline Apffel ’95, a consultant in the global Technology, Media & Telecommunications and Technology Officers practices at SpencerStuart. “Cultural norms define what is encouraged, discouraged, accepted, or rejected within a group.” GE, for example, is known for having a strong cultural identity centered around operational excellence. Amazon, meanwhile, is in a different culture bucket; it’s famous for being fast and nimble.

Job candidates with whom Appfel meets fall into two distinct camps when it comes to culture. “There are people who will absolutely make a decision based on culture. It’s fundamental to them,” she said. “The others don’t give it a thought.”

But the cost of willful ignorance can be high. Senior executives who leave early usually do so between 15 and 23 months into the job, she noted — and it’s not because they couldn’t cut it skills-wise.

“When we ask the client what happened, they almost invariaby say the person did a good job and was clearly competent, but he or she wasn’t aligned with our culture,” Appfel noted.

As disruption in all its forms — technological, economic, political — continues to accelerate, it’s more important than ever to understand what you bring — and don’t bring — to the marketplace. “It’s always a question of being crystal-clear about what you are very good at,” said Nathalie Lambert, Managing Partner, EMA Partners.

“You don’t need to be different,” she added. “You just need to be aligned with your own drivers and know what motivates you.”

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