As Artificial Intelligence in the form of ChatGPT and similar arrived on South African shores, the newly accessible technology rapidly started making waves in workplaces throughout the country, with uncertainty about its challenges and opportunities at various levels of an organisation infiltrating discussion daily. While companies are at this stage still considering how they can harness AI to improve processes, productivity and the bottom line, there is real concern among employees about what this warp speed new development might mean for their career prospects.
“It is true that, just like with new technologies in the past, AI will most certainly lead to attrition of certain jobs going forward. However, just as with past technological advances – which frankly has been happening since the industrial revolution – new sectors and jobs will be created. Forward-thinking people are already imagining the possibilities that accessible AI will have in every area of work and business,” says leadership expert Advaita Naidoo, Africa MD at Jack Hammer Global, Africa’s largest executive search firm.
Naidoo says that while the extent of the impact of AI on specific careers and fields, and how the world of work in general is going to shape up in coming years can’t yet be fully understood, individuals have to start exploring this new terrain even in the absence of a map.
“Regardless of your role, start understanding and investigating how AI can be used to supplement, augment or enhance your work, so that at the very least you’re contributing to the conversation, instead of being a nay-sayer or ostrich with your head in the sand,” Naidoo says.
“You might not yet know what the actual impact is in your domain of expertise, but by staying ahead of the curve of new developments, you will be well positioned to respond efficiently and effectively when the landscape becomes clearer, having empowered yourself along the way instead of adopting a wait-and-see approach.”
As an example, Naidoo notes, there has been a massive upswing in demand for Prompt Engineers in the past few weeks – a position that wasn’t even part of the mainstream lexicon two months ago. In layman’s terms, a Prompt Engineer is someone who creates the prompts required for an AI model to perform a task. The better the prompts, the better the AI response.
“Ultimately, professionals should approach the AI question not from a position of fear that they will be out-automated, but rather from the position that they should now develop their skillset so that they can incorporate new technology to enhance and augment their professional competitiveness,” says Naidoo.
She says understanding how AI is changing an industry is especially useful for those interviewing for new positions, as providing thoughtful insights during the interview process may very likely make them stand out from their peers and give them the edge.
“Although it may not be easy or familiar, investigating the impact of AI is necessary to set yourself apart from others in your field.”
This can be done, for instance, by attending webinars, discussion groups, learning sessions, or watching YouTube videos – all of them free resources that can help you understand how to use AI in your industry and achieve your goals.
Naidoo says while continuing to develop their topic expertise as well as boosting their technological proficiency, employees should focus on developing their uniquely human skills.
“There has never been a better motivation for developing exceptional communication and relational skills, honing leadership capabilities and fine-tuning one’s capacity to leverage data-driven insights for business and people impact.”