Skip to main content
Op Ed

How New Graduates Can Thrive in a Workplace Dominated by AI

Deseret News

June 6, 2024

Dwight Eisenhower’s advice about plans and planning is still relevant today

On June 6, the world will mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings and the 40th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s 1984 “the Boys of Pont du Hoc” speech honoring those who helped turn back the Nazi threat on the beaches of Normandy. We are now as far from Reagan’s speech as the speech was from the landings it commemorated, an unsettling reminder of how our own events quickly becomes history.

D-Day’s architect, Dwight Eisenhower, famously said, “Plans are useless.But planning is essential.” That’s quite a statement coming from the man who oversaw Operation Overlord, the largest and most complex amphibious landing in history. How could the intricate plans and timetables required to pull off Normandy be useless? Is he saying he would have been just as successful by dumping 130,000 men and their equipment on the beaches and letting things play out? Not quite.

Eisenhower’s advice is rooted in a simple concept, namely that our plans — whether they are large or small — rarely survive contact with the world. Reality always gets a vote and an opportunity to scramble our assumptions and hopes. Changing circumstances have a way of reconfiguring our goals and strategies to accommodate new opportunities and threats. Planning is a process of discovering and understanding our assets and capabilities so that as conditions evolve we are better able to respond and adapt.

Fortunately, there are no Normandy landings on the horizon for the Class of 2024, but Eisenhower’s advice remains trenchant. The world of comparative stability we’ve known since the 1950s is giving way to an era of maximum change. Unsettled political conditions at home are mirrored in conflicts abroad. The integrated global economy is fraying at the same moment that technology, in the form of AI, is rewriting the rules of work and career. Plans conceptualized in 2016 when this year’s graduates started high school may not survive the turbulence ahead.

From the standpoint of jobs and careers, AI is the biggest unknown. Right now, the impact of AI is like a rumor: something big but undefined is coming and we have very little in the way of reliable information to describe what it is, how it will filter into the economy, and how transformative it will turn out to be. All we know for certain is that its effects on jobs and skills will be profound in ways both good and bad. This looming uncertainty puts a premium on planning in ways that help build adaptive capacity for individuals and organizations.

According to the recently published PwC AI Jobs Barometer, jobs requiring AI-related skills are growing 3.5 times faster than others across various industries, including finance, professional services and information technology. According to a study from last year, the effects of AI on jobs and skill is likely to be pervasive with 80% of jobs seeing at least some changes and 20% being largely rewritten, especially jobs in the knowledge and information sectors.

According to PwC’s estimate, this rising demand against a backdrop of comparatively rare skills has resulted in AI-related roles commanding a wage premium of up to 25%.For new graduates, getting ahead of that curve can help lay the groundwork for both higher incomes in the near future and provide a launching pad for AI-infused careers.

How can graduates develop AI-related skills?Fortunately, you don’t need to have majored in computer science.A growth mindset, built on curiosity, persistence and an honest assessment of strengths and weaknesses, is the most important prerequisite to thriving in an era of uncertainty and change.The Class of 2024 is one of the first cohorts for which lifelong learning is not a slogan but a requirement.

Fortunately, a plethora of free and low-cost educational options are helping to “democratize” AI skills and create access to continuous AI education. Google is offering a free, 10-hour introduction to AI for those who want to establish a foundation in the theory and use of the technology. You may even consider shelling out $20 a month for a ChatGPT 4 or Claude Pro subscription so you can learn how to code in a more interactive and personalized way.

Graduates who embrace lifelong learning will be better equipped to stay on the cutting edge of their profession.This lifelong learning should also include core non-cognitive or “soft” skills, which serve as the basis of other skills and continue to be in high demand generally.Automation is coming in a way we’ve never seen and to jobs and sectors who’ve never experienced it. In an economy like this, a college degree isn’t the end of education but the beginning.