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Three Workplace Trends Every High Schooler Should Prepare For

When Malia Obama elected to take a gap year between graduating high school and attending Harvard University, the news made headlines across the nation. While her famous father was the principal reason the media took notice, her decision also sparked a broader conversation about the predetermined educational and career trajectories that high-achieving American students are expected to pursue.

3/21/17 Malia Obama is seen during her gap year on her way to work in New York City. photocredit: Star Max/IPx

Ms. Obama represents an increasing number of high school students who are pursuing alternative opportunities in their educational paths. Availing themselves of an array of options – from gap years to enrichment programs – precocious teenagers are noticing prevalent trends in the professional world — and are actively preparing for them during their pre-college years.

Here are three examples of business-world trends that ambitious high school students can act on, now, to prepare themselves for optimal career success.

1. The Rise of Automation and Artificial Intelligence

By the time today’s high school freshmen enter the workforce, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) may have replaced half of all worker activities, according to a McKinsey report, which could compel up to one-third of the American workforce to switch careers.

With AI threatening to replace many of the technical functions of today’s workers, how can tomorrow’s workers prepare? The answer rests in focusing on the development of soft skills and emotional intelligence. “Workers of the future will spend more time on activities that machines are less capable of, such as managing people, applying expertise, and communicating with others,” explains McKinsey.

“The skills and capabilities required will also shift, requiring more social and emotional skills and more advanced cognitive capabilities.”

In the future landscape of work, possessing sophisticated technical skills will not be sufficient to ensure professional success.