Future of Work???

Updated: Jun 26, 2021

By Stella Yoh and Lucy Lu



Modern Horror Story


You’ve heard it before. AI, automation, and big data is going to take over our jobs – yes, even the white-collar ones.


These news headlines about the Future of Work are like modern horror stories to the ears of social science graduates. For a long time, us social scientists were considered the most well-rounded, strategy-thinking, analytical human beings in the eyes of employers. In this human-made world, who better to hire than those who studied human sciences?


Say good-bye to those good days. Thanks to AI and data science, computers now officially understand humans better than we ever can. Let’s be real, we just can’t talk about humans without machine-generated data anymore.


Needless to say, technology has radically changed the job market. The traits used to distinguish social scientists are no longer under our monopoly. In fact, they have become pre-requisites for all disciplines of today’s agile thinking workforce.


Although social scientists still make excellent analytic thinkers, these traits alone now seem to worth less in the job market.


Compare an average salary of STEM major recent grad vs. social science grad. While governments and corporations are literally fighting over to retain top STEM talents, luring them with paychecks, work permits, scholarships, etc., what do social science graduates get? (debt, most likely).

Not So Fun-employment


Every year, more than 46,000 students(in the UK) graduate with an advanced degree in social sciences. Many of them experience difficulties in finding the job worth their investment.

Part of this phenomenon is that students are becoming pickier, and for a good reason. More and more millennials and gen-Z are looking for jobs with impact and meaning. Meaning, they don’t want just any 9-5 jobs.


But there is also a structural issue. Even if they were to find a good opportunity, the skill sets they learned in school don’t directly match those required by the employers. This is especially true for industries with a “non-conventional” career path and/or “difficult to break into.”


Consider two different majors: Accounting and International Development Studies.

Not that the accounting industry isn’t “difficult to break into,” but the skill sets learned and required are relatively straightforward. If you want to go into accounting, your best bet is to study accounting skills and become an accountant.


In International Development, it’s not that clear. First of all, there’s no one degree that can get you into Development. Doctors, lawyers, architects, and graphic designers can all work in Development.


Second of all, let’s say that you were so passionate about Development that you studied Development Studies. You graduate as an excellent generalist but with little proof of really demonstrating how skilled you are to employers.


The fastest way that generalists can demonstrate their skills is through direct work experience – the one thing that recent grads don’t have (and thus the chicken or the egg problem).


Big-name institutions like the World Bank and the UN are notoriously difficult to break into, as they mostly recruit senior hires and PhD holders. Often, the only window of opportunity for the young and inexperienced is internships with little to no pay -- which not everyone can afford.


On top of that, the Development industry has no conventional career paths. One could join an impact startup, become a research fellow, go into PhD… the list could go on.

So how does one know where to start? And how many of these job paths are already preferring automation and/or STEM majors over social science graduates?


The result is batches of mission-driven social science graduates every year, who not only have a difficult time knowing where to start but also selling their generalist strengths in this fast-changing job market.


It’s about time we really think about this problem. We must think about the long-term Future of Work for social scientists.


So what is there to be done??


Don't worry the RE: Project got your back!! Our solution… Education and Reskilling!


Is it that what we learn in school are no longer relevant, or no longer as valuable as before?

Universities must seriously think about the skills they teach to their students. Aside from learning theories and analyses, what else must students learn in order to be competitive in the job market? What hard skills and modes of thinking must one harbor?


University education also must go hand-in-hand with career services. Academic education can no longer be separated from the “worldly” things of the job market. Strategy and interaction with the real world is key for young generalists to shine – and this can be taught and encouraged from early years.


Those who have already been educated in the conventional system must then be re-skilled. Recent grads must learn how to create their personal niche, their personal product and strategy of their career path. In order to do so, it is no longer necessary to kill for an unpaid internship in Geneva.


Mentorship is now more important than ever – but it can’t be limited to senior experts giving advice to juniors. While previous generations can provide us with valuable insights coming from seniority, often the job markets they faced when they were younger were radically different from the conditions today. To those who’s already had a secure job for decades, “agile learning” and “gig economy” may not seem as relatable.


That is exactly why our founders Lucy Lu and Stella Yoh created the RE: Project in November 2019! The RE: Project is a career-building platform and mentorship community for globally-minded students and young professionals working in international affairs, development and other social science-related fields to better prepare them for the future of work.


We observed the growing frustration among social science graduates during their job search as well as career building. From personal experience, we understand the magic power of proper mentorship and guidance in career development. That is why we wish to help more people harness the underutilized resources of professional mentorship!


At the RE: Project, our mission is to re-think, re-skill, and re-imagine the future of work for those in social science-related fields, with a focus on International Affairs and Development.


We offer tailored career support by creating curated real-life, authentic content generated by real people of the millennial generation working in the industries. Practitioners with 4–7 years of experience can offer as many relevant insights (or more!) as 50-year-old CEOs and Directors about how to break into the industry.

This way, young job seekers can interact with mentors through us!


We seek to help millennials and Gen Zs not only find jobs but build dynamic, “future proof” careers. We offer an active platform that demystifies career possibilities, helps build networks, and supports re-skilling for a changing job market.

To demystifies career possibilities, we partnered with LSE Generate on a special series to promote entrepreneurship as a great alternative career path. In our Entrepreneurship Special Series "Meet the founders", we interviewed LSE Alumni (Bilal Bin Saqib, Jaron Soh, Yohan Iddawela, Josephine Liang, and Stephanie Cantor ) who have used their entrepreneurial expertise to help others during #COVID19! All the founders shared their entrepreneurial path to success as well as their tips for young entrepreneurs!


We also interviewed a few more amazing entrepreneurs such as Mari- Anne Chikerema Chiromo, Baiqu Gonkar, and Tedd George. They all shared amazing advice about having an entrepreneurial mindset, time management, and work-life balance, which all are important to entrepreneurial success!


To explore all kinds of career paths for social science graduates, we seek to cover a wide range of career possibilities! In addition to talking to mentors from the conventional organizations (large INGOs, think tank, and consulting firms) of the international development sector, we will have content coming up about working in environmental sustainability, local and international law, journalism, urban planning, grassroots local advocacy groups, government, lobbying firms, educational institutions, the art world, as well as being a freelancer!


At our core, we seek to reduce growing unemployment among young social scientists in an increasingly technologized job market. Our cutting-edge content allows our community members to stay current and learn from experts at the forefront of their industry.

In February 2020, when China went into full-on Lockdown, our founder Lucy Lu who was in China at the time foreseen the significant impact that COVID-19 would have on the job market globally. Thus, the RE: Project was among one of the first career networks to start a special content series that explores how COVID-19 affects the career prospect for those in the field of International Affairs and Development.


We have collaborated with the LSE Department of International Development on the special COVID series.


In the series, we not only interviewed mentors such as Mario Ferro and Tedd Georgen about navigating uncertainty from previous crises; we also asked Samanee Mahbub to tell us more about how she managed to find her job during COVID-19.


In addition, we collaborated with Tetra Tech International Development Europe’s amazing HR experts, Cécile Abraham-Pasquier and Olivia Zeltner on an interactive Q&A session about HOW TO GET HIRED in Development Consulting Post-COVID.


Development consulting/finance is another area many of our community members are interested in, so we interviewed Joel Moktar about Career In Emerging Markets During A Post COVID Era and Dezhi Yu about Tips on How to Set Foot into Development Finance.


For those interested in a career in academia, we talked to Dr. Romina Istratii about Pursuing A Decolonial Academic Career Path in Times of Crises. Our guest blogger Sara Estevez Cores a PhD candidate from LSE also shared with us about 5 Things You MUST Consider Before Getting Into A PhD Program.


Another one of our core mission is to raise awareness of diversity, inclusion, and intersectionality in the International development field.

Thus, we partnered up with WIAN | The Women in International Affairs Network to create a podcast interview series about the career experiences of remarkable women in the international development and humanitarian sectors.


We also welcomed a diversity and Inclusion champion Mari- Anne Chikerema Chiromo to talk about navigating the UK job market and how to make yourself stand out in the job pool as international students and minorities.


We will advance this initiative in the future by featuring content on other diversity and Inclusion topics such as LGBT+, disability, POCs, and content with a Global South Focus!


To support our re-skilling initiative, we ran mentor-led skill development workshops.

The key objective of the RE: Project mentor-led career skill development workshop is to assist students and early professionals to navigate real and presumed obstacles in their careers.

We hope to offer students, recent graduates and young professionals opportunities to develop their skills, grow their network, seek advice, and discuss the challenges and opportunities that they encounter in their line of work or in their efforts to secure a job, switch career, re-skill or up-skill to prepare themselves for the future of work.  


So far, we have run 2 very successful workshops where all tickets were sold out on the first day. We will have more interesting workshops coming soon!



All in all, we know the future of work could be a modern horror story for many in the social science fields, but don't worry, we are here to help you to re-think, re-skill, and re-imagine the future of work!







Lastly, we just want to thank all the RE: Project team, our amazing mentors, and all of our community members for all your support!! We could not have made it this far without all of you!!


So excited for all the future possibilities of the RE: Project!!

 


For more interesting content on career building in international development/social science/humanity fields:

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