The Top Five Trends In The Future Of Work

(the following post is a synopsis of an interview that first appeared in Authority Magazine (1/23/22) with Loralyn Mears, Ph.D., the Founder of STEERus, the world’s first soft skills academy. You can read the full interview here.

There have been major disruptions in recent years that promise to change the very nature of work. From the ongoing shifts caused by the COVID19 pandemic, the impacts caused by automation, and other possible disruptions to the status quo, many wonder what the future holds in terms of employment. For example, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute that estimated automation will eliminate 73 million jobs by 2030.

What do you expect to be the major disruptions for employers in the next 10-15 years? How should employers pivot to adapt to these disruptions?

Employers have lost control. It’s a gig economy and it’s up to the workforce — not the employer — when it comes to who works for whom. Employers are going to have to change their internal practices as well as policies to accommodate the flexibility that workers now demand. It’s going to require routine internal evaluation and audits for succession planning and job casting that evolves from title-and role-based to skills-based. Upskilling needs to be embraced in a big way if employers want to retain the people that they have versus incurring the cost, and pain, of recruiting, onboarding, and developing fresh every time that they want to shift gears or do something new.

Despite the doom and gloom predictions, there are, and likely still will be, jobs available. How do you see job seekers having to change their approaches to finding not only employment but employment that fits their talents and interests?

I think that generalists need to become specialists in a given niche, then upskill to retrain themselves to become specialists in another niche when the original one becomes overcrowded or displaced by whatever else is bright and shiny. Generalists would be valued if employers adopted a skills-forward approach to employment. But they don’t. So job seekers need to be true to themselves, accept what they cannot change, and flex to change whatever they can so that they can find meaningful work, even if it requires doing a not-so-great interim thing.

The statistics of artificial intelligence and automation eliminating millions of jobs appear frightening to some. For example, Walmart aims to eliminate cashiers altogether and Dominos is instituting pizza delivery via driverless vehicles. How should people plan their careers such that they can hedge their bets against being replaced by automation or robots?

What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support the fundamental changes to work?

Health insurance companies need to embrace the gig worker. Ditto for the Department of Labor when it comes to unemployment benefits. Job-sharing and episodic employment, which will cycle relative to the employee’s changing personal situation, will need to be embraced. I predict that we’ll be operating more on a project-based and team-based, specific to the needs of that project versus role-based specific to the needs of the company, will be how we move forward.

What are your “Top 5 Trends To Watch In the Future of Work?”


But it also shifts from a mentality of evaluating who on person’s team is most likely to replace their leader and becomes skills-centric. Is that employee doing the project or job that’s best suited to their skills and interests? If not, why not? From there, it will be easier to identify career advancement paths and successors if the work performed is more tightly tied to the skills required to do that work. And, likely boost retention rates.


Cross-departmental collaboration isn’t getting it done. We need to go immersive and fully integrate as project-based teams assigned to a team leader — not to different department heads. With fractional CFOs and so on becoming commonplace, even the once-heralded back-office job functions and departments are at risk of going the way of the dinosaur. Companies that build flexibility into every aspect of their operations stand a greater likelihood of succeeding versus those that don’t. For example, a company may wish to develop an adjacent product and test out a new market. The entire project could be outsourced to freelancers; even manufacturing could be outsourced, ditto for marketing and sales. If the product fails, the whole team can be disbanded. This kind of flexibility will allow companies to experiment at a reduced cost and lower risk profile. Doing so fosters innovation and helps fuel business survival.


Sure, today’s job descriptions all list requirements for skills, both must-have and desired, but those collections of skills are generally standard for that given role. As we evolve into a flexible economy, employers need to learn to flex with changes in the marketplace. Having job titles A,B,C, etc. employed because that’s how it’s “always been done” thwarts the employer’s ability to innovate and remain relevant. Hiring people based on skill sets versus outdated job titles and their prescriptive requirements is where we’re headed. A skills-forward organizational design is likely to replace our traditional job titles-centric design.


Employers, just like their employees, need to acquire new skills to keep up with the changes in customer demands and preferences. Employers that offer upskilling, like professional and personal development, training, group workshops, and so on, as a perk will be rewarded with their ability to recruit and retain talent at a higher level than their competitors who do not offer upskilling as a benefit. Of course, employees can take on upskilling on their own to reinvent themselves but who’s going to want to do that when an employer provides it for you at no cost and pays you to take the time you need to learn those new skills? Maybe this will bring back employee loyalty.


As low-to-no code tech solutions and non-degree certifications multiply, just about anyone in the world with a laptop and internet can find work. We’ve already seen the gig economy booming with numerous platforms brokering deals between freelancers and clients, but it hasn’t tilted all the way. At least not yet. As the world decentralizes, moves increasingly online, and equity manifests itself more significantly into every aspect of our daily lives, we’re on the path to Giggerville. One day, we’ll all be there, living, working, and playing between gigs and gigging it — where we live will no longer matter. Employers will become clients. We’ll simply have Skill Set 1 or 119 or 544 — it won’t matter. And we’ll find a client who wants that skill set for a certain period of time, until they no longer want it. Then we’ll either upskill or find the next client that wants Skill Set 119. And then the next one … and the next one. Organizations will need to adapt to operating in Giggerville because all their employees already have a side-hustle. We’re in the era of “My Agenda” where there are now billions of agendas. Even a decade ago, there were only a few more agendas than there were companies — but all that’s changed in a global gig economy. The exam question of the Great Reset has become, “How do you advance your agenda when everyone on your team is advancing their own?”

MSt Launches New YouTube Channel

We are excited to share that My Software Tutor has created a new YouTube channel. It contains quick tips to help you get better at Excel and PPT. Please check out this Excel tip covering the DAYS function. We invite you to subscribe to be notified when new videos are posted.

Degree Inflation – Will It Impact Your Career?

Let’s start this post with a statement. Anyone who aspires to earn a college degree should have the opportunity. In fact, a recent report from the US Census indicated the percentage of adults 25+ with a four-year degree increased to 32.1%. This represents a five-point increase over ther past 15 years. When associate degrees are added, the number swells to 42%.

However, “like to have” and “want to have” do not necessarily equate to “need to have.” Have you heard of the term “degree inflation?” There’s a growing likelihood it is affecting many careers. The impact may not be positive.

What is Degree Inflation?

The increasing demand for a four-year college degree as a requirement for jobs that historically do not require one.

Why is this an issue? Historically, middle skill jobs (i.e.: sales representative, electrician, dental hygienist, paralegal, police officer) required applicants to have a high school diploma but not a college degree. Over the last few years, many employers have begun to stipulate college degrees as a baseline education requirement for these roles. Why?

The Impact on employers

There’s a growing belief that a college degree future-proofs an employee (and their position) even if it’s not core to job deliverables. This raises an important question. Will you be satisfied with a middle skill position over the long term, given the higher aspirational expectations created by a college degree? If not, the company has to return to the hiring process far sooner (and more frequently) than planned. This is a significant time/resource commitment. Degree inflation can impact companies whether they recognize it or not.

The Impact on Employees

Degree inflation also creates multiple challenges for you as a prospective employee. First, you may feel newfound pressure to continue the education experience as a means to the desired end. The truth is not everyone is cut out to be a long-term student in the formal sense of the word. Many people thrive in traditional learning environments. Others, not so much.

More years in school also means increased financial obligations, likely in the form of student loans. This can become an unforeseen long-term burden, especially given the pay scale of most middle skill positions. Here are some disturbing facts about the state of student debt today:

  • Student loan debt in the US totals $1.75 trillion and is growing 6X faster than the nation’s economy.
  • 43.4 million borrowers have federal student loan debt.
  • Public university students borrows $30,030, on average, to attain a bachelor’s degree.
  • The average federal student loan debt balance is $37,113.
  • This debt increases to  $40,904 when private loan debt is included.

Source: Melanie Hanson, “Student Loan Debt Statistics”, January 27, 2022

Who Benefits?

Finally, there is the question of whether college educated individuals are a better fit for middle skill jobs. In an opinion piece written for the Daily Emerald (University of Oregon’s student newspaper), they said “when it comes to middle skill jobs, there is no noticeable difference between the productivity of those who graduated college and those who did not. In fact, those without a college degree on average have longer retention and are more focused than those with a bachelor’s. Employers may think they are saving time and money when they hire college educated applicants in order to avoid training employees. In reality, the same time and money is spent down the line when these employees don’t stick around.”

While earning a bachelor’s degree is an admirable goal and often fulfills an emotional need, if it’s not necessary for a specific career path, why require it? Meanwhile, make sure you have the practical, useful training (hard skills and soft skills) to set yourself up for career success.

Image: Mia McCall/Daily Emerald

Presentation Zen: What is Good Presentation Design?

From the Presentation Zen blog by Garr Reynolds. Visit the Presentation Zen store on Amazon.

Context Matters

As far as design is concerned, it is useful not to think in terms of right or wrong, but rather in terms of what is appropriate or inappropriate. That is, is it appropriate or inappropriate for a particular context? Good and Bad are indeed terms we use when talking about design — including PowerPoint/Keynote slides — but I’m personally cautious of this kind of thinking, especially when judging a design without its full context available. So much depends on how the visual is placed within the context of the presentation, and the content and objectives of that particular presentation are of paramount concern. Without a good knowledge of the place and circumstance, and the content and context of a presentation, it is impossible to say this is appropriate and that is inappropriate.

Simple But Not Simplistic

If there is one important precept worth following, it is the idea of simplicity. The best visuals are often ones designed with an eye toward simplicity. Yet, this says nothing about the specifics of a visual presentation. That will depend on the content and context. For example, even the best visuals used in support of a presentation for one audience on, say, quantum mechanics may appear complicated and confusing to a different audience.

Simplicity is often used as a means to greater clarity. However, simplicity can also be viewed as a consequence. A consequence, that is, of our careful efforts to craft a story and create supporting visuals that focus on our audience’s needs in a clear and meaningful way. Ok, simplicity is great you say, but how simple? What is the formula for simplicity? If you can’t give me concrete examples, you might say, at least give me a formula for making powerful, simple visuals. But do static formulas for achieving simplicity exist?

(Read his entire blog post here)

You’re 50+ and Looking For a Job. Now What??

This post was written for our partners at iRelaunch, a career reentry consulting, training, and events company focused on bringing professionals back into the workforce after an extended leave.

The job search process is one of the more daunting experiences most of us will have in our careers. It can become even more challenging when you have entered 50+ territory. While age discrimination is illegal under the ADEA act of 1967, that does not mean it does not exist, whether real or perceived. According to an analysis by the AARP Public Policy Institute in March 2020, job seekers 55+ spent 19.4% longer looking for work compared to all adults. This COVID world will likely add yet another layer of complexity and uncertainty.

Whether you looking to re-enter the job market after several years (or more), have recently chosen to travel down a different career path or have had that decision made for you, finding a new employment can be downright overwhelming. As a mature, experienced job seeker, you have much to offer. You strongly believe there’s no replacement for experience. Presumptions aside, it remains critically important to present your best, most marketable self. Here are some useful ideas to think about.

  • Know Your Audience – If you are interviewing with someone who is younger than you, don’t push too hard on your years of experience. They already know all about having read your resume. The risk is it could make the hiring manager feel as if you are gunning for their job. In such circumstances, the last thing they will do is bring you into the fold. Instead…
  • Consider The Consigliere Role – Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) provided sound advice and counsel to Don Corleone in The Godfather. He was highly valued and secure in his position. You can parlay this type of role in a similar manner. Let the hiring manager know you are there to support her/him. Their success is your success. This might not be how you’ve defined yourself in the past, but it could be the ticket to your future.
  • Be Prepared to Manage A Smaller (Or No) Team – Many experienced execs have managed teams of various sizes. Sometimes this might have been a very large team and included people who would take care of projects like building PowerPoint presentations and crunching numbers in Excel. The current (and likely) future reality is most companies are running extremely lean and overhead costs are more scrutinized than ever. Going forward, you may have direct ownership of tasks that historically would have been the purview of others. Alternately…
  • Upskill Your Hard Skills, Especially Tech – Age bias towards mature job seekers often comes in the form of perceived lack of comfort with technology. This is the polar opposite of younger team members who are digital natives. BE PREPARED. Ensure you have practical, functional skills necessary for the position. It does not mean you have to re-invent yourself into a tech guru. Rather, demonstrate you (1) keep up with industry-specific software, (2) understand the role social media plays for your company (as well as the competition) and most importantly, (3) ensure you have the critical computer skills to get the job done. This means having a solid grasp on processes that have been automated since you were last working in this space. 

While the corporate world has changed, it has not changed that much. At a baseline level, most companies on the Forbes Global 2000 likely still use Microsoft Office. That means you want to be comfortable with Word, Outlook, Excel, and PowerPoint. 

You likely know how to use Word and Outlook. Do you know Excel and PPT or are you still “faking it until you make it?” At a minimum, you should be able to:

  • Enter data into a spreadsheet
  • Use and modify basic formulas
  • Create simple tables and charts
  • Understand what a pivot table does

  • Create and delete PPT slides
  • Modify slides to fit your specific objectives.
  • Work with data to create simple tables and charts
  • Manage a deck to suit your presentation style (animations, timing, etc.).

This is not intended as a complete list. There are many other elements of Excel and PPT that will enhance your productivity. However, this starting point should give you something to consider and (if needed) seek out training like what is offered by My Software Tutor. At the end of the day, the more complete your skills package is, the greater likelihood you will reach your career objectives.

Synchronous vs Asynchronous Learning

Asynchronous vs Synchronous chart

The eLearning space continues to grow at a rapid pace. It is expected to reach over USD $1 trillion by 2027. This has been driven by increasing demand for technology-enabled solutions. There are two primary forms of eLearning: synchronous and asynchronous. While the difference between the two may be one letter, the meanings are polar opposite.

Synchronous Learning

Synchronous learning means that you will attend classes together with other learners at the same time. There is an established start and end time and most importantly, an instructor is present. There are three critical distinctions. The first is learners get to ask questions in real-time. Second, they benefit from having the instructor explain something in multiple ways (learning does not always happen on the first try). Third, someone too shy to ask a question will benefit when another asks what was on their mind. This point is extremely relevant because human nature often dictates that we “review” our question mentally before verbalizing it. This ensures it passes the “looking good/sounding smart” test.

Asynchronous Learning

Asynchronous learning allows you to learn on your own schedule. It means you can access the course materials, often in module form, whenever you choose. The motivation to complete the coursework is entirely self-generated. This form of learning is generally executed by pre-recorded videos that teach key concepts. You can watch them as many times as desired. Learners are directed to complete assignments and/or tests to determine whether they have learned the material. The feedback is usually immediate.

Pros & Cons

There are benefits and challenges to both forms of learning. The convenience of asynchronous learning may be appealing to some learners. In fact, over 90% of eLearning is asynchronous. My Software Tutor has adopted an alternative point-of-view that makes us different. We recognize there is a material subset of adult learners whose educational experiences have primarily been enshrined in real-time communication with a live instructor. There is a strong feeling of comfort knowing they can ask questions in real-time without judgment. In fact, one of the most common comments we receive is our level of patience when a learner is struggling to understand something. MST has established a successful methodology to help people “turn on their learning lightbulb.” We look forward to seeing you in a future course.

The PowerPoint Origin Story

History of PowerPoint


The development of the software that would later become PowerPoint began in 1984. The project was led by Robert Gaskins at a Silicon Valley startup called Forethought. The original product description was called “Presentation Graphics for Overhead Projection.” Development focused on the Mac platform.

However, the team needed additional money to further fund development. This became the first investment for Apple’s venture fund called the Strategic Investment Group. Then Apple CEO John Skully reportedly said “We see desktop presentation as potentially a bigger market for Apple than desktop publishing.”

The intention was to launch the product under the name Presenter. However, that name was not available. They considered “SlideMaker” and “OverheadMaker.” According to Gaskins, he randomly came up with the term “powerpoint” in the shower. While not anyone’s first choice, his colleague Glenn Hobin had coincidentally seen an airport sign with the words “POWER POINT”). Fate directed them to keep the name. It was changed to a single word with an upper-case P to be consistent with the Mac software naming convention.


PowerPoint was introduced in April 1987 exclusively for Mac computers. Concurrently, Microsoft had initiated an internal project to create presentation software. They contemplated an acquisition to speed up the process. When the idea of the Forethought purchase was brought to Bill Gates, he responded “No, no, no, no, no, that’s just a feature of Microsoft Word, just put it into Word.”

To his credit, Gates listened to the team. Based on an initial 10,000 unit sales success, Microsoft purchased the company three months later (July 1987) for $14M. This marked Microsoft’s first significant acquisition. Within two years, it was integrated into the Office suite (1989 for Mac, 1990 for Windows) and the rest is history.

Over the past few decades, PowerPoint’s market share has been as high as 95%. While Apple’s Keynote and Google Slides have chipped away at PowerPoint’s market dominance. it is believed more than 35 million PPT presentations are still made every day by an estimated 500 million users worldwide.

Microsoft Excel Can Help You Get A Job Offer

In today’s increasingly competitive business environment (made even more challenging due to COVID-19), securing a job offer has become extremely difficult. The pandemic has caused the loss of many jobs at all levels, further fueling competition. The key in a crowded field of interviewees is to differentiate yourself from others. One great way is to tout your skills, a critical factor for most employers. In many roles, one of the most important skillsets is the Microsoft Office Suite, specifically Microsoft Excel. Proficiency with this software can be critical to navigating the interview process and securing a job offer.

Questions they might ask

Interviewers could ask you about functionality in Excel. This might include experience using specific functions and/or formulas such as: how the $ symbols are used across data sets in Excel? What is VLOOKUP? What does a pivot table do? Be ready with short, accurate answers to help you stand out among most prospective employers.

A simple explanation for each is as follows. The $ symbol is used to lock absolute references in place, which is important for certain types of calculations. VLOOKUP is a function that allows you to search for specific data points across large sets to draw specific insights.  A pivot table is an essential tool to summarize, aggregate, reorganize, sort, group, count, average, or compute segments of data sourced from a much larger dataset. All of these topics are covered in MST’s Excel curriculum.


Excel knowledge, specifically around formulas, functions and terms is important to gaining a valuable advantage in the interview process. Whether you are learning about this material for the first time or have a base understanding and would benefit from a refresher, there are many resources at your disposal. You could easily watch videos on YouTube. However, most are taught by techies so they may not be easily understood by all viewers. Many learners fare better with live classes rather than pre-recorded lectures. It allows them to ask questions directly and interact in real time with a teacher. An effective teaching methodology and compelling instructor can make all the difference. Whatever path works for you, choose it sooner than later. It may just help you get the edge for that next job.

(Guest post by Jordan Barry, former MST intern)

Strong Excel Knowledge Is Valuable to A Paralegal Career

Microsoft Office, especially Excel and Word, continue to be ubiquitous in most law firms. Many courts require filings to be made in Word format. Lawyers, and especially paralegals, use Excel for a range of operational and project specific processes. Yet sometimes this program does not get the respect it deserves. Many paralegals use Excel all the time. Here is a partial list of uses:

  • Organizing invoices & financial statements
  • Generating timeline exhibits as trial evidence
  • Managing and merging contact files
  • Creating charts and tables for various type of reports
  • Tracking amortization payments in real estate cases
  • Analyzing large data sets with pivot tables, slicers and pivot charts

As you can see, Excel is not just for adding up numbers in columns. Its uses range from organizing data to analyzing relationships between the datasets. And while Excel is not going to replace more expensive specialty litigation software, it does increase a paralegal’s productivity and efficiency. Here are some other related use cases:

  • Calendaring future court dates
  • Creating billable time databases
  • Analyzing expansive privilege logs
  • Organizing a searchable Bates Number database
  • Maintaining a database of relevant case documents

At the end of the day, increasing one’s knowledge, strengthening current skills and adding new ones makes any paralegal more valuable to attorneys and the law firm itself. It also breeds confidence, provides a competitive edge and increases marketability which can increase opportunities for raises and promotions.

10 Tips For Finding A New Job During A Pandemic Or Recession

6. Upskill, Upskill, Upskill!

You have identified one or more skills gaps that need filling to move forward in your career. It’s now a good idea to establish a pattern of proactively upskilling. Make use of the various related resources out there – including online – that could help you to achieve it. Upskilling will help to improve your chances of finding a new job. This will make you more employable and demonstrate to employers your commitment to lifelong learning.

Even for those currently self-isolating or otherwise working from home, there are various ways to upskill, including reading business books, listening to podcasts, attending virtual events, conferences and webinars, and enrolling in relevant online courses. Now could also be a good time to take advantage of any training and development resources your employer offers you. Read the entire article here.