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R. Karl Hebenstreit on Future-proofing Your Career.


R. Karl Hebenstreit is an international speaker, author, executive coach, and leadership/team/organization development consultant operating though his LLC, Perform & Function.


What's your career journey been like and how has that led you to be an authority on this topic?

My career journey started in the economically-troubled early 1990s. After graduating college and being unable to secure a full-time job (after 100+ interviews), I turned to the temp agencies I worked through over school breaks to find me a long-term temporary job in my field of interest (Human Resources) with a company headquartered in the area (thinking this would be my best bet to get a foot in the door, prove myself, then take a "permanent" role with them). That led to a 2-year stint at Merck, rotating through all departments of HR as I covered maternity leaves and filled gaps, while pursuing my Master of Science in HR Management at night. That led to my being recruited away from Merck by Bellcore (who recruited graduates of the program I attended at Rutgers), and then AT&T. Upon being laid off from AT&T after the 9/11 economic downturn, I was fortunate to be able to secure a part-time consulting gig with one of AT&T's vendors, Lee Hecht Harrison, where I learned and practiced career management consulting. Networking led to my next full-time job as an HR Manager with Cushman & Wakefield, followed by roles at Kaiser Permanente, EMC Corporation, Bio-Rad, and finally Genentech/Roche (all, ironically, procured via online submissions). Throughout my on-going coaching practice, I have helped hundreds of people identify their purpose, core motivations, and career aspirations, leading to the attainment of their career goals.


Are there specific jobs in your industry at higher risk of AI disruption?

We have already seen many customer service jobs be "augmented" through the use of AI-enabled chatbots. I believe that will increase.


What skills do you think young professionals should learn to stay employable in a world with AI?

Emotional intelligence will be very difficult to replicate in AI. This human skill is a key determinant of leadership success. Young professionals would be wise to focus on what makes them unique as human beings, and how they can be the best and most empathic leader. A person's passion and their unique way of expressing and leveraging it will help them remain happy, satisfied, engaged, and "employable" in a world with AI. I put "employable" in quotes, because it may be employed as an independent contractor/consultant/gig worker as opposed to traditional full-time headcount in an organization.


How can AI help business owners and executives make better decisions?

AI can help with taking care of routine, time-consuming tasks, remind business owners and executives of upcoming deadlines, meetings, etc.. and help draft communications to be used. This will free up business owners and executives for the more important and strategic components of their work.


What ethical issues should businesses consider when using AI?

Deep Fake, for sure. Creating an AI version of a person and using their intellectual property without their permission, and generating revenue that the person never sees. Improper use of data collected by AI (i.e., confidential data being shared, etc.).


How will AI impact leadership and management?

Hopefully as an augmentation and complement to their skills: performing administrative tasks, reviewing data to spot trends and themes and make the leader aware of them so they can pre-emptively and proactively address them, real-time prep for meetings, research consolidation, analysis, and recommendations; stakeholder analysis


What specific skills or roles do you think AI can't replace in your industry?

Leadership as a visionary, inspiring, caring role model. Roles that require true empathy for trust-building. Coaching at the C-suite level.


Finally, what does the future of work look like with automation and AI, and how can ambitious professionals thrive in this changing landscape?

We need to embrace technology and new advancements, including AI, with the caveat that it must be used as a supplement to make our lives easier and make us more effective in our roles; not replacing us. Ethical considerations must be taken into account and planned for. Ambitious professionals should approach with caution and weigh all factors before deciding to proceed with AI.


Where should people follow you to find out more about your work?



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