There’s no question that artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly transforming the working world. According to Microsoft’s 2023 Work Trend Index, 82 percent of workforce leaders say their employees will need new skills to be prepared for the growth of AI.
While AI will affect employees at all levels of the organization, knowledge workers—especially those in entry-level roles—may be especially affected. That’s because AI can easily handle many entry-level tasks.
To better understand how AI will impact these key team members, Workplace Intelligence partnered with edX to survey 800 knowledge workers and 800 C-Suite executives, including more than 500 CEOs.
We found that more than eight out of 10 executives believe the nature of entry-level knowledge worker jobs will completely shift. For example, these employees will no longer have to handle tedious or administrative tasks.
Even more notably, executives estimate that their organization will eliminate well over half (56 percent) of these roles within the next five years because of AI. The C-Suite also predicts that there will be higher performance expectations and more competition for entry-level roles.
With this in mind, those entering the workforce should consider how they can prepare for the AI-driven workplace. Here’s how the leaders we surveyed say these workers should adapt:
1. Learn How to Use AI
AI skills can include technical skills (e.g., knowing how to program AI products) as well as non-technical skills (e.g., knowing how to use generative AI tools). In our research, 60 percent of the C-Suite feel that entry-level knowledge workers will need to master the use of AI, especially prompt engineering.
Prompt engineering is the process of creating instructions or questions, called prompts, to guide the behavior and output of generative AI tools. Examples of these tools include ChatGPT and OpenAI, which are typically used to generate written content such as articles, social media posts, essays, code and emails.
For entry-level workers, learning this skill could unlock significant potential for career growth. Prompt engineers are in high demand—a recent Washington Post article called this “Tech’s hottest new job,” and these roles can pay up to $335,000 a year.
2. Develop Other Skills That Will Further Their Career
Although learning AI skills will be key, 66 percent of the C-Suite we surveyed say entry-level knowledge workers should develop other skills beyond AI to advance their careers. Workers who possess a wide range of marketable skills will be less likely to have their jobs completely replaced due to AI.
Of course, these skills will vary by company and job type. However, LinkedIn says that the top 10 most in-demand skills for 2023 include the following:
- Customer service
- Project management
- Analytical skills
It’s true that some of these skills could eventually be automated by AI. Regardless, it’s a good idea for knowledge workers to hone their capabilities in these areas—especially skills that are difficult for AI to replicate.
For example, in LinkedIn’s Future of Work Report—AI at Work, 92 percent of executives at the moment agree that people skills are more important than ever.
3. Get Hands-On Experience in Their Profession
One issue that could arise is that entry-level knowledge workers may become too dependent on AI. In my company’s research with edX, the majority of executives say that because of this over-reliance, entry-level knowledge workers won’t develop key skills for their profession (85 percent) and they’ll struggle to advance their careers (77 percent).
The legal industry could be especially affected by new AI technologies. Researchers at Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and New York University have concluded that the industry most exposed to new AI is “legal services.” Economists at Goldman Sachs estimate that 44 percent of legal work could be automated.
Already, AI tools can handle reading, summarizing and filing documents, tasks ordinarily relegated to junior attorneys. Legal firms will need to provide ways for these professionals to get experience in the legal field, or they’ll risk having a less-skilled pipeline of attorneys further down the line.
Being Proactive in Tomorrow’s AI-Driven Workplace
There’s no question that entry-level knowledge workers will need to take a great deal of initiative to adapt to AI. However, companies must also increase their support for these team members as they navigate the complexities of incorporating new technologies into their roles.
Organizations also need to ensure that entry-level employees get the experience they need to build a strong foundation in their line of work. As the legal industry example illustrates, organizations that don’t provide ways for these workers to develop their careers may soon find themselves without the right talent for mid-level and senior-level roles.