December 2016 Asia ACT writing essay sample

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Preparing for the Future

Since man has inhabited the earth, only one thing has always remained certain: change. What separates humans from animals is self-awareness and ability to alter their environment to enhance chances of survival. To subsist in the past, incessant preparation was imperative; but the most important factor for survival in today's world the ability to extemporaneously adapt to the unknown.

There is a certain amount of truth to the belief that preparation minimizes risk. Just several generations ago at the turn of the 20th century, it was common for workers to find a job that would lead to a lifelong career. How was this job initially found? Generally, through specific training and preparation to display enough competence to gain employment. Whether becoming a doctor, lawyer, factory worker, entertainer, etc., showing that one had prepared through proper training was the entry point to land a lifelong career with a company or government entity. Benefits packages and pensions were guaranteed after a fixed period of service was completed. This form of employment led to risk reduction and allowed people to afford a comfortable lifestyle while raising a family. The notion of education became the standard for preparation for the future, has steadily grown from 12 (high school diploma) to 16 years (college diploma) to 18 (post-graduate degree) during the 20th century. However, overpreparation for a career can quickly result in obsolescence (due to marketing or technological shifts) if the wrong path is chosen.

The the last two decades has turned the notion of preparation on its head. The free flow of information in cyberspace has made it simple for anyone to get an education or acquire skills on-demand. Furthermore, jobs that were once conducted by humans are now completed more effectively and efficiently by machines, completely changing the idea of lifelong employment by companies and governments. Others have lost their jobs and careers due to rapid market changes and globalization. For example, hundreds of thousands of workers that spent years preparing for a job in telecommunications in the 1980s and 1990s lost their jobs in the early 2000s during the proliferation of the Internet and VoIP technologies. Construction workers in the real estate industry lost their jobs after a market crash in the 2007, and many were never able to return to their previous occupations. The rate of change in the world has accelerated since the inception of the information age; old jobs are being destroyed and unprecedented jobs are being created every year. A case in point–the rise of mobile phone programmers becoming one of the most in-demand occupations is a phenomenon that developed in less than 10 years! If this isn't scary enough, election cycles, such as the recent election of Donald Trump, cause companies and markets to to rework domestic and international strategy and due to uncertainty (leading to layoffs, restructuring, etc.). The reality is that change is happening faster than ever before.

To thrive in today's world, young people should not be placing hope in preparing in the tradition sense of "go to school and get a good job". Jobs just don't last anymore. A better approach would be to learn to enjoy life while exploring unique skill sets that are transferrable across occupations – such as rapid learning, identifying emerging trends, developing general sales and entrepreneurial abilities, learning to quickly make friends and network well with others, etc. Learning how to interact and become adaptable to changes over time is of the essence. Young people today must be comfortable with uncertainty and the ability to change career trajectory or industries several times every decade or two, if not more.

To summarize, the world is rapidly changing; preparation that was once considered useful is much less so today. Taking time to enjoy life and find one's true passion is more important that attempting to "prepare" for what society thinks is best, because society itself cannot predict the future.

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