Convenor Keynote

Say HI to AI: artificial intelligence in career and career writing, Lawrence Arnold FRSA

The Convenor Keynote address at the 2023 award presentation for
The Australian Career Book Award – hosted by the Royal Society of Arts Oceania

The Australian Career Book Award – hosted by RSA Oceania started in 2017 and since then the Award Committee has assessed over forty career books across the genres that help ‘manage career and work life’ in our complex and ever-changing work environment. The Award Convenor delivered the online keynote address and announced the 2023 medalist in October 2023. The keynote is a personal reaction to AI in the career zone, and looks at the response of 2023 Finalist Book writers to growing AI issues.

 Artificial Intelligence is everywhere in our lives, and we barely notice it. When we do consider it, we tend to think the worst of it – unrelenting and threatening. Mentioning 2001 Space Odyessy will bring up one dominant image to the mind … and that image was my first psychological encounter with the spirit of AI.

Early AI

My first intellectual encounter with AI issues was in my Master Degree in Applied Linguistics. The subject was Computer Applications in Language Learning.  As an example of botched AI we examined a Bible translation from English into Russian. The phrase was ‘the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’. In the back-translation from Russian into English this came through as ‘The vodka is good, but the meat is off’. The whole class had a jolly old laugh at how incompetent AI translation was. Coincidently, I’m presently doing a Russian language course and thought I’d check out how AI handles this phrase 25 years after my first encounter. With the current AI system the phrase now comes through as,’The soul is wanting, but the fish is sick’. I get the spirit of the thing, but something is still lost in translation.

Present AI use

I confess that I use a translation site to check my Russian homework each week because it sometimes chooses verbs different from mine. I write it … but AI checks it. I’m then empowered to make another choice. I usually go with my first verb because  the other students will know it – I make a communication choice, but with AI I’m also learning more Russian. Control is a key issue in our AI interaction. We don’t want our lives controlled by Robo-cop, Robo-debt, Robo-recruiter, or Robo-HAL.

The writer response

So. How have career coaches, and career book writers, and particularly Finalist Book writers for Award Cycle 2023 responded to the rapid development of AI and the issues that arise? I think the career-community response has been ‘prompt and agile’ – and communicated well to our clients and readers.

Early on in the appearance of Applicant Tracking System software I attended a Career Development Association of Australia workshop on the early AI systems assessing resumes and cover letters. It was then up to the career coaches in the room to go off and develop solutions for our clients to improve their odds – and we did that! It was then up to career book writers to spread the word – and we did that. In 2017, I covered the topic in my second career book – The Australian Career Passport: Cross the career border with your core skills for work. In the introduction to a three-page list of ATS do’s and don’t’s I wrote:

The Applicant Tracking System revolution is disturbing everybody. I’m less concerned, because paradoxically it brings back good resume writing. In the ATS cosmos, resume writing has to be thoughtful, disciplined, and targeted at an audience for an outcome – like any good writing.

This shows that AI has been in the career culture for some years, and this year’s Award continues the ‘prompt and agile’ response to the big AI issues for readers.

AI and Finalist Books 2023

The 2023 Finalist Book writers cover not only resume presentation but bigger and wider issues.

Sue Ellson’s LinkedIn for me and my career or business lists a comprehensive set of tactics that will make the most of this universal communication platform. Sue’s book is not only an essential list of actions, but starts with a strategic approach. Readers need to decide why they are on LinkedIn, and what they want to get out of it. It also promotes an ethical approach that contributes to the tone of the whole platform.

As we speak, Robo-HAL is scouring professional recruiting platforms like LinkedIn and the EU platform hosting the workers of the largest economic union in the history of humanity. Knowing how to present to an AI system is crucial to getting off the ground into orbit. Sure, your professional network of real humans is still relevant – later in the flight. If HAL can’t see immediately how you contribute to the mission – you know how that’s dealt with.

Ralph Snider in How to find a job – common mistakes and how to correct them highlights some of the issues with chatbots:

Some chatbots may not understand abbreviations, slang, use of sarcasm, or ambiguous answers that could be misinterpreted.

He gives some clear advice on how a human can best present. The enduring issue is that AI systems don’t understand what they’re doing so can’t deploy emotion or empathy. In 2001, even when HAL was cutting the lifelines and lowering the oxygen, he never raised his voice.

Ian Allan’s The Job Hunting Book presents practical strategies for the reader, and also takes a digital step forward. In the section Avatars: a tool to understand an employer’s problems, hopes and dreams, he writes:

By going through the process of creating an avatar, you will discover which new skills you need to learn if you are to be a dream-hire. Whether you need to do additional training to bolster any weak areas. Whether your hiring manager has any pain points that you could help with.

These are good examples from award writers of ‘the prompt and the agile’ approach to the present and the possible future. The projected scenarios may endure, and readers may not all use the information, but they have the right to know.  And they’re certainly going to need that because the growing AI universe brings up other issues – seen and unseen.

AI intrusion and identity

There is a move afoot to control AI intrusion into the human space. I think the horse has bolted on this one and the AI Pegasus is cantering across the cosmos well ahead of Mercury, but one proposal is for ‘platforms’ to use a watermark to indicate that a digital communication is an AI production, or AI influenced. I have no idea how this would be enforced.

There are many more issues that will arise as we encounter more AI systems in our daily lives and work.

At a 2023 seminar at the Royal Society of Victoria ‘Reimagining Humanity in the Age of Generative AI’, the presenter Dr Muneera Bano pointed out some of the challenges of the AI data horde – incomplete, low quality, and biased, resulting in imperfect solutions. The AI final product has no internal quality control on the truth of its propositions, and the pronouncements should be treated as an opinion to be reviewed by the human generator. Presenting fake legal cases and citations to a real judge in a real court results in real trouble in the real world! To return to the lingo of the 1970s: Garbage In – Gargage Out.

These AI frameworks come from humans, are designed by humans, and are used by humans. So, you don’t lose your job from AI systems, but from a human boss! Jobs are shifting, not disappearing. Humans need to keep upskilling … in the areas where we have the competitive advantage – judgement, creativity, physical dexterity, and emotional intelligence.

One issue that could arise for the Award is writer identity. Many of us have started experimenting with ChatGPT. I recall a recent Linkedin post from Kathryn Jackson detailing her ChatGPT experiment. She ordered a short piece to turn her text into ‘something light-hearted’. The final piece was very good and fulfilled the brief well. It was engaging, with some cool phrases from an earlier era like ‘ fear not …’, and, ‘wait, there’s more … and, ‘It’s a game changer’. The style of the piece was totally consistent – and that’s what gave it away. I didn’t realise how inconsistent human writers are when we’re trying to be consistent!

If AI can generate a convincing short piece, it can generate a series of convincing short chapters … and that’s a book! If it helps Australians ‘manage career and work life’ – that’s a career book. However, I have total confidence that our Award Committee armed with highly-tuned award descriptors can deal with this.

All this is in the future, and I can state that this year all Finalist Writers are human … I’ve had coffee with many of them. The Award Committee is totally human, and the Award Convenor is all too human – the spirit is willing and the vodka is good!

It gives me great pleasure to announce that the 2023 medalist for The Australian Career Book Award – hosted by RSA Oceania is Dr Kirstin Ferguson AM

For Head & Heart – the art of modern leadership.

I congratulate Kirstin, on a book that concentrates on the human elements we need to thrive in the all too human world that we are creating.

I think the Award Committee liked the book for these reasons.

  • It doesn’t let us outsource our decisions to the higher-ups but supports us to step up to DIY leadership at our level in our work environment.
  • It deals in depth with issues that arise when we do this.
  • It draws attention to the role of leadership decisions in our own careers and of those around us.

I’d like to congratulate all Finalist Book writers on their massive achievement. I thank the Award Committee members for bringing their unique knowledge and experience to the Award every year. I thank Philipa Duthie FRSA and Mark Strachan FRSA for their support for the Award, and the Royal Society of Arts for having the vision from the past, into the present, and on to the future.

The Australian Career Book Award – hosted by the Royal Society of Arts Oceania

Finalist Books 2023

Ian Allan, The job hunting book: career mentoring and job seeking tips. 2022

Sue Ellson, LinkedIn for me and my career or business: Tried and True Tips and Techniques. 2023

Kirstin Ferguson, Head & heart: the art of modern leadership. 2023

Naishadh Gadani, The big book of career doodles: 87 visual ideas to inspire a great career. 2023

Jessica Hickman, The upstander leader: how to develop a speak-up culture. 2022

Leah Mether, Steer through the storm: how to communicate and lead courageously through change. 2023

Caroline Sandford, Love your career forever: a complete guide for your career journey. 2022

Ralph Snider, How to find a job: common mistakes and how to correct them. 2022

Karen Stein, Be your own leadership coach: self-coaching strategies to lead your way. 2023