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LinkedIn chief economist Karin Kimbrough: Get ready for relationship economy


The era of the knowledge economy is giving way to a new paradigm where relationships hold the key to success, according to LinkedIn’s chief economist, Karin Kimbrough.

Speaking to Fortune at Cannes Lions on emerging trends in the job market now that AI adoption among global businesses is in full swing, Kimbrough highlighted a significant shift from a heavily weighted knowledge-based edge to one where interpersonal skills are equally paramount.

“We’ve been in an economy where knowledge was your power, your ability to put your hands on different information quickly and then synthesize it, or deliver it, was really your extra edge,” Kimbrough explained, who has been at the Microsoft-owned professional social media platform since 2020.

“And I think we’re moving to a point where we see relationships as being part of the other side of that coin. So almost the relationship economy.”

Kimbrough emphasized that while knowledge remains crucial, the growing importance of relationships is undeniable.

“What we’re seeing is obviously an increasing demand for AI skills, whether they’re AI expertise skills or AI aptitude skills. But so is the demand for the human or people skills, the ones that actually tell you: ‘I have judgment, I can problem solve, I have critical thinking, I can negotiate’,” she noted.

This dual rise in demand for both AI and human skills indicates a broader trend.

“The anxiety around replacement is probably not the case, and frankly, it’s very rare in history that technology replaces jobs in a widespread fashion. It’s more likely you just rotate what you’re doing within your job,” Kimbrough said.

The number 1 interview question of 2024

LinkedIn’s chief operating officer, Dan Shapero, pointed out a pivotal change in interview dynamics due to the rapid adoption of artificial intelligence worldwide.

“The number one interview question of 2024 is ‘tell me about how you use AI in your job?’” Shapero revealed.

This question aims to help leaders identify candidates who are adept at integrating new technologies into their work, separating them from those who are hesitant to adopt such changes.

Shapero added: “You’re going to see organizations trying to transition their employees to learn how to use these skills and hire people that are more comfortable with these things in the hiring process.”

AI adoption is a mindset—not just for Gen Z

Kimbrough also dispelled the notion that AI adoption is generational.

“It’s not that it’s only Gen Z’s using it and the boomers are terrified. It’s really more of a mindset. And you see as many folks in the older generations as younger generations experimenting and playing around with it,” she said.

The underlying message from both Kimbrough and Shappero is clear: adaptability to new technologies like AI is crucial. “It’s not necessarily that AI is taking your job away, but someone in your profession that’s using AI. This is what history tells us. The people that learn how to use new technology tend to thrive, and the people who don’t tend to stumble,” Shappero warned.

He encouraged people to start small with AI to overcome their initial apprehensions.

“These are very simple human questions that people can start with that don’t take them directly into their career space but will start to help you understand what this technology can and can’t do,” Shappero advised.


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