I got lucky. I graduated from business school the year the internet was born, and managed to land a consulting gig at Apple to work in their “new media” division. Apple was lost, but I was at least positioned in the biggest tech wave ever – the internet.
Sure, I worked hard. But I was also in the right place at the right time. I was lucky that a massive wave of opportunity and wealth creation was gathering steam. I positioned myself in that wave and rode it for the next few decades of my career.
Another career-defining wave is here: generative AI. AI is what the internet was 30 years ago. And just like with the internet, people who join “the AI class” now will get higher compensation, faster promotions, less stress, and maybe even time back.
If you’re ambitious, your biggest priority right now should be getting into the AI class. Here’s my 10-minute pitch on why.
Difficult to master + high impact = career-defining skill
Career-defining skills have two components:
They’re high impact. Workers with these skills have more job opportunities, faster promotions, higher compensation, and greater impact at work. These workers are 10x more valuable because they accomplish better work faster than their peers.
They’re difficult to master. The harder a skill is to master, the fewer people will be willing to do it. Think coding in the late 90s. High impact skills that are difficult to master create a talent deficit, which creates better opportunities for people with these skills.
Why AI will be a “career-defining” skill
Individuals using AI are more productive and produce better work
13 months ago, OpenAI released the first public version of ChatGPT. Since then, countless studies have emerged demonstrating AI’s impact on productivity and quality.
- In July, MIT researchers recruited 450 knowledge workers and gave half access to ChatGPT. Users with access to AI completed writing tasks 40% faster than those not using AI, and the quality of their work increased 18%.
- Also in July, Wharton and Cornell Tech researchers measured the speed and quality of product ideas generated by AI vs. MBA students. Not only did ChatGPT generate product ideas much more quickly than students – ChatGPT’s ideas were of higher quality as measured in purchase-intent surveys.
- In October, HBS and Wharton partnered with BCG to study the impacts of AI on nearly 800 BCG consultants. Again, half were given access to AI. And again, those with access to AI were faster and better – completing consulting tasks 25% faster and at 40% better quality than those without access.
AI is difficult to master right now
There are three key reasons why learning and using AI isn’t easy right now.
1. The technology has flaws (e.g. hallucinations)
AI is a beta technology that’s been released as a general purpose technology. The UI of platforms like ChatGPT, Claude, or Perplexity isn’t always intuitive. These LLMs time out, have unexplained bugs, and work great some days and not others.
And today’s LLMs occasionally “hallucinate” or make up answers. This means that depending on the platform you’re using, 3-10% of AI’s responses (excluding Google’s Palm LLM) are made up by the platform.
In 12-18 months, we’d expect to see the rate of hallucinations diminished or solved by LLMs. But in the meantime, this creates friction. AI users have to spot check their work, run queries through multiple LLMs, and still rely on humans to validate and gut check responses.
2. Its capabilities are changing fast
Every time you use AI, you’re using the worst AI you will ever use. Here’s an example from ChatGPT. In 13 months, ChatGPT has gone from simple text generation to real-time research, data analysis, code and image generation, and more.
Technologies that change fast are difficult and frustrating to master. In July, I tried to use AI to write the first draft of my team’s performance reviews. It was terrible. In November, ChatGPT’s output was okay and Claude’s was great. But most people don’t have the patience or time to try that use case again after it fails once.
3. People are telling you it’s a waste of time
It’s easier to be a skeptic right now. Criticizing AI from a distance makes you feel smart, without the discomfort of learning something new or taking a risk. You might hear from your friends, “AI is a waste of time / going to take our jobs / going to ruin society” – or hear from your company, “Don’t use AI on company time.” It takes a lot of conviction to block out those voices and do it anyway.
What the AI class will look like
Because of this powerful combination – huge impact + hard to master – an AI class will emerge.
The AI class will be:
- Role- and level-agnostic. Interns and CEOs will be in the AI class – in fact, more interns than CEOs will likely join the AI class since employees entering the workforce today will be “AI native.”
- Less anxious and more confident around AI. AI natives will see AI as their superpower that increases their value, rather than as a threat that replaces them.
- Less mired in busy work. The AI class will be more strategic because they’ll have more time for strategic work.
- Able to produce better ideas and better strategies. The AI class will have a co-strategist and co-creative (AI) who can come up with endless ideas and gut-check their strategies.
We think these will be the people who get more raises, promotions, and projects to own over the next 12 months.
5 steps to join the AI class
If we’ve convinced you – here’s how to get started.
1. Choose your go-to LLM
First, you need to choose which LLM you’ll use. We’d start by paying $20/month for access to ChatGPT-4 and using the free version of Claude by Anthropic.
2. Set up your custom instructions
Once you’ve onboarded to ChatGPT, you’ll also want to set up your custom instructions. This feature is only available via ChatGPT right now, and allows you to give GPT context that it remembers across every interaction you have with the platform.
Think of this as onboarding a new teammate. Explain what GPT should know about you – your role, industry you work in, challenges you’re facing, what you’ll often be using GPT for. You can read more advice on this here.
3. Do five drills to get comfortable
Do five AI drills to get used to interacting with an LLM and understand its range of capabilities.
- Upload a document. Attach a file and ask ChatGPT or Claude “Create an executive summary of this report.”
- Generate an image. Ask ChatGPT to “create an image of a purple giraffe in the style of an impressionist painting.”
- Analyze an image. Upload a picture of a houseplant from your house and ask ChatGPT “what type of plant is this?”
- Query the web. Ask ChatGPT “how many users does ChatGpT have as of December 2023?”
- Generate an idea. Ask Claude or ChatGPT “Give me 5 ideas for high protein, gluten free dinner recipes.”
4. Find your use cases.
AI can augment two types of tasks or workflows – high manpower and high brain power tasks.
High manpower tasks are repetitive tasks you perform over and over again. Think generating templatized weekly emails, reviewing legal contracts, customer call prep, and weekly or monthly status updates.
High brain power tasks occur less frequently, but carry more weight. They’re important tasks that require high quality thinking, and can usually benefit from a second opinion. Think proposing a new initiative, deciding which product features to build next, or launching a new vertical.
To identify ways you could use AI, think of high manpower and high brain power tasks in your day-to-day life. Here’s an example from our COO. Each of these tasks could be augmented by AI.
5. Invest 10 hours…then 15 minutes per day.
Spend 10 hours next week playing with Chat GPT-4 and Claude. After 10 hours, evaluate what you learned.
- Which use cases are no-brainers?
- Which have promise, but aren’t working quite yet?
- What should you keep doing by yourself for now?
Once you’ve identified 1-2 use cases that work, use AI every day for 15 minutes. That’s 3% of your workday. Find the time to get confident with and fluent with AI. It’s the only way you’ll propel yourself into the AI class.
Right now, 14,000 people in the US have “prompt writing” or “prompt engineering” listed as a skill on their LinkedIn profile. That’s 0.3% of the workforce. Next year, that percentage will be 10x. This will be the AI Class.
Get your 10 hours under your belt, then decide whether you should invest another 15 minutes per day (aka, join the AI class). This investment is 3% of your working hours in 2024. It’s a small investment with big potential payoff. This is a career-defining wave. We want you on it.