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careerThis guest post was written by oDesk CEO Gary Swart.

Next year we may not be commuting to work in flying cars yet, but it won’t really matter—many of us won’t be commuting to work at all. It’s no secret that telecommuting, flexible work arrangements, distributed teams and even entirely virtual companies have exploded over the past few years. We’re bringing the work to the workers, reversing the almost antiquated model of bringing workers to the work. And in doing so, the way we work is changing rapidly, with everything from organizational structures and team workflows to career paths and education undergoing radical shifts.

Here are four trends I believe we’ll see in 2013:

Specialists will dominate the job market

In the past, being highly specialized in one thing wasn’t usually viable; there just wasn’t enough volume to support it. Today, the Internet is cracking open the potential market available to specialists, creating a long tail of opportunity that not only supports them but seeks them out. Just as created a market for lesser-known books, online workplaces are doing the same for specific experts not commonly available in many local markets.For example, Toronto entrepreneur Sima Gandhi needed a Portuguese translator this year to help with business she was doing in Angola. While finding such a specific and somewhat rare skill was challenging locally, she was able to find a translator online who actually lives in Portugal. The working relationship has already lasted for half a year, and is a win for Sima—who found her specialized worker—as well as for her contractor, who is now a resource for someone halfway around the world.

In 2013, deeper focus will be considered basic career guidance, especially as higher demand for specialization leads to higher compensation.

Custom catered education

To support this career specialization, education will become more customized as well—it will be broken down into smaller, more focused units of learning. We’ve already witnessed the rise of online coursework (as seen in Coursera and Khan Academy), and 2013 will see the emergence of extremely short-term online courses and trainings in very specific skill sets (such as through and Code Academy). This shift towards modular, highly personalized education will enable professionals to learn the specialized skills they’ll need to be competitive and keep pace with the rapidly changing skills landscape.

Big use of big data powering agile staffing

To stay competitive, businesses are moving faster than ever, and creating flexible teams that they can adapt as dynamics change. However, this “need for speed” has to be balanced with process analysis if a business is going to be both fast and successful. Businesses that are using big data to streamline their processes will start applying this analysis to hiring and managing. In 2013, analytics-driven HR will become an important way for companies to gauge the effectiveness of things like team structure, individual progress, collaboration tools, workflows and decision-making processes, and working relationships between team members. Examining data on team interactions and outcomes will help teams keep moving in the right direction even while sprinting.

A new disruptive skill will emerge

If next year will be the year of specialization, what will be the next big skill to specialize in? It likely doesn’t exist yet. Look at mobile apps, for example, and you can see how quickly high-demand skills take off. I work for online workplace oDesk, and while in Q3 2008, businesses spent $62,500 on mobile app development through the site; in Q3 2012, they spent $6.3 million, and that’s still growing at a rate of 133 percent year-over-year.

Interestingly enough, two of the biggest growth skills we’re seeing on oDesk right now are HR (at 272 percent growth this year) and statistical analysis (at 190 percent growth this year), already bearing out the trend towards analytics-driven hiring and managing. In fact, we’ve even seen job posts in those categories that are as granular as a “LinkedIn Specialist” or “Yelp Researcher & Analyst.”Career success today is about watching skills as they emerge, customizing your education, and not being afraid to dive into that niche specialty you’ve always been interested in — it could be the big skill of tomorrow.

photo credit: Alex E. Proimos via photopin cc

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