Am I a Knowledge Worker?

You must have heard that knowledge workers are in demand on the job market. Are you one? Find out!

To write this article, I had to use my brain power rather than my muscles. First, I had to research the topic and read many articles, blogs and studies. Then I had to organize, combine and weight the facts and gain insights from them. Finally, I had to decide what I wanted to convey to you, the reader.

Writing a text is a creative process that requires knowledge. Are writers knowledge workers, then?

Thinking for a Living

The term “knowledge worker” was coined in 1959 by the Austrian-American management consultant and author Peter Drucker. He referred to people who create value with their heads, not their hands. They think for a living, their primary capital is knowledge.

Knowledge workers, as we understand them today, apply their theoretical and analytical knowledge to develop products and services. They have acquired their knowledge through formal training. Many have a college or university degree.

The Characteristics

Knowledge workers have these typical characteristics:

  • They learn continuously in order to keep their knowledge up to date.
  • They continuously communicate and exchange information with their peers, managers, customers and other relevant persons.
  • They apply convergent and divergent thinking to answer simple or complex questions that arise in daily work. Convergent thinking means the ability to give the "correct" answer to standard questions that do not require significant creativity. Divergent thinking is a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions.
  • They adapt to change and remain agile in the face of new challenges.
  • They solve complex problems in creative ways.
  • They need to collaborate in order to achieve their goals.
  • They manage themselves and are able to work relatively independently.
  • They motivate themselves to find new information and knowledge and apply it.

To achieve all this knowledge worker should be curious, intelligent, communicative, responsible, confident and self-aware.

In Demand in Different Fields

Knowledge workers have become more and more important in a working world where manual work and routine activities are decreasing. Here follow some typical occupational fields and professions where knowledge workers are in demand:

  • Technology: programmer, web designer, system analyst
  • Finance: accountant, analyst, investor
  • Healthcare: physician, pharmacist, medical researcher
  • Design: engineer, architect, inventor
  • Information: writer, teacher, lawyer

We Are All Knowledge Workers

At the beginning of this article, I asked: are writers knowledge workers? Figuring in the list above they obviously are. But what about all the occupational fields and professions that are not listed above? Is there no need for knowledge workers in agriculture or gastronomy?

But of course! In the modern world of work, it makes little sense to distinguish knowledge workers from other workers. Knowledge work is in demand in every job. Only the ratio between knowledge work and routine work may vary. You are a knowledge worker as much as me or the president of the USA.

From Knowledge Worker to Learning Worker

Now before you sit back and relax, we have some bad news for you: Knowledge workers may be on the way out. The job market is increasingly demanding a new category of professionals: learning workers.

Must you become a learning worker? Learn all it in our article “Learning Is Becoming an Integral Part of Work”.


Hansjörg Schmid

Hansjörg Schmid