Note: Christine is under the weather so her friends and supporters are lining up to keep things fresh here on the blog. My name is Michael Martine of Remarkablogger with a guest post for you today. Please pardon my American spelling.
We’re going through more than just economic hardship. I’ve long believed that we’re going through a long-term economic sea-change. We’re not going to recover from this so much as reinvent ourselves. Turns out Richard Florida, author of Rise of the Creative Class, thinks along the same lines. His new book is called The Great Reset, and in it he suggests that it’s not recovery so much as transformation.
One of the reasons for this deep transformation is the rapid rise of technology. It’s more than just the internet and 4g networks, however. Business guru Tom Peters is fond of saying that 90% of all white collar jobs are going to disappear or be transformed. What from?
- Faster computers means faster and more intelligent software, which means more and more work will no longer need to be done by human beings. We’re seeing this already: when was the last time a human being answered the phone when you called a service company? Expert systems can make stock trades, perform accounting, and other white collar jobs already. More to come.
- Outsourcing will continue to evolve as new locations around the globe “come online” for various outsourcing tasks: everything from creative design work to 3D printing (what manufacturing is becoming).
- The spread of broadband internet to new places gives people and business new options for headquartering, hiring, manufacturing, and working.
What this means for you
This should serve as an eye-opening warning that if you remain complacent, you could suddenly find yourself out of work. Worse: your job has been phased out of existence entirely. In the seventies, industrial robots began to replace many manufacturing jobs. The funny thing is, everyone knew it was going to happen. Why more factory workers didn’t retrain is something of a mystery. Don’t allow yourself to be in the same position.
What can you do? Focus on three things:
Human relevancy: relationships matter
One thing software and outsourced workers can’t do is nurture deep relationships with the decision-makers in a company. No matter how fast technology advances in the near future, it’s going to be a while before an entire workforce can be virtualized. The people at the top will still be people. And if there’s one thing that matters to people, it’s relationships.
If you’ve been coming to work and keeping your head down, getting your work done, you could easily get the ax. But if you’ve got close, warm, mutually respectful relationships with management and executives, you’re much more likely to be retained. If you just get your work done, but don’t care about anyone (and no one cares about you) getting rid of you is a simple financial decision. You want any thoughts about letting you go be too painful to contemplate. One way to be supremely valuable is to have strong relationships within the organization.
Human creativity: because software has no imagination
Software is powerfully analytic. It can follow complex algorithms and decision trees to the point of seeming near to human intelligence. However, it cannot have an insight. Software cannot have a “Eureka!” moment. Software will never say, “What if we do this…” and offer a suggestion so crazy it just has to work.
You may not think of yourself as creative. Truth is, everyone is creative. It’s just that some have practiced it more. The first step in becoming more creative is to acknowledge the innate creativity within you. The second step is to consciously exercise your “creativity muscles.” I suggest Box of Crayons as a starting place.
Too valuable to let go: the power of cross-training
If you are the human equivalent of a cog in a machine, you are easily replaceable. This is just as true for white collar work as it is for a factory job. A person who does just one thing, and who can only do that one thing, is not as valuable to a company as a person who can step in and fill several roles as needed.
How to do this? There are several ways:
- Volunteer to help coworkers with their projects. You’ll learn a lot about what they do and how they do it.
- Promotion. Move higher into management. It’s often the people in the middle layers of management who get eliminated. The higher you rise and the more you’re responsible for, the less likely you’ll be replaced any time soon. Easier said than done, you say? This is where relationships and creativity also play a role, increasing your chances of promotion. However there are techniques you can use to aid in this, too.
- Take advantage of any extra training provided by your employer.
- Specifically request to be cross-trained so that you can fill in when the unexpected happens. It may turn out that the “unexpected” is that others get terminated and you get to do twice the work, but you’ll still be employed.
The future ain’t what it used to be
Soon we will be faced with unprecedented and rapid technological change. But no matter what, human beings will value tomorrow what they value today: relationships, creativity, and expertise.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that you could begin moonlighting on the side as a coach, consultant or freelancer, too. Diversity in income streams serves the same purpose as diversity in investing: it spreads around the risk in case of disaster, ensuring a smoother return on investment.
No matter what happens (or doesn’t happen) in the near future, you can improve your lot and quality of life at work by concentrating on these three aspects of work life. Don’t delay. Begin now. If you’re not sure how to approach this or what to do, consider Christine’s coaching as a way to explore the possibilities.