The “Times They Are a-Changin” – Are You?
Bob Dylan got it right. The times are a-changin - at warp speed. The question is, are you? Are you locked into a 1960's mindset with your career?
Here's the deal, the rules of work and money have changed. And I bet you never got the memo.
The mantra has always been, “Get a good education. Find a great job - maybe with a big established manufacturing company, yeah, that's the ticket. Work hard. Be a team player. Get promoted to management. Then after years of faithful service, retire with a benefit package that is so good it will bring tears to your eyes.”
How's that working out? I know the “tears” part is happening, but for all the wrong reasons.
So what's going on?
Economists have a fancy term for all this. It's called structural transformation. It is simply the natural adjustments in the economy and job markets brought about by change.
Think about it, the guy on the farm had his life turned around when someone in New England figured out that a water wheel could power a loom. And the person who sold waterwheels needed Tom Hopkin's list of overcoming objections every time the local steam engine sales team put an ad in the social media of the time – the newspaper.
So, here you are. You’re talented, educated, experienced, all credentialed up, and threatened like never before. Hey… nobody said it was going to be easy.
Here's the problem as I see it. Most of us were educated and trained to work and live in the post-World War II economy. This was an economy that made “things” and managed lineal processes – with people.
Have you ever seen any of the black-and-white newsreels from the 40s and 50s about America getting back to work after the War? They showed thousands of people making, managing, and distributing things. This was a manufacturing model. And it worked - then.
Our economy and social systems grew up around this model. Then someone invented the Internet, and all hell broke loose.
The world quickly got smaller. Our reach and concept of time changed. The inevitable march of structural transformation accelerated. And the traditional concept of “work” changed again.
We’ve seen this in the service industry, manufacturing, and trades for years. And now it’s hitting the professions and the management class – hard.
Many used to think that if you had a professional license, or a lot of acronyms after your name, you were immune to these structural changes. Well, not anymore.
Here's an example from the financial services industry. Back in the day if you needed life insurance all you had to do was find an insurance agent and buy some. It was a pretty simple process.
The agency had the knowledge, the information, and exclusive access to the products and services you needed. They sold a couple of kinds of life insurance. And that’s all they did. In fact, it was probably the same agency your family had gone to for years.
Now let’s add the Internet and really get this structural transformation thing moving. Today you can buy life insurance from all kinds of places. Banks, credit unions, financial planners, securities firms, lawyers, accountants, the Internet, and even insurance agents sell life insurance products. And for fun, nobody’s called a life insurance agent anymore.
To make things even more challenging, life insurance products are more complicated and sophisticated than ever before. I doubt most people really understand the product they own or why.
Here’s my point. There are always opportunities during periods of structural transformation.
The times are a-changen. How do you know? It’s easy. If anything you do falls into any of the following, you need to start asking some hard questions.
- If your job could be performed by a recent college graduate at one-third the cost - you need to change.
- If your job could be turned into a software program or app – you need to change.
- If your core skills, knowledge, and tasks can be outsourced to a team of really smart 20 and 30 somethings who happen to live somewhere overseas – you need to change.
So where’s the lemonade? Change happens. It always has, and it always will.
Here’s what I recommend.
- Figure out what you are good at and have a passion for; then become an “expert.”
- Delegate and outsource all your mundane and routine tasks.
- Develop a network of experts who can complement and support what you do.
- Become the “go to” problem solver who can bring to bear a range of diverse resources dedicated to solving your client’s or customer’s problem – synthesis.
The cycle continues…