3.1   Awareness: change happens!

Economic realities have changed in the past few decades. Lifetime job security no longer exists.

Many if not most workers can expect to change jobs every three to five years and to make major career shifts three to five times in their lifetimes. Workers across the globe are having to reinvent themselves regularly to maintain their livelihoods.

Change happens in response to: New Realities, Trends and Events.

New Realities

The role of education in the pursuit of employment is a new reality. Good paying jobs require more education and a well refined skill set than they did in years past. Many jobs that previously required a high school education now require a two or a four year degree or even a master's degree. Indeed, when President Obama gave his first speech to Congress, he said that education and training after high school is no longer desirable. It is necessary. The reality is that career success requires lifelong learning. You can not be successful if you do not remain current in your field and ready to re-train for the emerging jobs that replace old fields of employment.  A lot of jobs that exist today did not even exist 10 years ago... data analytics for example...

Another new reality is that the normal age for retirement has changed. 72 (or older) is the new 65. Many people do not want to retire or simply cannot afford to retire. They work longer or find a new job for their retirement years. Economists had for years predicted that there would be tremendous labor shortages when the baby-boom generation started retiring, and that their retirements would create endless opportunities. That prediction has proven wrong for many people.

The reason for dramatic changes in education and retirement is that now, more than ever, you are on your own with your career. There was a time when workers could count on their employers to provide security, health care, education and retirement benefits. Those days are long gone. It used to be the norm that employers would provide defined benefit packages. That meant you knew exactly what you would get and that the employer would keep paying for those benefits, even if the costs went up. Now most employers offer defined contributions. In other words, they will put a certain amount of money into providing, above and beyond salary, but when costs go up, you're on your own.

With change happening rapidly and relentlessly, the new reality is that you have to be prepared to reinvent yourself on a regular basis. The pace of change is accelerating and it comes in many forms: technological, social, political and economic. You could show up one day at the job you thought was stable and secure, only to find out that you've been laid off. Your job may not exist tomorrow. In fact, your industry may not exist or it may have been shipped off to another country.

The reality is that you will need to re-tool and reinvent yourself more than just once over the course of your career. You have to be ready when change happens, and you need to maintain awareness to know when it's coming. You will need lifelong education, training, and retooling.  And you will need to protect your income with at least 1 year's salary incase you lose your job. 

Trends

Work is a moving target due to a myriad of factors. In the last two decades millions of jobs have been created and tens of thousands of workers have been left out into the cold in response to:
  • Globalization
  • Buyouts
  • Downsizing
  • Restructuring
  • Mergers
  • Outsourcing
  • Right sizing
  • Off shoring
  • Disruptive technologies
  • Meltdowns
  • Recession and Depression
  • Terrorist attacks
  • And now Pandemics
The list is long and will surely get longer in your lifetime.  All of the above disruptors can be described as trends that have had significant impact the labor market.

There are other trends that  have a positive effect. And there are trends that have a negative effect.  And some trends are positive for some people while creating havoc for other segments of the population.

In terms of political impacts the buzzwords include: recovery plans, stimulus packages and budget priorities.

President Obama released a budget plan that set ambitious goals in the areas of health, education and energy.  President Trump implemented trade policy and set goals to create a better market for American goods to revive manufacturing jobs.

The outcome of the health care debate altered the employment market for health professionals at all levels. The ever increasing demand for medical professionals continues. Aging baby boomers are demanding more services. Promising new medical technologies emerge constantly, and with each advance, there is new research, development, production, public relations, sales and advertising. The leisure industries are also a huge part of the economy. More people travel to obtain medical services, and exercise and recreation are recognized as a significant factor in wellness.

On the education front, Obama investments yielded jobs for teachers, more money for research, and more opportunities for workers to upgrade their skills for a 21st Century economy. Education policies created workers for the information and service industries. With a better educated workforce here at home, employers are less likely to ship high tech jobs overseas.

The new energy frontier was part of another trend: the “Greening of America.” With the world tackling global warming, a wide range of employment opportunities in science and technology were created in to address environmental degradation.  Great high paying jobs have been created in every imaginable category - service, transportation, manufacturing, engineering, IT,  finance - in government, industry and services.

The trade policies have definitely had an impact.

Events

Sometimes, the world-of-work will change dramatically in response to immediate events.

The coronavirus pandemic is severely impacting the airline, transportation, hospitality, entertainment industries.  But it is also driving research and development of antidotes and immunization as well as demand for respiratory equipment and protective equipment for medical professionals.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, the economic impact was felt throughout the country. Building supplies became more expensive in Seattle. Home insurance rates went up in Sacramento. Labor costs went up in South Dakota. Even if there had not been as much devastation, gasoline prices everywhere would still have been impacted by the closing of a few refineries.

When oil prices spiked up more than 100% in 2008, there was tremendous upheaval in many industries. There were good and bad repercussions. People thought harder about their automobile choices and where they live. They thought more about fuel economy in both decisions. Manufacturers realized that if they manufacture in China, they might lose all of the savings gained from a cheaper labor market by incurring heavy transportation costs to get their goods to market. Cheap oil allowed for inexpensive transport of goods across the globe. But once the cost of shipping a 40-foot container to the US jumped from $3000 earlier in the decade, to $8000 in 2008 things changed. And then in 2009, oil prices dropped back down.

Things happen everyday. Someone introduces a new product. Someone recalls an old one. A pile of coal ash breaks free from a dam and pollutes a river. A study reports that subsidies for corn-based ethanol impact food prices. A computer battery catches on fire. Driverless cars and driverless trucks hit the road ...  Zelle disrupts banking .... Zoom creates online meetings and classrooms...

It can be good news or it can be bad news. Your task is to maintain awareness and to figure out what might happen next. When things happen, your task is to pay attention and to connect the dots.