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The World of Work
Major trends affecting workplaces now and in the future include globalization and changing demographics, “big data,” emerging technologies, climate change, increased complexity and new definitions of work. Companies will feel or have already felt the pressure of global competition. More than 40% of companies in the Fortune 500 in 2000 dropped off that list a decade later. Globalization drives the shift of jobs to new locales. In the future, at least half of the largest corporations will move their headquarters to nations offering enormous emerging markets, such as “Brazil, India and eastern European” nations.
Demographic trends will change the workplace as life expectancy increases and birth rates decline worldwide. These shifts lead to a graying, shrinking workforce. The average age of retirement was 57 in 1995, but now it is 66. In the US, 43% of seniors – 55 years old or older – have $25,000 or less saved for retirement; they must stay on the job. The populations of Japan and Europe are decreasing. Millennials form the largest working generation in most countries, and their attitudes change workplaces dramatically. Nearly two-thirds of the population worldwide could join the middle class by 2030.
Experts estimate data will grow 4,300% from 2009 to 2020, giving new meaning to the phrase “big data.” IBM estimates that worldwide demand will create 4.4 million jobs for data scientists, but available candidates can fill only a third of those jobs. Data will become more personalized, fueling employment in cybersecurity and privacy. Driverless cars, 3D printing and robotics will change people’s lives and work. Japan, with its aging population, is at the forefront of using robots in personal service roles.
Today’s Job Market
Gone are the days when you worked for the same organization your whole life. The percentage of part-time employees keeps growing in the workplace. Firms do not want to pay benefits, and so seek to maximize their number of staff members working 30 or fewer hours per week.
Lower-wage industries replaced jobs in middle- and high-wage industries after the 2008 recession. From January 2008 to February 2010, the US economy lost 1,973,000 low-wage ($9.48 to $13.33 per hour) jobs. From February 2010 to February 2014, 3,824,000 jobs replaced the lost positions. The high-wage job bracket ($20.03 to $32.62 per hour) lost net jobs, with a loss of 3,579,000 positions and a gain of 2,603,000 within these time periods.
Amidst this turmoil, people fear losing their jobs or seeing their skills lose value. They don’t want to become obsolete. People worry that their company or industry will die out and that, without furthering their skills, they risk unemployment or underemployment.
Heed three themes, or stretch imperatives, to maintain and expand your career:
“It’s All On You”
People who build lasting careers have “the ability to keep on learning.” Every job has a learning curve. Those who advance remain proactive about continuing education. Employees who aim to be just “good enough” stagnate. They suffer disengagement at work and harm their careers.
One study reports, “80% of employees in today’s workplace received no company-sponsored skills training in the past five years. None.” In the US, companies spend an average of just more than $1,200 per employee per year on training, but that’s mostly on compliance and leadership training. That leaves employees responsible for learning about their work on their own time. Some companies – including GE, TELUS, Cigna, Unilever, USAA, Hilton, Marriott and Corning – are reversing that trend and spending more on employee training.
Employees fall into different levels of expertise, from initiate (no experience) to novice (minimal experience) to expert. An expert usually has at least a decade of experience, enjoys the good regard of colleagues, can handle difficult and complex situations, and has skills and knowledge in varied areas. In some fields, achieving an expert level takes about 10,000 hours of practice, but not all professions require such dedication.
“Learning on the fly” involves several skills. You need a growth mind-set, not a fixed attitude. Those with fixed mind-sets believe their innate abilities – such as genes, heritage or background – limit their potential. Those with growth mind-sets challenge themselves and seek new ways of learning. Feeling helpless to improve a situation is a sign of a fixed mind-set. Ask yourself how to approach things differently. Cultivate curiosity and mindfulness – the sense of being present in and aware of each moment. Staying open and curious helps you avoid disengagement or complacency. Make time in your schedule for reflection. Learning on the fly also requires that you consciously unlearn outdated information and behavior.
Be open to new ideas and possibilities. Success is a paradox in that it can create a sense of entitlement and complacency. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your way is the right or only way to do things. To become more open, test your assumptions. When you search only for evidence that supports your point of view, beware of “confirmation bias” that hinders openness.
Instead of assuming you’re right, assume those who disagree with you are at least partially correct. Listen to novices. For example, things might have worked out differently for Ken Olson, CEO of the Digital Equipment Corporation, if he had paid attention to newcomers in his field, including Bill Gates and Paul Allen. In 1977, Olson couldn’t understand why anyone would need a personal computer at home.
Be willing to seek feedback. Accepting others’ opinions becomes more difficult as your career develops. People use the feedback they receive only 30% of the time; 70% of the time, most people ignore or forget it. Instead of wasting this opportunity to improve, write down feedback as it comes to you. Admit that you can benefit from advice in certain areas. Ask open-ended but specific questions. Be aware of how you respond, verbally and nonverbally, to feedback. Those who can give you useful information may shut down if your posture or expressions suggest you’re not ready to hear what they have to say.
“You Need Options”
Create career options by building a diverse network and by seeking new experiences. Your networking activities – the ways you use your network for personal or professional gain – may include events held at your chamber of commerce, attending professional gatherings, or going to company-sponsored events, unofficial happy hours, business lunches or other get-togethers.
Your network consists of people you know personally and professionally. Generally, people tend to have two different networks – strong or close ties, and loose or weak ties. Your strong ties are your close family and friends, relatives you interact with frequently, good work friends including a possible “work spouse,” current or former classmates, and so on. Your loose ties include friends you don’t see very often, acquaintances and social media contacts.
People who reach out to loose ties were better able to find a job, were more satisfied at work and made a higher income. Unlike family members, loose ties are more objective and less personally invested in your career. “Close-tie networks might be more inclined to stop you from taking any risks, whereas loose tie networks hold the knowledge and resources to make those risks pay off.”
Build a diverse network of people of different ages, genders, backgrounds and work experiences. You limit yourself if everyone in your network is similar to you. Diverse networks help you generate new ideas and introduce you to the right people. Use social media platforms to build a diverse network, but never share too much online. Balance the time you spend there with the time you spend offline.
Many people feel an erosion of boundaries when they spend more time on social media than with close friends and family. “Quality matters more than quantity,” so be judicious about whom you accept as your “friends” or “followers.” According to Robin Dunbar, evolutionary psychologist from the University of Oxford, you can form meaningful connections with only about 150 people.
Increase your network two ways. “Build” your network one person at a time by getting to know people as individuals or “bridge” together different people within your network. Bridgers tend to be extroverts, but introverts can serve as brokers or matchmakers who link people for mutual benefit. Build goodwill by linking people to others who can help them. Everyone you help can potentially help you in the future.
Builders determine their own needs and priorities. They decide which events, activities or groups most benefit them. Some builders develop their networks slowly, one person at time. Some builders play a numbers game; they put effort into constant interaction within their large networks. Building networks takes time and work. Once you establish relationships, you must nourish them over time.
Develop an appetite for experience and seek a varied menu of adventures and activities. Try to find solutions to problems, give and receive feedback, and always learn. Overseas work experience is valuable. Going global shows future employers that you’re adaptable and willing to go beyond your comfort zone.
To gain sales experience, volunteer to make calls and generate leads. If you’re a freelancer, understand that volunteering now may lead to a paid gig later. Intuit, the software firm, predicts that more than 40% of the people in the US workforce will be freelancers by 2020. Start your own business while keeping your day job, or take a sabbatical if your company offers long breaks.
Gain experience through education. Deciding to leave the workforce to pursue graduate school full time is not a decision to take lightly, but in general having more education equates to a higher income and lower rates of unemployment. Make sure you understand your own needs and personality. For instance, outgoing performers tend to succeed in structured, hierarchical environments in which you have to request more responsibilities to gain notice.
Advancing your career must always be your first priority. Even if you have a great relationship with your boss, don’t let a “good” boss hold you back from new opportunities.
“You Have Dreams”
You need to be able to “bounce forward” and recuperate from setbacks. Bouncing forward requires having three characteristics: grit, resilience and motivation. Pursuing your goals requires perseverance and commitment; that’s grit. Resilience means recovering quickly from obstacles and adapting. Motivation is “the drive to initiate and maintain goal-oriented behaviors.” People with more education and older people tend to have more grit.
Melody Gardot embodies resilience. An SUV struck Gardot as she rode her bicycle. With a broken pelvis and severe head and spinal injuries, she had to lie flat on her back for a year. A doctor suggested that she try music as therapy, and she started playing the guitar. Now a professional jazz musician, Gardot has recorded a full-length album, Worrisome Heart.
Although many companies focus on financial compensation as a motivator, many employees find that internal or intrinsic rewards – like being glad to get up in the morning and go to work – are more motivating than money.[/text_block]