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Tag: jobs

What we know and don’t know about future labor markets

Are our markets efficient?

Gee, I have been so buried in writing proposals, I no longer have any idea of which day or week it is.  Rather literally.  But it is in writing proposals that we realize just how inefficient the market economy is.  All these people marketing, selling, bidding, cajoling.  Do we really increase the value of the economy this way?  Isn’t this time wasting much like the perennial security guard at every doorway in a third world country.  Doing nothing, going nowhere?  Don’t you get incensed at the waste of your time?  Let me explain further why it affects everyone.  You, me.  Our sons. Our daughters.

Flexible labor markets

You all know the concept of a “flexible labor market“, don’t you?  If not follow the link to a clearly written A level crib sheet.

Good markets

Flexible labor markets are based on the idea that a good market  “clears”.  A market is good if I can bring my tomatoes and customers come and buy them.

The price is not determined in advance. The price is allowed to change with supply (number of people selling) and demand (number of people buying).  And as we all know, at the end of the day, the price can drop significantly as sellers contemplate no sale.  Equally, the best stuff will sell at a higher price early in the morning.

Good labor markets

When we come to labor markets, the idea is that you and I, sellers of labor can go to the market and sell our goods, that is, our time and expertise.  If there is a good market, we will be bought, when we want to be bought; and buyers will find someone to buy, when they want someone to buy.

Labor markets that you and I know

Of course, labor markets are not 100% flexible.  We are blocked in by contracts.  The employer guarantees to give you work and to pay you on time.  You guarantee to do work and have to give notice if you want to change employers.

Rigid labor markets

Some labor markets are very inflexible.  I believe in the UK, 30 years ago, if we wanted to move a telephone in a student dormitory, it would be a nightmare.  Why? A telephone technician wasn’t be allowed to screw the device onto the wall.  That was the carpenter’s job.  If this story is not 100% accurate, then it was similar.

Not everything has changed

The “defined benefit” pension scheme also adds rigidity to the markets.

A defined benefit (DB) scheme means we pay in a fixed % of a our salary today for the right to draw a pension at a given age (usually 65) at 66% of our average of last three year’s salary (or similar calculation).

The importance to this calculation to what I am saying today is not the pension, much as it is on everyone’s minds, but that the 66% was based on an assumption of working for 40 years out of 60 for one employer (starting in your early twenties).

Here you can see the legacy of rigid labor markets that we haven’t sorted out, even in theory.

Why do systems like defined benefit pensions distort the labor market?

Implicit in your monthly donation of a fixed %, is that you will stay for 40 years.  If you leave before then, you will pay a heavy financial penalty.

So most people stay.  Every year, some people retire and we can replace those with 20 year olds while everyone moves up a notch.  Neat?

Yes it is, BUT

.  .  . this model doesn’t allow for radical changes in skill.  And it only works when people do retire – which they haven’t been the case with the bulge of the baby boomers.  Of course now the boomers are approaching retirement, organizations running this model will suddenly need to take on a lot of young people, some of whom will not be able to get the experience they need quickly enough to replace people who are leaving.

Equally, if you have to take people on for 40 years, as an employer you may think twice.   It is much more convenient to be able to ask someone to leave when you have no work for them or cannot afford to may them.

Why employers like a flexible labor market?

So employers like a “flexible” labor market.  They want it to be easy to ask people to leave.

What is the payoff for us?

And the payoff for us is that

  • young people are more likely to get “starter” jobs
  • we should be able to move employers more easily
  • the economy should be more vibrant with a better match of skills to changing conditions.

But what a muddle

The downside is that we haven’t thought this through.

Pensions and in the States, health insurance, are tied to employment.  So employees are unable to move.

If employers don’t provide these benefits, an underclass of employees develops.  In the trade this is aptly called the secondary labor market – cheap and disposable.

And where does this leave employees – people of working age

My biggest concern is that when a labor market is massively flexible, how do employees – that is you and me – the sellers of labour, see far enough ahead to know what to invest in?

Of course this is an issue in all business.  How do farmers know how many tomatoes to plant?  How does Warren Buffet know what stocks & shares to buy on the stock market?

They do it in three ways:

  • They form institutions – trade associations or their own firms – to do research on markets and to influence markets through lobbying and marketing.
  • They make long term contracts – e.g., agree to sell to TESCO’s at a pre-determined price
  • They get better real time information on markets.

Think of third world farmers contracting with FairTrade to sell you coffee.  They are doing it less for the price and more the stability of the contract.

Think of third world farmers who adopt mobile phones at the speed of light because they can find out prices readily in local and international markets.

What the theorists haven’t delivered

So why then do we assume

  • Employees (you and me) don’t need information on future prices to decide how much to invest in skills today?
  • Employees don’t need sane coherent contracts that allow us to complete a season.  A season may be 6 months to a year for a farmer.  Our investment in a 3 year degree is repayable over what period with what certainty?
  • Employees (you and me) shouldn’t band together to form trade associations to research and influence markets.  I know that is what unions do, sort of. I know that is what good professional associations do.

My question to you

My question today, and I hope some people can answer it, as I am a noobe in this part of the world, is

which political parties have an explicit agenda to make sure each and every person has sufficient information to make informed decisions about the investment in skill.

I don’t think governement has to make decisions about our investments for us.  But it does need to make sure there is an environment in which institutions who repesent us emerge (and do their job well).

Where does a young person in the UK and the USA find out this information?

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Your 21st century career will NOT be as an employee

My grand-mother had a clear ‘rule’ – none of us should work for a family-business. We should all go out and work in another business or organization.  My grandmother was obviously fed up with family businesses. She had been burned by them a few times. And I think she made the right call.

I think we should go further though. We should all aim to have our own business.

Is it the Talmud where we are advised to join an established business? That is good advice. We should acknowledge what works in the world and work with it.

But I think we should also aspire to autonomy. Many organizations work on a tournament system. You have to start in round one and work your way up. Should you want to move to another organization, you cannot carry credits from the previous rounds with you!

We need a way to aggregate our experience into a stronger and stronger portfolio.

Online portfolios are a good start. Planning our careers as if they are a business is another.

But as employment law is very clumsy and big organizations are more interested in subordination than developing your ongoing value, isn’t it a good idea to register yourself as a company, employ yourself, and develop alliances with others from day one?

Who is doing this? Who is making sure their youngsters go on to independent careers after an apprenticeship with some one else?

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Create your job – don’t wait

Unusual ways to find a job

We have to take our hats off to the History Graduate who pounded Fleet Street with a sandwich-board offering himself on a free trial period of one month.

Employers with a sense of humor

We can also hat-tip the guy who hired him.

  • But wouldn’t it have been better if he had a portfolio of his work online before he graduated?
  • Wouldn’t if have been cool if he knew what he wanted to do?
  • Wouldn’t it have been cool if he had had targeted 10 specific people and gone to them with the same offer?

Ways for students to get good jobs after graduation

I suppose telling students to start early and to work on their career path little and often is about as silly as telling them to work consistently throughout the year.
Some do though.  @casperodj, @trudyYS, @dolphonia are well known in the community and they haven’t graduated yet.
None of the three has done anything eye-catching in a celebrity-way.  They’ve just showed up and joined.
I’ll put my money where my mouth is too.  If the History Graduate stumbles over this post, and wants a quick guide of online resources, the trick will be to comment below.  The comment will reach me same day and I will reply.
And for people already doing everything they can, some stunning creative resumes.
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You really must be in a positive mood to get the job of your dreams

Downtown Core, Singapore's business centre.
Image via Wikipedia

I am ever so grateful to Daryl Tay who blogged his successful search for a social media job in Singapore.

Now Singapore is a prosperous place.  Daryl has a good degree.   And he is an adventurous outgoing guy who instigated Social Media Breakfast while he was an under-grad.

But Social Media is new industry and Social Media firms aren’t queuing up at University Career Days looking for bright-eyed bushy-tailed students to gopher for them on a two-year graduate program.

So Daryl had to make his own job and I think the contrast between his positive attitude and the unfamiliarity of his task really put into perspective my job as a career coach, and indeed, what you must demand of your career coach.

What you want from your career coach

Your career coach’s job is to get you into a positive frame of mind.

If you are feeling bruised and sore, you cannot think even think straight. You certainly cannot be sufficiently creative to find the job of your dreams in the hurly-burly and confusion in the marketplace.

What Daryl brought home to me, is that it is not good enough for me to tell you the theory. You probably know the theory at least intuitively.

I must get you into a good mood so you can search creatively.

Read on to see if I am on the right track

Mid 2009, Singapore

Daryl Tay, social media evangelist blogged his job search that led to Blue Interactive in Singapore.  Success!  A good agency, new challenges, freedom to blog!  The perfect first job for a newly-minted graduate.

Daryl puts his success down to the generosity of the social media world.  It is a generous world for the most part.  He passed on information about a job to an acquaintance, who reciprocated in due course, without being asked.  He followed up her lead, which led in turn, not to a job, but to ten more “names”.  He followed those up, and got 3-4 interviews, one of which was with Blue.

That’s pretty good by all accounts. I saw figures somewhere that in the US you should budget for 3-4 “qualified leads” from 100 approaches.  So Daryl did 10x better than average.   A 1000% gain!  Worth paying attention to.

What led to Daryl’s success?

  1. The generous ethos of the social media world.
  2. Singapore is relatively prosperous.
  3. Singaporeans are unusually punctilious in their business dealings. They don’t waste each others time.
  4. Daryl is well known in social media circles as he is an established blogger and hosts Singapore’s Social Media Breakast.
  5. Daryl took a degree in marketing including a semester in Canada.
  6. Daryl is a nice guy.

Yes, all these are true. What is also true is that Daryl did not mind having to make his own job. Nor was he offended by the people who did not respond to his approach. Nor did he seem particularly bothered by interviews that did not lead to jobs.

Has Daryl got a thick skin? I don’t think so. He has always seemed like a sensitive, responsive person to me.

The point is he was in positive frame of mind. So, his mind went automatically to two thoughts:

  1. What could he create?
  2. What worked well and what should he do more of?

Such simple questions but try thinking that way when you are in a negative mood! It is really hard!

Working with a career coach

By the time people come to see me as a work & organizational psychologist, otherwise known as a career coach, they are pretty fed up. The job market is not what they thought and they want me to make it responsive. They want me just to make the bad stuff go away!

The general pattern of career coaching is based on career guidance of old. It has changed a little, but not enough.

We typically go through four steps.

  1. With tests or other means, we figure out who you are.
  2. We match you to opportunities in the world.
  3. We prepare you for interviews.
  4. We celebrate or commiserate with the results.

Straightforward – yes, but wrong.

Positive career coaching

While you are in a bad mood, you see all the problems.  It is nothing to do with being optimistic or pessimistic.  It is a natural reaction and the recalcitrance of the world is very real to you at that point.   So our job is to get you back into a good mood.  Then you will do the rest yourself!

  1. We have to get you thinking about what you do well (most services do that, but it is not enough)
  2. We have to get you exploring the work world and identifying 10 companies whom you think are interesting.
  3. You need to know enough about these companies to approach them.
  4. You need to approach them (preferably working down the list from 6 to 10 so you can make your mistakes on the second half of the list).
  5. It helps to keep your coach on sides to discuss the results. You will decipher the feedback quicker and they’ll help you soak up any disappointment.
  6. Go after your top 5 companies with gusto!

That’s pretty much what Daryl did, but without the recovery from a bad mood at the beginning.

Does positive career coaching work?

I’ve often tried to get people to list these 10 jobs and predictably, they do it when they are in a good mood and they won’t do it when they are in a bad mood.

In a bad mood, they just want to pick up the paper, or go on the internet, and see a list of suitable jobs.

Your coach’s job, my job, is to get you back into a sufficiently positive frame of mind so that you list those 10 companies and work out what you can do with them.

After that you will approach them with a spring in your step, laughter in your voice, and mental agility that will delight even you!

It is not easy.   After all that is what you pay us for.   To get you back into a positive frame of mind.   When you are focusing again on what does work, it all clicks together and suddenly everything happens for you.

This is not positive thinking or wishful thinking, I might add. It is painstaking work listing and acting on what works until the world seems to be full of opportunity again.

To Daryl

So well done Daryl, and thanks.  I knew all this but reading your story brought home to me that it is not career coaching that is important.

It is focusing our minds on what works, regaining the positive mood, and sticking with you during the search to keep you positive.

Your success brought that home to me.  Well done!  A lot of people will take heart from your initiative.

To everyone else

Make sure your coach delivers. It is their job to put up with your bad mood until your recover your sense of humour!

Pay them well and buy them a good meal when you get the job of your dreams.  You’ll be good company by then. 🙂

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Beating the odds in recruitment and selection

338187446_682b87504a_mOne of the biggest complaints we hear from businesses is that they cannot hire the skills they want in the UK market.  It’s called the talent war.

I want to show you a simple calculation I did for someone that might explain what is giving you a headache in your recruitment and selection.

Person specification

This little firm was looking for ‘partners’ to work in a role similar to agents or franchisees.  Their partners don’t have to have any particular qualification, so they should be easy to recruit.  After a little thinking and talking, this is what we came up with.

  • The partners don’t have to be super-bright,  just normal bright and have finished high school .
  • The partners should be energetic & persistent and are likely to have demonstrated this energy by excelling in competitive sport, the arts, or some activity that has required them to make a clearly great effort than their peers.
  • The partners should be entrepreneurial.  They should have a history of trying things out and be just as happy when things don’t work out.  They are curious.
  • The partners need to be honest.  I don’t mean financially meticulous – I mean wanting to deliver a good service.  They are likely to have done something well in the past even when people around them wanted to take shortcuts.

Running the numbers

Now we can add some figures to this model and here is where you might get a surprise.

Let me remind you of some figures.

  • The midpoint on any characteristic divides the world 50:50.
  • The next step up divides the world 83:17.
  • And then next level up divides the world 97:3.

These splits correspond to 3 standard deviations on the right hand side of a normal curve.  You might recall that?  We could use finer divides but we will start with these to get a preliminary fix on where we are going.

Intelligence

The people we are looking for do not have to be super intelligent.  University and above is at the 83:17 divide.  We are happy at the 50:50 divide.  Below that, people may have trouble filling in commercial documents.

Energy & persistence

We are looking for someone who stood out in some way – played at the highest levels of school sport, for example, or raised a lot of money for charity, or even did well at academics.  Probably at the 97:3 split.  Someone who took a big prize at school.

Curiosity

These people don’t wait for someone to tell them what to do.  They work things out and find new opportunties.  They aren’t people for the sausage-machine of institutions. They are the people who make us think, “I wish I had done that”, or “How did you think of that?”  And they view setbacks as adventures.  97:3

Honesty

Unusual levels of integrity and sincerity.  At least once in their lives, they’ve done something properly when people around them were spinning, skiving or taking shortcuts.  97:3

How many people in the UK fit this description?

There are 30 million people in UK of working age.  How many of them fit this description and are candidates for our recruitment and selection drive?

Half of them have the intelligence required: 15 million

3% of the top half of intelligent people are very energetic and persistent : 450 000

3% of these have unusual levels of entrepreneurial spirit or curiosity:  13 500

3% of these have the commitment to integrity that we need: 405

(and this is from aged 16 to 65 – 405 people in the UK match our specification).

And how many of the right people are looking for a job?

Well, first of all let’s look at turnover.  It is usually 14% a year in the UK and that includes the high churn sectors like hospitality and catering.  Even if we bump up the turnover rate arbitrarily to 20% for the recession, we have only (.2 x 400) =80 people in our group who are looking for a job.

And of course some of these are doctors and lawyers, and some people are in the wrong sectors or wrong part of UK.  They are not available to be recruited or selected by us.

Not many left are there?

Shocking isn’t it?

I am used to the process of selection and to these numbers, yet they still shock me.  So please find my error and dm me.  I am hoping you will find my mistake because the numbers are shocking.

My point – and it is a serious point –  is that you cannot have one demanding requirement after another.

There simply aren’t enough people in the UK to meet your demanding needs.

There aren’t enough exceptional people in the economy to run it if is based on exceptional talent.

Our businesses need to run with normal people.

  • When we are selecting, it’s best to set the minimum requirements of the job, preferably from the candidate’s point of view, and begin there. Trim your list.  Ask, “Is this feature absolutely required,  and if so why?”
  • Stop adding requirement after requirement!  No more than three requirements!
  • After that, be ruthless in thinking about this recruitment assignment from the candidate’s point of view.

Ruthless in thinking about selection from the candidate’s point-of-view.

No one taught you that at uni, did they?  Yep, we like to keep some secrets to ourselves.

But now, it’s yours.

Review your HR specifications.  And keep it real.  Let your competitors be the ones to live in the world of make-believe.

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Use the internet for career coaching and interview preparation

Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBase
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Arrgh!  Interview preparation!

The worst thing about preparing for a job interview is the time it takes.  Google “job interview preparation” and it will take you a good half-an-hour just to pick out some good resources.

Then, you have to wade your way through the article.  And you are no better off! It’s like learning to drive from a manual.

Down the right hand side of the screen, Google helpfully lists adverts for career coaches who help you practice for job interviews.  They may save you some time.

Practice your interview over the internet

Hmm, but no coaches who practice over the internet.   I’ll do it for you, if you like.

  • Email me your job description and the “person specification“.
  • I’ll email you back 5 questions to prepare.
  • And I will ask you another 3 questions that you must answer without preparation.
  • We’ll connect at an pre-arranged time through Skype.
  • And I will give you feedback.

Fees?

EXECUTIVE : 100 pounds (for preparation, interview & feedback)

PROFESSIONAL: 50 pounds (for preparation, interview & feeback)

SCHOOL-LEAVER or OPERATIONAL:  33 pounds (for preparation, interview & feedback).

Contact Me

  • Email me with suggested times and your questions on jo dot working2.0 at gmail dot com.
  • I’ll confirm a time and answer your questions.
  • If you are happy, you can send me your job description.
  • I’ll need around 24 hours notice.

Look Me Up

My professional profile is at Jo Jordan on Linkedin.

Let’s get this done!

PS This post was made to test Google Adwords.  If you do need interview preparation, do let me know.  I may be able to refer someone who lives in your area who can help you practice.

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Weekend fun: 21st century job titles

Traditional loom work by a woman in Konya, Turkey
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Yours sincerely
Jack Maddock
P.I.G

Printed Information Gatekeeper or what we latterly knew as Editor.

Does your job title fit the work you do?

Or does your job title sound as if HR picked it from the Bullshit Job Generator.  Human Data Orchestrator, perhaps?  Lol!

And what title might you suggest for my colleague who is a network engineer (computers) and makes a healthy living connecting shopkeepers and restaurants with London markets, the old fashioned way?  Well, to me he is a supply chain something or other.  I can see it all fits together.

It obviously all fits together but we just don’t have the right vocabulary for jobs like his which are interesting and integrated but I suppose not “functional”, using that word in the theoretical sense.

I’ve been looking around for good job titles.  Here are common ones.

  1. Chief something office – often Chief Inspiration or Happiness Officer
  2. Metaverse Evangelist
  3. Knowledge Concierge
  4. Knowlege Valet (being a concierge in training)
  5. Instigator
  6. Brand Champion

Inpired by the resurgence of Concierge, I looked around for lists of jobs from days gone by.

They are an interesting read if only to find out the origins of British names.   It is quite extraordianary, thought how specific these jobs were.  Jobs today are much broader.

What job title fits what I do?

I’m a work psychologist, sometimes known as an industrial psychologist, or occupational psychologist or organizational psychologist.  Which of these old titles fits my work?

I liked “chapper” on the Scottish list. This poor fellow’s job was to wake up the baker before sunrise!

I hate alarm clocks but putting that quirk aside, hmm, this is what I do for a living!

I alert people to opportunity and get them moving even when they feel like staying put!

I could also be a piecer – the child that fixed broken threads on a loom.  I do a lot of that but not so much for the sake of weaving but as way of alerting people to opportunity.  Fix this thread, then  . . .

How would you describe the work you do?

Does your job title do it for you?  Or do you need a new way of describing your work?

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4 fold plan to map your own future

Botrychium lunaria
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Take charge of your life, please!

I’ve just watched a Reuters slide show of people looking for work in the States, China and Japan.  Sometimes we have to look for work!

But to do it without having a larger plan is the most frightening and desperate thing we can ever do.

It is a mistake to define our life by the opportunities created by other people.  It would depress me.  It would depress anyone.  It will depress you.  It is such a bad idea.

Finding a job is like traveling abroad

A young friend of mine described choosing a career direction as being in a foreign country and asking people for directions.

Have you ever noticed that the locals in a foreign country don’t know where anything is?  It’s not surprising really.  They go to the same places every day.  They don’t know what is useful to a visitor or newcomer.

My young friend has made the gustiest decision he will ever have to make.  He has decided not to rush it.  He’s continuing with his student job while he works out what he really wants to do.

What I’ve suggested to him is that he pretends he is an adventurer in an uncharted place and draw the map as he goes.   So to extend the metaphor,  when he sees a mountain, put it down roughly.  When he sees a lake, add that to his picture.  And so on.

He’s contributed a pretty nifty metaphor that completes the other three I wrote about this week.  This is how they work together.

1  Define your core value (five minutes)

  • Scan a list of flowers and their symbolic meaning to capture your sense of the value you deliver.
  • I found btw that I want a red carnation for me (meaning I carry a torch for you) and lunaria for my company (meaning prosperity).  I don’t mean I just want my company to be prosperous.  I want that, of course.  I mean that the job of my company is to deliver prosperity to other people.
  • Which flower captures the value you deliver?

2  Resolve to do well by doing good (relax)

  • Be like my neighborhood restaurant in Olney.  Do what you think is right and do it for free.
  • Don’t be so focused that you only think of getting a job or how much money you can make out of other people.
  • Let people help you.  And you will find that people do.
  • People want to applaud you success.  Let them have have the pleasure!

3  Each day find 1 signpost and 1 person who is closer to where you want to be than you are now

(1 hour searching and 10 minutes recording)

  • Do a daily exercise finding a website representing activities that take you one step further and make contact with one more person who is closer to where you want to go than you are now.
  • Do this daily, and don’t break the chain!  Then add a rough diary of what you did during the day and WHY IT WENT SO WELL!
  • You’ll have 30 websites and people at the end of the month.  In month 2, each day also discard a website and person each as you find another pair.  (Or put them in another box.)
  • In this way, you’ll edge towards the place you want to be.
  • I don’t know how long it will take, but you’ll be surprised at how fast it goes.  My guess is 3 months.  You tell me when you’ve tried.

4  Draw your map (7 minutes)

  • And each day add to your map.
  • What is the landscape of your field and its future as you see it?
  • Keep adding features as you go.
  • And whatever you do, don’t try too hard.  Your map might mutate into a map of the underground or something like that.  Just don’t jump to defining answers.  Doodle!  We want your creative juices flowing freely.

Who should do this?

The recession is so severe, everyone should be doing this.  If you are in a good place right now and it looks secure, then sure, do it intermittently.  Jot down websites and people intermittently and review the box once a month.

For everyone else, I would say this exercise has fairly high priority.  The bankers say they didn’t know what they were doing.  The government says it is uncharted waters – meaning, they have no map.

We are all in a strange place asking the locals for directions.  Best to start drawing the map!

And don’t aim to come out with a job that is defined by others.  Define your own future.  Let other people stand in your queue!

Is this possible?

Of course it is.  How do jobs get made?  They get made by people like me and you.  But you know, they followed their dreams.

Will we always be an employer?  No.  Sometimes we will choose to work for others because hitching a ride on their wagon, so to speak, makes sense.

But we don’t want to feel desperate.  If that is what you feel.  Do this exercise.  You will feel better very rapidly, I promise.

If you are not feeling desperate, begin now and gather around you the people you need on your journey.  They will be grateful.  They want company too.

Talk to me!

And let me know how you get on.  I like company too.

Thanks to my young friend who helped me finish this series.  I appreciate his help – again.  Actually we are friends, despite the difference in our years, because he has helped me before.  As now, he didn’t set out to do anything in particular.  But he added value to my life.

That’s how it works, isn’t it?  We journey part of the way with other people and we help carve out a future together that we believe is worth having.

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Tip 3: find your future now not after the recession

Male and female ostriches "dancing".
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Don’t ask who will be employed now

Today I commented on Jon Ingram‘s post about the way HR managers are responding to the recession and remarked that we should not be like the proverbial ostrich – head in the HR sand, butt in the breeze, where it is likely to be shot off!

Ostriches can run really fast (I’ve ridden one). A kick from them will also de-gut you as effectively as a kick from a giraffe.

So why don’t they run or attack, which they sometimes do?

Well, partly, they are none to bright (easily dazzled and then captured by reflecting the sun off your watch into their eyes).

But they are hoping that if they are quiet, that they will be safe.

So I am not going to be quiet.  It does not make me safe.

But I’ll also be kind, and tell you why I am blathering on about the wild animals of southern Africa.

Is the knowledge I acquired in southern Africa of use here?  Well, some is and some isn’t.

The point is that the competencies of yesterday are not necessarily valuable tomorrow.

We must distinguish what of yesterday we can take forward to the future.

We can respect the rest.  We can reminisce about it. But some belongs to the past and will not contribute to the business models of tomorrow.

Don’t bury your head in employment sand!

The questions we have to ask, and should ask each year in our strategy review are:

  • What competencies is this business or my career based?
  • How are these going to change? Incrementally, or suddenly and discontinuously requiring radical back-to-school training?

And in a bad downturn, we should also ask:

  • Can I use the slow time of the downturn to re-train and get some early experience in these new technologies?

Strategies for employers and employees

Employers should be actively building their team around the technologies of tomorrow.

Employees who have switched-off employers should be networking hard to find and build the team that is coalescing around the markets and technologies of the future.

Ask who will be employed in the future?

Here is a simple procedure

1  Grab an old shoe box

  • For one month, on an A5 envelope, every day write down one url to the future of your field with some notes about why you think it is important.  Date it!
  • For one month, on an A6 envelope, write down the contact details of a person who seems to be heading towards the right future and the nature of your contact with them.  Date it!
  • On the back of some other suitable scrap, jot down a daily diary of “what were the main events of today and WHY DID IT GO SO WELL”.  Keep your rough-and-ready diary in the box.
  • Print out a calendar.  Mark off each day and “don’t break the chain”.  Get the creative thinking charged up and humming.

2  At the end of the month, review and repeat

  • But this time discard one of the A5 and A6 envelopes as you add a new pair each day.
  • Keep the rough-and-ready diary going and remember to end by asking the question “WHY DID THE DAY GO SO WELL?”
  • And remember “don’t break the chain”.  Do this exercise daily however roughly.

You’ll be in the future before me!

Now, you’ll be in the future before me, so let me know how it goes. I’m particularly interested in how many months it takes you.  My guess is three at the outside.

And when you’ve done this,  we’ll “make a plan” to come back to rescue the ostriches!  We’ll have a figured out a role for them by then.

Right now, lets go out,  scout the future and be there when it happens!

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Who will earn more and who will earn less because of the internet?

Is the internet good for you?

Was it this week that we had the media telling us that Facebook would give us cancer?  And a professor telling us that the internet makes us scatty?

Well, I won’t go where angels fear to tread, but I do know this.  The world has changed in a fundamental way and it is very important THAT YOU GET IT!

The internet has changed the way we make a living and before you go off and spend 5 to 10 years getting a qualification and doing low paid jobs to get experience, have a look at the business model of the profession you are entering.  Will your profession survive the intenet?

And don’t ask recruiters and HR officers either.  They rarely know the answers.

Ask experienced people who are responsible for strategy in their field and don’t join up unless they can ask clearly!  Invite people who have a hig profile in your future career to talk to your school, university or service club, and ask the questions you need to ask!

Managing risk

At the heart of any profession or occupation is the management of risk – yep that thing that bankers didn’t seem to understand.

Very simply, we cannot know everything in the world and when we have an unfamiliar decision to make, we turn to professionals for advice – doctors, lawyers, teachers, plumbers, and even, bankers.  Even my lowly purchase of a loaf of bread at the supermarket is the purchase of advice.  I am trusting my supermarket to sell me something wholesome and good at a reasonable price.

But how do we know who we can trust?

We have several mechanisms.

  • First is a system of licenses.  A body, like the British Medical Association gives a doctor a practising certificate, for example, to indicate the doctor has the training and knowledge that we expect.
  • Second is a system of audits & inspections.  Chartered Accountants like KPMG and Deloittes check the financial affairs of a business and tell us if it is a going concern.
  • Third is the business model itself.  Newspapers, for example, would verify information is correct before they printed it and it was for that verification that we would pay a shilling or a dollar for our paper, though we often felt that we were buying the content.  They are motivated to get information correct so they stay in business.

The internet adds another way to manage risk

The internet has changed the game of business, and importantly the careers available to us, because it adds, among other things, an additional way to manage risk.  This additional mechanism for managing risk affects how consumers get advice and who gets paid for giving advice.

  • Google Search, for example, allows us to pull up information from all over the world in the blink of an eye.  For many particularly simple matters, we can find information for free and save ourselves the fees of professional advice.  Knowledge has become more easily available and much cheaper.
  • Twitter provides recommendations with equal speed and allows customers to speak to each other. The wisdom of crowds gives us assurances that previously were only available from auditors and inspectors.
  • Blogs, YouTube, Flickr make us all citizen journalists.  Collecting and transmitting data is now so cheap and easy that events like a plane ditching in the Hudson are transmitted as they happen.  No paper or TV service can report events so quickly.

But there is so much rubbish on the internet

Indeed there is.  And it is very important to treat the information for what it is.  IT IS NOT information provided with a stamp of approval from a professional body or a well established business.

This is frightening for many people.  And so it will be until they think clearly about what is happening and act accordingly.

We have two tasks therefore.

  • First, understand how to verify information on the internet.
  • Second, to understand how the internet changes the value of various professions and how much people in those professions will earn in the future.

A lot of people write about the first task.  I am interested in the second.

How does the internet change the value of various careers and the salary you can expect to earn?

Whether you are in a profession or ‘old school organization’, or if you are changing careers and thinking about your next move, these are the questions that I think you should ask.

5 questions to ask about the value of information in your profession or organization

1   Why did you want to go into this career?

When you chose this career, what value did you believe you would add to the world?  Why did you undertake the qualifications instead of just opening up your business?  What did the qualifications teach you that cannot be taught elsewhere and freely on the internet?  How are the systems of knowledge maintained so the knowledge of your profession is deeper and more valuable that information on the internet? To what extent is the profession protected artificially and will these artificial barriers be stripped away by the internet?

2  How do you maintain integrity?

What are the promises that your profession makes to the public and are these promises genuine?  For example, do you send someone to jail for breaking these promises?  What areas of malpractice does the profession look out for?  How do you check that your core promises are being honoured?  When your customers are able to talk directly to each other, what aspects of your service can they inspect better than you can? If they are able to check themselves, of what value is your guarantee?  What aspects can they not check and is the responsibility of your profession?

3  What does your online profile say?

Are you on professional groups like Facebook, Twittter, LinkedIn and Xing?  If we Google your name, can we find you?  What issues are Googled by your clients/customers/patients and what do they find? How do you maintain your profile?  How good is your understanding of information traffic on the internet and the way Google chooses what to show people?  How is your profession learning about the internet and the way it is developing?  How is your profession managing the conversation about the internet among your members?

4  What is your ‘authority’ on the risk management issues which have been the basis of your profession?

What are the issues on which your profession is expert, experienced and willing to help other people, albeit for a fee?  Who in the internet world defers to your opinion and how do they link to you?  How does your profession monitor your online authority?  How do you manage your online authority?  How do you manage the way one member of your profession competes with another for internet domination?  How do you ensure that your clients/customers/patients get access to well debated information and ‘honest authority’, so to speak?

5  How do you help your customers/clients/patients find the information they need and make intelligent choices?

What choices are your customers/clients/patients making on a daily basis?  What information do they use?  What do they search for?  How does information find them and are they able to process it safely and to their advantage?  How has the internet changed this process? And how have those changes, and ongoing changes, changed the basis of your business model?  How you make a living, in other words, and how future members of your profession will make a living?

Your comments?

This is the first time I’ve written about these issues.  So I’d be very interested in your views – or comments – or indeed questions.

How do you think the internet changes our work and our long-term potential to make a living?

What questions should we be asking leaders of professions and encouraging our young people to ask before they invest in an expensive training?

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