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?

A plan big enough to include now!

Feb 8 2009 High Street South & Steeple snow pi...
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Will your degree really take you where you want to be?

I’ve just read story in the TimesOnline about a mature student who returned to university and read psychology, very successfully, only to find that there are insufficient places for students to complete their professional qualifications.

I am sorry to hear this story. There is a breach-of-confidence here that shames us all.   When students go to university, they accept in good faith our implied promises of progression within their degree and access to their chosen profession.

Very sadly, these promises are often made lightly.  And quite often universities deliberately conceal the facts, if not by commission, then by omission.  They quite consciously don’t collect information on student destinations, and they just as consciously don’t make these facts available.  It is certainly time for regulators to insist that these facts are published on University websites and kept up-to-date!

Not only do I think publishing student pass rates and destinations should be mandatory.  I think universities should loan fees to students and recover the loans themselves!

Caveat emptor

Until the day that regulations are tightened up, then I afraid it is a matter of caveat emptor, buyer beware.  Students need to be wary of making large investments in services that have no warranty!  Should they discover that the university’s promises are inflated, they will be able to recover neither their money nor, more importantly, their time.

Craft a life plan that is far bigger than uni and the professions

So what can students do to avoid this trap?

The advice from contemporary positive psychologists is this.  Don’t plan your university studies around a specific job and employment route! Neither is guaranteed.  Indeed, we have seen from the banking crisis that nothing in this world is guaranteed.

Rather, see your university education as a supplement to your life plan.  Let me give you this example.

Young Nick Cochiarella from my village of Olney has already launched his first social network, SpeakLife while he is at college.  He’s a hardworking guy and he also has a job at the local Coop.  He is taking a slightly circuituous route doing technical training before he goes to university.  But he is not waiting for anyone.  It is true that his hard work still guarantees him nothing.  But he is not deferring his dreams, and his university training supports, rather than defines, his life’s purpose.

But I need a job now!

It can be tough to start living our dreams.  We often get into an enormous tangle.

The biggest distractor is the desperate belief that we will somehow be safe when we follow a road carved out by others.  But it is not safe, as we have seen.

And even if it were safe, why do we think that other people’s dreams will be enough for us?

Wouldn’t it be better to have our own dreams and to work with others to find where we can temporarily work together to make the path easier and broader for both of us?

A plan big enough to include now

Ned Lawrence has been challenging me to refocus this site on the needs of the ordinary person – the person who lives these dilemmas.

What do you think?

Is it possible to make a plan that is big enough to include now?

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Do you double-guess yourself? Get a mentor!

The puzzle of politicians and other ambitious people

Many years ago, a student of mine, Phil, asked a simple question: why do people elbow their way onto committees and into public positions, and then not do what they have yelled, screamed, kicked, agitated, mobilized to do?

Isn’t it odd to put so much energy into something and then not do it?

A study of student politicians

Phil’s study was simple.

Students spend a lot of time in queues. He used his queues to find student leaders who had promised publicly to do something for their club or society the very next day.

He was looking for

  • elected leaders (who had volunteered for that job out of all the public posts available in a University)
  • volunteered to their task
  • offered and promised to do it in front of other people
  • expected to do it and complete the next day.

He found his leaders as he queued for lunch or the library or whatever and secured their agreement to be interviewed fully that evening in their study-bedroom and then again, the following evening, after the task was completed.

Two interviews : one before and one after an action that they had promised publicly to a valued group.

Findings

This is what he found:

Success rate

  • 100% of students were totally confident that they would start and complete the task the next day
  • 100% began the task
  • 50% succeeded completely (yep, only 50%)

Effects on confidence

  • 95% turned up for the post-event interview and two who were late courteously left notes rescheduling
  • The confidence of those who completed remained high.
  • The confidence of those who had not completed had plummeted (as we would expect).

Reasons for success and failure

  • When we analyzed what had gone wrong, in every instance, students had tripped over their own naivety. They tried to buy 100 T shirts of the same color without a prior order, for example. Or they hadn’t realized that long distance calls need to be pre-approved.
  • It seemed luck whether someone tripped over a practical detail or not; and therefore, luck whether they had succeeded in their task or not.

Response to failure

  • Though it was essentially luck whether they succeeded or not, if they had tripped up, their sense of self-worth (or self-efficacy) plummeted. The students had no way to see the pattern of events and no way of knowing that their success or failure was down to luck.

Intrepretation

In the West, we are always being told to take responsibility for our lives. I am not sure I buy into this view. I think it is more important to understand cause-and-effect, and what can be influenced, and how.

In the case of these students, they had now way of seeing the overall pattern – after all that is why we were doing the research.  But, an experienced mentor or coach could help them interpret their own success or failure.

This is the advice that they would have got from an experienced mentor

  • If the day had gone well, good – enjoy the buzz of success and set a new challenge in the morning.
  • If the day had not gone well, sorry – you are feeling down, take note of what went wrong, Learn That You Cannot Anticipate Everything, and set a new challenge in the morning!

Without a mentor, life gets tough

How can we possibly distinguish between what is “down to us” and what is the normal ebb-and-flow of life without a good mentor?

Having good uncles, aunts, pastors, teachers, bosses, company-appointed mentors probably influences a youngster’s prospects in life more than anything else.

More than money, more than good looks, more than brains, more than personality. I didn’t put parents on the list because we might be too close to the action to advise young people well.

The big question that people might ask is where are the mentors today? Where do we find mentors as we go through life?

What is the process of mentoring in the UK today?  How do people following very different paths from their parents find mentors?

I’d be willing to argue that the strength of a modern society is our ability to mentor youngsters who come from very different backgrounds from ourselves.

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