Sunday, April 07, 2013

Lost Jobs and No Path Back

Our world is too efficient. Business can run better with automation than with human beings. The more we automate, the more the rich get richer and rest are abandon. Never in history has this trend been more exaggerated than today. There are too many of us on the planet to all be included in the fabric of this industrialized culture. Automation has adjusted the formula.

Money is paramount. If you don't have cash flow you are dropped from society. Most people don't like to conform or be told they have to do something and rebel against this pressure. A hundred years ago you could easily survive because the world was agrarian. Everybody lived on a farm. You could survive by growing your own food, travel about on a horse, and you didn't need much money to get along. You were in charge of your own personal empire. Those were the days of the rugged individual. Today, if you don't have cash or credit, you are outside looking in and probably are on some sort of welfare program provided by the rest of us through taxes. Today we are all glued together in a social structure whether we like it or not. People are dependent on businesses owned by someone else. That stresses people to the brink of disaster when they lose their job. You are suddenly thrown off the carousel  We are ever getting closer to a world dominated by machines, not humans. The answer is to start thinking like a machine.

When you're in your fifties and lose a job nowadays, there are thousands of young people available to fill your position when the business climate returns and companies need to hire back to start growing again. We have a surplus of talent building up of college graduates from around the world eager to take your place. What was once the Third World is becoming the competition, since the knowledge of the educated person is globally available and widely understood due to the connectivity provided by the electronic ether. There is not a location on the face of the earth you can't take a university level course from a major educational institution even in a tent in Outer Mongolia. In countries like India, they graduate hundreds of thousands of technically trained people each year compared to the US, where maybe we might get into tens of thousands. That mass of college graduates quickly turn into PhDs. In America we depend on getting the job first with a bachelor degree  and working on further education on a ad hoc basis.  When you lose your job, there are people from around the world standing in the employment lines usually in front of you not behind you.  Many of them are better prepared through higher education. In America we tend to feel we deserve to get a job, that jobs are automatic especially if you have a degree. That day is long gone. You have to fight for a position, elbowing the competition out of the way. There isn't much sympathy if you don't find work. It's becoming too common.

So what's the average guy suppose to do? If your average, you're probably in trouble. If you're lucky enough to have a job, make it stick. Work hard to keep it. If you lose your job, you should have spent a lot of your casual time trending where job opportunities are going and have become familiar with what the shifting prerequisites are. You can't start figuring this out when you're on the run - no time. The folks that track this sort of statistics are telling us professionals are changing jobs every five years on average just to stay in the running. So many are always looking for the trends and jumping to catch them. You have to target a position you can qualify for or get on a program that leads to a position. Just going to a night college assuming that a degree, any degree is the ticket, doesn't work. Most schools are behind in their curriculum or way off target in the first place. You have to find a company you want to work for and learn what it is they do and how they do it. Then you have to align yourself with the skills they want. The next step is critical. You have to find someone inside that company to champion you, be your sponsor. Resumes are nothing more than fodder for the recycling bin. The reason is they are all written to impress in a Hollywood style that prevents them from actually providing a human resources managers anything to gauge whether you are who you say you are.

One trend that has had an impact is video interviews placed on YouTube. That is your best resume. You answer your own questions in a compelling manner. You don't even have to set up a two-person fake interview scenario. Just talk to the camera. HR gets to read your body language, see your face, and get a real feeling of who you are before they waste their time calling you in for the "real" interview.

If you find that computer technology is the basis of a new job, you can't learn this stuff overnight. Therein lies the largest hurdle to jump. Most jobs have shifted to a higher level of computer skills to fill, even your old job. Times they are a-changing and so did your old job. How do you become a computer whiz overnight? You can't. Learning how to program a computer, operate a numerical automated machine, how to build robots that work to the level of sophistication of today's machines takes years of training.

The writing on the wall is it would be best that your hobbies include learning how computers are built, programmed, and used. Have an understanding of the vast array of applications that have become commonplace like Photoshop, InDesign, database applications, website development, networking fundamentals. Become a powerhouse of how to design, develop, and produce projects using these skills. If you really get good at it, then when you lose that job, start your own company to supply a critical need to some other company or the one you just left. You are now older, more mature, and have the best opportunity to be an individual.

The future individual empire will only be realized by a person that can out wit a machine.