Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day 2010

Robert Reich recently wrote an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times entitled “How to End the Great Recession.” Reich’s pessimistic take on the failure of current efforts to stimulate the economy is because the structure of the economy has changed rather than due to the normal business cycle.

Reich notes that productivity enhancing software and outsourcing jobs to countries with cheaper labor forces have been among the contributors to many jobs vanishing from the economy and thus, the continuing high rate of unemployment. Reich argues that it will take a restructuring of public policies to encourage job growth and position America to be competitive in the future.

The permanent disappearance of jobs is one of the most difficult issues for those of us who counsel and coach people looking for their next position. Those clients in real estate related fields, financial services and other occupations have seen their jobs just evaporate.

Dan Pink, in his book, A Whole New Mind, wrote about the “3As” of Abundance, Asia and Automation. His thesis was that traditionally routine work that can be automated will be outsourced to Asian countries where smart people can do the work cheaper than their American counterparts.

The point is there are jobs that are not coming back and the people affected most are the middle class, which has long been the mainstay of this country’s economic well being.

So what can you do? Whether you’re employed or not, there are things you need to do to ensure that you retain your value (and your job):

  • Take responsibility – for both your own career and for being informed on how the changed economy affects your future. I’ve written plenty on the New Normal and strategies to navigate it relative to your career.
  • Be accountable – for your own career development. Don’t rely on the organization for which you work to provide a career path. Know your value; tell your story of how you influence outcomes that contribute to the organization’s bottom line.
  • Pay attention – regardless of your political leanings, don’t swallow the simple bromides that either incumbents or their opposition offer about what’s wrong with our nation. Make them go deeper with their explanations and proposals for improvement. Think about what they’re saying. Does it make sense, why or why not? Don’t succumb to the polarizing arguments that both sides present. Question them, get engaged, hold them accountable.
So what do you think needs to happen to remain productive and employed in today’s economy? Can you as an individual have an impact, if not on macro economic policy, on your economic policy – on your career?


  1. Keep it up, Scott!!!!
    Very nice.
    Very true.
    Very tough.

  2. I would add one more: Follow closely the shift to Renewable Energies, look for opportunities where your skills could contribute. The recent problems with oil ( Deep Horizon) and coal (Upper Big Branch) remind us of the hazards of such energy production as well as of the dwindling supply, so the impetus is growing to tap into other energy sources.

  3. Amen Scott: Be responsible; be accountable.

    Our economy is suffering from the many bubbles that have burst (and perhaps more still to come). While I'm sure there is a healthy debate about how to fix the macro issues - how does the saying go, the best place to start is in your own home.

    This may not be the best path for everyone, but my actions included the following:
    - Get real. Set expectations about what level and type of work I can get within my target time-frame.
    - Act real. Adjust my budget to accommodate my new near time financial normal. In other words, move away from the gluttonous ways of the past (or at least, be only as gluttonous as I can afford to be).
    - Have a long view. Be motivated by the path I am on, and the vision I have for how I am rebuilding my self, my life, my 'career'. It is not a destination, it is a journey.

  4. Thanks folks, for your comments.

    --Erika, The support, as always, is most welcome.

    --Packard, Good insight on the Renewables sector. My only concern is that this space is still volatile and dependent on oil prices. My admonition remains the same: Pay attention! Hold policymakers accountable for their statements, actions and inaction.

    --Mark, Your comments get to the heart of self action, self responsibility and accountability. Perhaps one of the benefits of this Great Recession, is the fact that many people are following your example and paring back, paying down personal debt, managing expectations.

    ~ Scott

  5. Scott,
    Well said, and in the saying, you referenced two of my favorite folks: Pink and Reich! Maybe it's because I like what they say, or it could be that pink looks good on me and reich is part of my own last name! Whatever, your tips are true. Thanks for reminding us!

  6. Thanks Linda, I've been a fan of Robert Reich's since grad school; I've only just discovered Dan Pink, but follow him pretty regularly. Both of these guys have great perspectives on key issues of import to all of us.

    ~ Scott