Dear Mr. President, What About Our Work?
Dear Mr. President,
One of the few things I know for sure is that when we believe there isn’t enough for all of us, we turn on each other. The purpose of democracy is to provide relevance to every citizen. The purpose of democracy is to provide relevance to every citizen. For many of us, that relevance begins with our work.
As the world undergoes the most extensive restructuring of work in 300 years, not one political leader has told the American people how to remain relevant in this new world of work.
Over 50 years ago, advertising companies introduced focus groups that gave politicians the messages we most wanted to hear. When was the last time you heard a politician tell us what to do? The last President that did this inspired young people to give back to the world with the Peace Corps. He told us we were out of shape and brought physical education into our schools.
Today, instead of guidance, we hear promises. We have also come to know most of these promises will not flourish. More profoundly, when we are afraid and uncomfortable with change, promises encourage people to wait, all at a time when action is the only way forward.
Before the pandemic, we celebrated a 3.8% unemployment rate. But, about half of our nation’s workers characterized themselves as “underemployed.”
Who are these people?
They are the mothers that hold 2-3 cheap jobs to keep a roof over their family. They are the mothers getting home at 2 in the morning exhausted. But, before they go to bed, they make lunch for their children.
Underemployment is deeply influenced by the quality of our schools. Most continue to prepare our children for the Industrial Revolution. Young adults have invested in graduate degrees only to find themselves serving coffee and picking people for Uber. We have yet to find one school that requires sales training, presentation skills, the ability to build a customized support system that matches their vision, mission, or purpose. Yes, learning these life skills requires courage. In an ideal world, you would be consistently telling them why personal change is worth the effort.
Our world changes so quickly that today’s college graduates will change careers, not jobs, four to six times. Within this frenzy, we need to be building the ability to graciously and fluidly connect with the right people. Without these skills, no one will know they are here.
Of course, many of us are frightened we will not change in time. People cannot change if they are isolated. Millions of our citizens need to work, but without help, they look to the future and lose confidence there is a place for them. Of course, we have turmoil.
Our nation is in deep trouble because of our neglect in guiding all-American workers. But, we are also in jeopardy on a global scale. China, Germany, Japan, Canada, and South Korea have sophisticated strategies to build rather than ignore the strength of their talent. We belly-ache about technology taking away rote and mind-numbing jobs. These countries use technology to free the mind for new and essential work. German automakers are well-known examples of investing in cutting-edge technology and training their workers to move into new roles. Like many of the other nations that are ahead of us, Germany developed partnerships with employers and educational institutions to keep their workers employed and competitive.
We would probably call that socialism. Actually, it is good business.
At the very least, being given freedom from rote and monotonous work allows us to return to using work as a platform for our lives, abundance, and meaning. Today, we can live wherever we want to. I no longer have to grab a flight to New York or Europe to do business. I just turn on my computer.
Technology also offers us the opportunity to design careers and businesses that we love. I have been facilitating that outcome for 30 years. Letting go of mediocrity and developing work that matches our career DNA is one of the greatest opportunities in life.
One of the most important lessons I have learned from my work is that when we find our true purpose, there is always a solution to make that work sustainable.
So, while other countries are showing their workers the way, we shower our people with bad ideas. One candidate implied that technology companies had exploited and victimized.
We are about to launch a new company designed to help end underemployment without financial barriers. As a social entrepreneur, I believe that making our solutions available to everyone who works that right and the best thing to do with my life. But, the scope of this problem is so big that doing it alone would feel like trying to put out a forest fire with a tablespoon.
We need your guidance.
We need a consistent voice of why changing ourselves is so very important for our economy, health, joy, fulfillment, and families.
You know the words by heart, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
Our country needs an awakening.
There are millions of problems that need to be solved.
There are millions of people that want to help.
What could happen to the spirit of our country if we become a nation of mentors?
Hard to visualize?
We live in a country that exists because of imagination.