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By David Harder on May, 11, 2018

Is Your Industry Shrinking or Growing?

Right now, the acceleration of change is creating radical new predictions about how much disruption will happen with all of us who work. For the creative, adaptive and active learner, the road ahead is filled with opportunity, excitement, and growth. In fact, there are enormous options for professionals who become adept with self-change, the ones who develop an objective inner-radar of when their industry or business is shrinking or growing. If that suggestion sounds a bit overreaching, consider the fact that many conservative academic leaders tell us today’s average college graduate will change careers, not jobs, four to six times.


Human nature developed during the last 300 years of the global workplace is change-adverse. So, many of us would do well to let go of our beliefs and outlooks from the past. For those who want to thrive in this new world, it is time to adopt a series of skills that require a bit of courage to grow. First, the primary reason any of us fail isn’t intention or value, it is isolation. In a world where the cycles of change accelerate, the most pressing need in today’s workers is to learn how to connect with others more quickly and mindfully. We need to learn how to build more than just support systems but customized communities that fuel the success of our mission, vision, and purpose. Many will respond that this sounds so exhausting. Consider that doing soul-sapping obsolete work while trying to avoid the human resources death angel is far more draining.


One of the most important ways most of us can exploit change to our benefit is to recognize when our industry or market is shrinking or growing. This commitment also requires a bit of courage. But, it is an absolutely obsolete mindset to view shrinkage as a life-threatening problem. For the more adept worker, these cycles of change open up doors for new opportunities to grow and to leapfrog into far more interesting work.


Here is an example. For the past decade, the post-production industry in film and Television has been shrinking. The technology in this area is rapidly becoming easier to use and less costly to buy. So, many of the studios are moving the function in-house. Today, many highly gifted post-production professionals are taking salary cuts to remain in the market segment, even though it will continue to shrink. But, a savvy film editor will look to emerging markets for new opportunities.


Here’s one: Virtual reality. When the tech industry invests billions of dollars to launch a new innovation and more billions to make consumers addicted to the new medium, where will they find editors?


There will be mid-level traditional film editors that transform their value simply by entering the virtual reality content game today. However, without a solid personal commitment to active learning, the fall-back position is to fixate on survival to the very end.


You see, the benefit of entering new markets for employers is that it is virtually impossible to find someone fully baked with all of the skills needed for an emerging role. Also, employers can position this need as a strength or weakness within their employment strategy. Last year, I interviewed Adam Miller, the CEO of Cornerstone on Demand for a chapter in my new book, The Workplace Engagement Solution (Career Press).


Adam and his team grew Cornerstone into the world’s largest talent development portal with over 25million subscribers. When the company launched, Los Angeles was not a hotbed for technology talent. So, Adam insisted on hiring people with a few core technology skills plus demonstrated histories in active learning. Not only did this strategy work, it led to a company culture with very low turnover because employees grow and routinely move into new roles.


Active learning can also open the door to individuals developing new value to employers rocked by change. We started working with Disney in the 90s and at the time, hundreds of gifted artists were being laid-off at Feature Animation. These were individuals who spent hours painting animation cells. But, technology wasn’t just creating an entirely new production process, it was creating a new consumer who expected the wow factor of digital technology. One client from that original group set aside cynicism and contempt of the new technology rolled up her sleeves and went through the fire of learning how to develop the magnificent computerized art this brand is known for today. Her team received an Academy Award for Frozen. With a bit of courage, she became a better artist, a more expressive artist, and that led to full enthusiasm for continual learning.


My partner and I spent two weeks on one of the world’s newest and most spectacularly beautiful ocean liners. At one point, I thought of this resistance so many people have towards change. I thought of the Titanic, crippled in the water and our ship somehow time traveling and pulling up alongside. Our crew yells to the radio operator on the Titanic to come on board and help with the communications. He yells back, “I can’t because I’m a HAM operator.” Another member of our crew calls to an engineer, “Come on board! We have the most sophisticated drive system of modern times.” The other response, “I only work with coal.” Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But, that is kind of in line with the interior conversations that locks up the minds of many underemployed workers.


In this scenario, hope becomes a polite form of delusion. But, progress has nothing to do with hope. Trucks will be run by intelligent robotics. Task-oriented jobs fall away and give workers the freedom to do work that is creative, engaged, interesting, and new. But, many of underemployed don’t want freedom, they want a job, possibly just like the one they hated.


Our political leaders in both parties are patronizing the public about the topic of work. Consequently, a culture of outrage distracts many of us from the fact that 48% of America’s workers now characterize themselves as “underemployed.” This is more than an economic malady, it is a spiritual one. Our country is dissolving funds that typically gave many workers a bridge to new work. Our leaders pay little attention to success stories from other countries such as Germany where there is virtually no unemployment. This and other countries demonstrate cultures of on-the-job-training and apprenticeships that keep everyone current and competitive.


It is dangerous, self-indulgent and damaging to characterize the progress of technology as a setback to workers. Why? History has proven that behind every new wave of technology, new opportunities also emerge.


3D printing will disrupt assembly lines, distribution, and shipping. But, it will empower countless individuals to become business owners for the first time. The technology will allow craftsmen + women mass produce their work. It will open doors for reducing extraordinary levels of pollutants and will advance healthcare in ways that are still difficult to imagine.


Artificial Intelligence will rapidly improve education, communication, and problem-solving. That will open doors for people who want to create content, or teach others, or provide accountability to customers, which is one thing technology cannot offer.


So how do we build the skills of self-change?


Let’s begin with self-inquiry and here is the one pitch I’m going to put forward in this narrative. For 28 years, we have been guiding individuals through a two-day, question-driven process that has led to thousands of new careers, new jobs, new businesses, and greater success with their existing work. Through this experience, I have realized that the truth about our work is already in all of us. Our career DNA is as unique as a thumbprint. I recommend our experience because it is simply the best personal change process for work. In essence, it is hard to get the world to help us without a clearly defined mission, vision, and purpose. It is also hard, if not impossible, to do what someone else tells us to do.


That said, there are a series of life skills that all of us urgently need to be successful in a world that changes more quickly every day. For many, it requires a bit of courage to take this on. All of us need to learn how to draw healthy attention to ourselves, to influence others, to present our value and ideas, and to build comprehensive and customized support systems. At first blush, that might sound a bit daunting. But what is the alternative? Taking that masters degree and become a coffee barista?


Technology is not the enemy here. What has become the enemy in our culture is to seek comfort rather than taking action.


Active learning is the new road to redemption. Everything that we propose at Inspired Work is learnable. Success can be learned in a very short period of time. Fulfillment with our purpose comes through education. Mentors, people who want to help us are there. But, when we place comfort over action, we will seek out others who are failing in the same way we are failing.


This work of mine has forced me into becoming an active learner. At one point, I realized I had grown so much that I barely recognized myself. In fact, I’ve lost the need for a single identity. Our access to information has the power to turn all of us into better versions of ourselves on a daily basis. Why hold onto the old us?


Learn something new every day and learn more the next day. Exponentially grow one’s knowledge.


Where could that lead you?


Stay tuned.


Brought to you by David Harder, President – Inspired Work, Inc.


Schedule 15-Minutes to Discuss Your Workplace or Career with David (Here)


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