What if the Turmoil Isn’t Political?
For many of us, turning on the news or reading posts on Facebook produces facial ticks and feelings the Apocalypse is at hand. But for those of us who work, we cannot afford to be distracted.
The world is in the midst of the most extensive restructuring of work since the Industrial Revolution. A 3.5% unemployment rate means everything is just great. Right? But, there is another number that could be the most significant contributor to our nation’s turmoil. Today, half of our country’s workers characterize themselves as “underemployed.”
The underemployed work below their capacity, fearfully hold onto obsolete jobs, hold 2-3 positions to keep a roof over their heads and work on weekends to meet the rent.
Without meaningful intervention, underemployment will only grow, and the United States will fall behind other developed countries. But wait! It already is. China, Belgium, South Korea, Japan, and Germany are actively preparing their citizens for the future of work.
For example, most Germans don’t know what underemployment is. The country has a carefully choreographed strategy to grow the value of its workforce. German and Japanese automakers use more robotics than we do. Instead of automatically laying off workers because of new technology, they develop the workers for new roles.
Germany invests far more in keeping each worker relevant than in paying unemployment. While the sloths might refer to this practice as socialism, it is good business.
The German government also helps workers that do lose their jobs by actively funding apprenticeships in new or growing industries.
Today, half of America’s workers are getting kicked to the curb by change. The underemployed have lost all certainty they can work in the future because they are too afraid to change. Or, they want to change but don’t know how to do that. The dramatic difference in workforce outlook comes from Angela Merkel:
“It is nonsense to say that Germans are unable to change.”
Merkel is keenly aware of the damage that comes when vast segments of the people develop an unreasonable level of fear about their future. They will believe anything.
What are we doing? Our political leaders are doing nothing of value. At Inspired Work, we feel a responsibility to study all that is taking place in the world of work. Unfortunately, we have not identified political leaders offering a convincing plan to end underemployment, let alone get all of our workers into the future.
Our potential fall only gets bigger when our leaders are too arrogant to study countries that have the most successful workforce strategies.
Isn’t this bizarre? As coal miners face unemployment, we try to bring back coal. One senator suggested that we get coal miners into trucking, where technology will reduce available positions from 5.2 million to 600,000 in less than seven years. One promised that if he were elected, he would bring back malls and big-box retail.
A candidate from the tech industry suggests that, if elected, he will see that all of us get a monthly check for $1,000. Just how are we going to inspire action by offering another false narrative about victimhood!
Quite a few sitting politicians or candidates are promising to make business and the 1% pay for the “disappearance of the middle-class.” They do this in a country famous for creating wealth out of poverty. Adjusted for inflation, today’s middle-class is making more than the middle-class of 1960. But, how do we fuel outrage by telling people to lower their debt load?
How did we get here?
In 1971, Alvin Toffler, the world’s most celebrated futurist, predicted that advancing technology was also accelerating change. He said that by the turn of the century, we would be living in a state of “future shock.” He characterized the syndrome as becoming paralyzed by trying to absorb too much change in too short a period-of-time.” The turn of the century was 19 years ago.
But, most of us were unaware of his predictions because of one extraordinary event. In 2006, we were pigs in poop with unlimited credit and task jobs for everyone. From 2008 to 2012, most of us were distracted by surviving the Great Recession. But, the acceleration of change continued, and by the time many of us looked up, we responded by looking away. What did we see? A world where task work gets cheaper every day. A landscape where the average college graduate changes careers, not jobs, 4 to 6 times.
How do we move forward?
Stop depending on anyone to fix it! Accepting that our country is doing a lousy job on the topic of work is a valuable first step. The work of the future requires new skills. The work is far more interesting than plugging bolts in holes. Instead of studying dysfunction, study success. Pay attention. If you are a parent, don’t expect an antiquated school system to provide gap training for life skills.
I know it is hard to envision a bright future if we have spent years making a living in joyless work. We did that to survive. Now, how do we thrive?
Begin with finding the work that we love. Because love drives all of us to change. Become an active learner. Do this by learning as much as possible every single day. If you love your work, you will probably opt to study what you love. The more skilled you become with learning, the more adept you will become in finding answers.
Above all, let’s stop blaming others for our malaise because we are solely responsible for our success and happiness. We are also responsible for our failure. Once we accept that, our work ethic transforms, and we can progress. Instead of blaming anyone, find mentors that are succeeding in the areas you need to succeed. Before you sit down with them, set aside any forms of cynicism and contempt. Because, the good ones will fire you the moment you push back. As Mr. Toffler once said, “the successful people of the future will be able to learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
Pay attention to the profound shifts that are happening! Study the people who are using every tool and resource they can find to change the world. We are curing cancer, cleaning up the oceans, and developing ways to offer free high-quality education to everyone.
Social entrepreneurs are making green energy, healthy food, and safety more profitable than the alternatives.
What’s the payoff? Well, it is different for all of us, so I will tell you how changing impacted me.
I haven’t had a job since 1990. Recently, I had lunch with my last boss. She was a brilliant and fierce role model. Her first question was, “What is it like to wake up? What is it like to know that your work has touched thousands of lives?”
Tears welled up as I said, “It feels like redemption.”
When measured from a time perspective, work is our most significant relationship. The quality of that relationship impacts every other relationship in our lives.
Stop waiting for anyone to fix that relationship for you!
Find a relationship with your work where you feel deep meaning on your terms. Don’t settle on anything less than making an income that represents your real contribution to the world. Don’t watch the news for more than 30 minutes. Vote for candidates who present smart solutions for the underemployed.
In this new world of work, if you have become a success story, help others do the same. We are witnessing, right now, what happens when we turn our backs on others.
Life is sacred.
Schedule 15-Minutes to Discuss Your Workplace or Career with David (Here)
(C) Copyright, 2019, Inspired Work, Inc. – (All Rights Reserved)