dont be a commodity


Are you keeping up with recent developments?

In the past 20 years, employment patterns, prospects and careers have changed exponentially. We have all read many articles and there have been some amazing books written on the topic, but here are a few examples to remind you:

Globalization meant that many jobs got moved overseas to workers who could provide the same solutions, at lower cost. One of the best books about this was Thomas Friedman's 'The world is flat'. Factors such as multinational corporations and outsourcing companies have accelerated this phenomena. Cheaper travel and improved logistics and infrastructure have also turbo charged globalization.

The power shift and rule of companies/capital over labour has meant that there are no jobs for life anymore. Pensions and benefits have been gradually taken away in the drive for profitability and to keep up with global competition. There is an increase in labor types such as in contract, part-time and temporary categories.

An education system that has not kept up with modern technology and international trends has put many, or even most graduates in bad situations. Saddled with tens, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, combined with qualifications that are based on factual re-gurge. When facts can be searched on Google, problem solving becomes the only important skill. Young people start their careers with the biggest problem that they could imagine. Crippling debt.

This is leading to a ‘choose yourself' economy.

Many skills are a commodity, most current jobs will be 'lost' to technology...

Commoditisation of skills and knowledge has been enabled by improvements in the internet infrastructure. Programs can be written to guide a low or mid level person through a process that previously needed a high level of expertise. For example, accounting, engineering and web design can be done overnight by low cost staff in a developing country. Some of the best quality electronics in the world are made in China (Apple products).

And these changes are going to continue to accelerate because of artificial intelligence, augmented reality and other technology previously reserved for science fiction.

We already have self driving cars, completely autonomous vehicles are only 5 years away. Not just Google, Tesla and Uber cars, but cargo planes, commercial airlines, and soon after unpiloted passenger space missions...

What will happen to your job in the oil business, when self flying space craft are mining Mars, creating solar space blankets and charging self flying batteries back to earth, for the residents that are still living on this planet?

Is the future bleak?

For your current job? Yes... At some point in the future that applies to almost all of us.

For you and your families quality of life? No... Unless you refuse to embrace change.

These same self driving vehicles and autonomous robots that can take ALL of our jobs might lead to a post-work world where no humans need to work ever again. We could experience a new renaissance and peak for humanity the allows us to pursue art, spirituality, golf, fishing, quality time with our families...

Perhaps even travel across the galaxy living as Captain Kirk or Luke Skywalker have done? A full and exciting life hooked up to a virtual reality machine so powerful that we literally do not know we are inside it! A machine, that if switched off would lead to a soul crushing disappointment that would lead to a period of depression...

Am I getting carried away? Perhaps a little, but this is where we are heading.

Of course there is a gap that need to be addressed. A gap between the future, and now. Right now, we need to work, we need to feed our families, we want to enjoy a quality lifestyle because the fact remains, none of us know how long we have on this Earth, (or Mars).

So, what is the worst thing that we could do?

Do what we have always done, and fear change. Complain when our job role gets outsourced to someone in a developing country. Get bitter and twisted as we descend into alcoholism and nihilistic or fatalistic thinking.

What is the best thing that we can do?

Do our best to avoid being a commodity. Even if you think that you do your job well, do you really do it better than someone from a lower income country? Do you do it better than a custom built robot with level 5 artificial intelligence?

If the answer is no, or the very thought of the question makes you angry, here are a few suggestions:

Realise that even as things change, these changes happen gradually. The best and brightest are the last to be fired or laid off. The smartest in every changing or dying job or industry have more time to prepare, and better opportunity to keep their living standards high.

• Be a problem solver, and out of the box thinker. You are unlikely to be able to work harder than cheap foreign labor, but there is a good chance that you will be better at solving problems. Even computer systems, as powerful as they are, do not think the way that humans do. If you can't be creative, innovative or be a linchpin of an organisation, do you really ‘deserve' more than someone from Africa, Asia, or anywhere else? Imperialism and racial elitism is also something that is going the way of the horse and cart.

• You can become an expert at embracing change and optimizing processes. Then you can help other companies move and thrive into the future. An oil industry example would be our friends over at Relentless Pursuit of Perfection who help drilling teams save millions by streamlining their processes and help individuals work together and be more productive. Every industry can benefit from the LEAN and Total Limit methodologies, even old fashioned businesses such as warehousing.

• Be optimistic that technology such as level 5 artificial intelligence and the colonisation of the Moon and Mars, could mean not only that we don't need to work anymore, but might actually allow humanity to avoid the next mass extinction event.

Don't be a dinosaur, look to the future. Follow the latest tech trends and realise that nothing will be the same in a few short years. Embrace the future, don't fight it.

Don't be a commodity.

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Tagged under: Career Advice