Starting now and into the foreseeable future, how work looks has changed for all of us. If you don’t believe me, ask the public sector union employees in Wisconsin and other states. Government jobs once seemed secure and immune from layoffs, pay cuts, benefits changes and furlough days of which many in the private sector have become accustomed. When I shared “Security is a myth” recently, this is part of what was on my mind.
How work with a bright future looks
First and foremost, a bit of advice: If at all possible, avoid jobs that you can foresee turning into races to the bottom. By that I mean that if someone else – anyone else – could be easily trained to do your job, it’s pretty much guaranteed that wages will fall and/or the job will be shipped off-shore. It’s not fair. I know. Get over it. Life’s not fair; unless you make it so.
In “Business Stripped Bare,” Richard Branson puts it this way:
“Failure is not giving things a go in the first place. People who fail are those who don’t have a go and don’t make an effort. Failures can’t be bothered.”
In Sir Richard’s world, failure is searching for security and avoiding risk. On this, Mr. Branson and I agree 100 percent. You need to get outside your comfort zone. Do work you don’t think you can do. Be willing to go places you normally wouldn’t have gone. Spread your wings and live.
How work looks for Shelby and Cheryl in 2011
In the last thirty days or so, I’ve watched two women close to me do just that. Shelby, the editor here, left a pretty comfortable and secure job. She’s on her own now freelancing. From all indications, she is loving the decision and on her way to making more money than she previously made. There is no commute, no cube and no coming home stressed out. She’s doing work she wants to be doing for clients she’s crazy about!
My wife also left a secure job with great benefits. Once she started looking, she found a job in less than two weeks. The job pays more and has comparable benefits. Sure, she is going to travel sometimes, but she was tired of cube farming anyway. When she’s not traveling, she’s either working remotely from the desk next to mine or completely disengaged from work for six days at a time.
The work these ladies are doing is specialized.
In Shelby’s case, she’s willing to act as the virtual marketing department for a number of companies. Plus, she picks up design and meeting planning projects to fill the gaps. Many small businesses like ours can’t quite afford a full-time marketing person but we sure need a part-time one. It’s awesome to be able to work with an experienced media person who understands marketing and public relations.
Cheryl, on the other hand, is willing to travel when the job requires it. Equally important, she is willing to work from her own home when necessary. Additionally, she’s willing to work eight days straight in order to have six days off. There’s nothing traditional about that. Finally, she gets to apply a lifetime of learning and understanding very specialized medical records recording. While she might be able to train you to do this work in a matter or weeks, you wouldn’t be able to do it unsupervised. Cheryl, on the other hand, can visit a small hospital and serve as a one-person department in her areas of specialization.
In 2011 and beyond, how work looks is up to you – not your employer. If there are mass layoffs and pay cuts in your area of expertise, please consider the work you do might be a race to the bottom. Please look around and retrain yourself before you end up on the outside looking in.