Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Prepare for Uselessness

A fairly gloomy article about coming changes in work, focusing on skill obsolescence and aging: Out with the old. A quote:
"The education system turns out large numbers of graduates who will not find work in the jobs for which they trained; more people will lose work to those in other countries who work for less; still others will find that as they age, their experience matters ever less. These are the spectres of uselessness today - images not of people confronting a broken economic machine, but of their own irrelevance in a system that works efficiently, and profitably."
Via Mark Lloyd.

2 comments:

Penelope Trunk said...

I read the full article you link to and the analysis strikes me as very outdated - practically ignoring the realities of a post-boomer workforce.

Take, for example, the author's grousing that what people learn in school is not applicable to the new work place.

This is, in part, true. Becuase in the world of off-shoring, what we truly value is creative thinking and empathic management -- two things that are not easily outsourced. (Dan Pink covers this well in his books.)

So what we have today is an education system that recognizes that hard skills (memorizing state capitals for example) are not nearly as important as soft skills (learning to navigate playground politics). This does not seem like a bad thing. In fact, having a workforce with great social skills seems nicer that what the Guardian writer longs for.

And I do not see why it matters if you don't have a career in what you study in school. So what if we learn state capitals and then don't use them at work? What is the harm? As long as we all have social skills we'll all be prepared for work in the future.

Another example: The Guardian writer describes the poor middle-aged man who has to set up a consultancy and is "invisible" to his corporate-ladder-climbing friends. Meanwhile, most of Generation X and Y would love to set up their own shop outside of corporate heirarchy.

And the feeling of being invisible is only becuase that middle-aged man cannot see the value in getting off the ladder. If he could pick up his head and look beyond his own age group, he'd probably feel a lot better about what he does.

These are just two examples of how baby boomers need to stop complaining about where the workplace is going and instead, get with the program. Things are not bad -- in fact, they are great. There is great opportunity for fun, engaging work that leaves room for personal life. If baby boomers valued that more, they wouldn't have to publish doomsday predictions about the workplace.

Jeremy said...

Thanks for the excellent comment, Penelope. This is a great example of the value of linking to something weak that generates way more value when smart people bounce off of it.

Agreed, the article seems unnecessarily grim and narrow in its scope, as if the author read a half-dozen similar "summary" articles (but not the real sources) and then rehashed their main arguments.

I like what you wrote about the mid-life career changer's relationship to the old corporate ladder. I commented over on your site about the hybrid I've been attempting (mostly successfully).