The UGLY Truth About America’s Jobless Economy
Based upon the MANY conversations that I’ve had with people about America’s jobless economy and lack of abundant employment opportunitiesthe last few weeks, it is clear that we are LONG past due the time required for an honest conversation about the HORRIFIC state of America’s “JOBLESS” economy.
Our economy has been transforming at a tremendous rate of change since we evolved from a post-Industrial manufacturing society to an information and technology-driven market.
Entire industries have been transformed due to advances in technology (most notably the Internet.) Sectors of our economy such as printing & publishing, advertising, retail, accounting, manufacturing, banking, and financial services have all been transformed. Significant transformation demands the kind of new skills, training, certifications, and knowledge that threatens the entire American workforce and leads to a severe shortage of attractive employment opportunities.
Making matters significantly worse for America’ workers, the myopic short-term profit centric focus of our business “leaders ” has led to tremendous employee layoffs through outsourcing, off-shoring, downsizing, right-sizing and re-engineering as they pursued a scorched earth policy of seeking the cheapest available labor. We have become a society where there is no such thing as job security and the “contract” between employees and employers no longer exists.
The new “REALITY” for America’s workers.
The average American worker will now change jobs 8-9 times in their career (and the number is on a rapid rise.) One in four Americans can now be classified as contract/independent workers or consultants who are employed on a full-time basis and have ZERO guarantee of steady income.
The state of America’s workforce is SO bad, that wee can’t even determine an accurate accounting for our nation’s unemployed since so many people that are ready, willing, and able to work have given up on looking for work. Pick a number….how about 15-20% unemployed? The truth is, no one (especially the Bureau of Labor Statistics) knows for sure!
Remember the buzz in the media about a “recovery?” Well, it seems that recovery helped large corporations and the top 2% of America, but passed over the rest of us. Large companies have been performing quite well, but are hell bent on hording cash and paying senior executives exorbitant bonuses. No jobs creation there! Meanwhile, smaller companies (including the many I consult with) continue to struggle to meet payroll and keep their businesses afloat. Hire new employees? No way! They continue to be forced to operate with skeletal staffs they’ve had in place for several years since the last round of layoffs.
Insurance companies, banks, and credit card companies continue to prey on the balance of Americans that are in financial distress. This is where the public debate should be framed, and yet we hear nothing but the shrill sound of two parties not willing to compromise on a relatively minor issue of raising America’s debt ceiling.
The bigger issue is a lack of American leadership in politics, education, and business. For 40 years our leaders have taken the easy way out, kicked the can down the road and passed up on countless opportunities to move America forward. Well, that can is at the end of the road. Where do we go from here?
THIS is the broad debate that needs to happen NOW.
The fundamental question that DEMANDS a new kind of visionary American leadership to answer is this: “How can we put Americans back to work?”
For three years, I have been working with all sorts of people from High School students to the mature workforce on ways to bulletproof your career in these turbulent times. There is an “across-the-board” fear at MOST levels of our society that people cannot find meaningful work, and our future is destined to be worse than today.
How did we bankrupt our future? How can we create jobs for our High School students and college graduates and a meaningful future for our children? When 2% of Americans control a majority of our nation’s wealth through Lobbyists and special interests, we are in danger. When a grassroots Tea Party movement of less than 10% Congressional representation can derail a nation’s political agenda, we are in danger. When our children finish well below the students of other nations in math and science proficiency…we are in danger.
Until an entirely new visionary leadership arises at all levels of our American education, political, and business systems, we are merely shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic American jobless recovery and will not see an abundance of relevant employment opportunities.
Women’s World Cup Final Has GREAT Lessons for All
This Sunday at 2PM Eastern Time, I will be glued to my TV watching the US women play the ladies from Japan for the 2011 Women’s World Cup championship.
AND I HATE SOCCER!
So why will I sit and watch, riveted by EVERY play? As a career coach and business consultant…I SIMPLY HAVE TO! These women are showing what it takes for a top team and individuals to strive towards achieving greatness.
I ask you…has ANY other international sports competition brought together two more positive world role models for us to learn invaluable life lessons from than this game? It is truly RARE that a sporting event holds nearly universal appeal for teaching all the most important lessons on life, competition, teamwork, professionalism…YOU NAME IT!
On one hand is the lady’s team from Japan.
Hollywood could NOT have scripted a more improbable, against all odds David victory against Goliath win than when Japan beat a tournament favorite and host nation lady’s team from Germany. As a “reward” Japan got to face a VERY strong team from Sweden in the semi’s where the Japanese team was outsized 5′-4″ to 5′-8″ average per player by the Swedes…AND Japan STILL WON to continue the team’s phenomenal tournament play, in advancing to the finals.
The Japanese team plays for a nation still healing from a massive earthquake and the evacuation that followed due to the threat of multiple nuclear reactor meltdowns. The team has exhibited a “JUST WIN” mentality throughout the World Cup. They have taken on every adversary no matter how seemingly over-matched and has come through victorious in their path towards achieving greatness by winning a title.
The team lends credence to the notion that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog. And they are already winners for how they have performed.
And then there are those crazy American ladies…
Favored to play in the finals before the tournament even began, they were a collection of stars that had won everything in their path as they racked up international wins. But clearly they likely had not faced adversity and may not have had to play as a truly unified team as when they faced the team from Brazil.
They ran into a Brazilian team that was up to the challenge of playing David to Team USA’s Goliath themselves. Brazil outplayed the US in the first half. Coupled with truly horrendous, heinous anti-American officiating the USA ladies faced a horrible position of having to play one player short a majority of the game.
As spectators we got to watch a team of stars rise to the occasion on a global stage.
Team USA put aside any egos and individual goals through clarity of focus on ONE goal…winning a championship! They pushed ahead and seized every opportunity and broke through against Brazil then they followed that win with a victory against France, for a date in the finals.
There are so many parallels for these two teams and so much that they represent that is best in sports. And can be in all of us. Can you see NFL and NBA players/teams performing like this (or the MLB and NHL, for that matter?)
Players on both sides elevated their games, put aside their personal needs, changed positions (roles), had the widespread support of their Nations behind them, all while exhibiting the highest levels of sportsmanship/professionalism as they pursued their lifelong passions.
On the American side, there was great coaching (management) by Sundhage, players becoming leaders (Wambach), rising stars who achieved success when called on to step up (Morgan and Cheney), and unbelievable saves from a woman named Hope Solo (how IRONIC!)
BOTH teams represent the highest standards of excellence regardless of the outcome.
Tune in to ESPN on Sunday at 2PM ET. For all those invaluable LIFE & CAREER lessons.
When Was The Last Time You YO-YO’d?
What was the last thing you did for fun that made you happy?
When was the last time that you smiled for no reason at all? Did you jump into a game of jump rope with complete strangers? Walk into a sprinkler…with all your clothes on? Laugh so hard that what you were drinking came out of your nose? Maybe you bought a YO-YO just to have some fun?
This is not an esoteric blog post about reclaiming a lost youth. I am amazed and shocked at the increasing level of anger and hatred that seems to be going on in every town of America. You see it on the streets outside our homes, all the way to Washington, DC and the tone of our national political debate. It’s PERVASIVE.
The other day I was walking my daughter to her swimming lesson. We got halfway across the street when the light changed colors. We hurried across, but a woman in the car at the red (now green) light honked at us, I guess for slowing her down. As we got onto the curb I turned to her, smiled, and waved as if to say “thanks for your patience.” What was her response? She honked again and flipped us the bird…you know, that finger you show people to express your extreme ill-will.
Sure, as an isolated incident we can laugh it off. But these past few years these exchanges of random hostility are becoming all too common. You hear it in the tone of people yelling at servers in restaurants, service staff in stores, people waiting in line for movies.
We are the nation of walking TIME BOMBS, and it makes me wonder how this extreme stress that we all deal with given the uncertainties of our jobs, our homes, and family security, how this is manifesting itself in our own health and personal relationships.
You have to wonder how this rising tide of anger is affecting levels of alcohol and drug abuse dependency, spousal and child abuse, road rage, obesity, the divorce rate, violence in our schools in bullying, conflicts in the workplace such as harassment. It truly is all inter-related.
Clearly the prolonged strain on our society of double digit unemployment, jobs being outsourced and off-shored, our failing education system, our two-party political state of hatred and ineffectiveness…these are all leading us down the road to ruin through anger and unhealthy living.
So, what can we do to reclaim a sense of individual calm, quiet, peacefulness, and a bit of (dare I say it?) happiness?
For starters we can all re-discover what made us happy as children. In honor of July 4th, use the extended weekend to play with a yo-yo or a slinky. Go buy some bubbles, jump in a pool fully clothed. Buy a used saxophone or trumpet, take an art class, pick up that old guitar. Find a friend or stranger to play tennis with. Take a basketball out to the courts and shoot around. Go to the movies by yourself in the middle of the afternoon. Heck, celebrate with a huge tub of popcorn and a soda.
Make a pact with yourself to treat EVERY person you come into contact with in the most civil and friendly of terms, whether a best friend, strained family relation, or complete stranger. You aren’t doing this for others…it’s for yourself.
While you’re at it, spend some time this weekend thinking about the dreams you had when you were younger. It is NEVER too late to revisit your passions. It is certainly NEVER too late to be happy. Try skipping with a child, niece, or nephew, draw chalk on the sidewalk. Go bike-riding.
Take this pursuit of happiness a step further. Remember what you dreamed of doing for a living before you settled on a career of failed hopes and dreams. Rekindle the passion. Find what you are REALLY passionate about AND that you are really good at. Where those two worlds collide…that is your DREAM job. Go for it! If you don’t know how, find someone that can help you.
I dare you. No…I DOUBLE dare you.
HAPPY JULY 4TH!
<h2>Don’t Count America Out, Sweetie</h2>
Last week, I was working on-site at a client’s office to develop a coaching and mentoring program to deliver to her employees.
While we were sitting together discussing the course outline, she asked me out of the blue: “Why are you so down on America?”
Talk about your ‘out of left field’ question. I was blown away.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
So she tells me: “Your last few blogs have been so critical of America. Do you think our best days our behind us?”
As a consultant I’ve learned to be a straight shooter while mastering the art of evasiveness simultaneously. In her case bluntness was expected.
“I find it hard to dispute the facts,” I replied. “For starters, 15-20% of Americans are unemployed, one in four Americans can be categorized as contract/independent workers without the benefits of full-time employment, entire industries are imploding and transforming, and our skyrocketing debt may bankrupt future generations,” I answered.
So, yes I am bearish on America right now.
She smiled this ear to ear grin and she said to me: “Sweetie, these are all serious issues but nothing we haven’t seen before. We’ll manage, like we always do. You’re forgetting,” she said. We are Americans. This is what we DO.”
And that was that.
The trouble is, I keep thinking about the state of America, our short and long-term prospects especially for our children, not to mention my job seeker and small business clients.
But we HAVE seen this before. It’s what “creative destruction” as defined by Joseph Schumpeter in his book: ‘Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy’ is all about. A special thanks to Ray O’Connor for introducing me to this awesome read.
You see America shifting gears now with a surge in new business pursuits around alternative, fuel sources, green technologies, cloud computing, etc. While Best Buy, Blockbuster, Circuit City declare bankruptcy, Netflix, Google, Facebook, Apple continue to shine.
Yes, American students continue to drop down the ranks in global math and science skills rankings. On the flip side, more and more college students are banding together to form business ventures while they are in school.
They’ve seen what has happened to their parents and grandparents. They understand that future employment post graduation is no longer a certainty.
In times of great upheaval and crisis, new opportunities continue to present themselves. So perhaps it is not so foolish to discover a renewed faith in America. Times have been tough these past few years, but perhaps the best is still yet to come, with the right leadership politically, academically, and in business and industry.
Need another perspective? Check out what David Brooks had to say in his op-ed article: “Relax, We’ll Be Fine” that appeared in the New York Times on April 5, 2010.
Let’s not count America out. We are a nation of DOERs.
Wanna Succeed Don’t Commit to ANYTHING
Why is it that so many people make commitments to others that they have no intention of keeping? You know all those little white lies… “Sure I’ll call you,” “I will get back to you on that,” “You’ll hear from me either way,” or one of my all-time favorites – “Of course I can get that to you by then.”
It doesn’t matter whether you do this out of a passive-aggressive nature or are simply swamped with LIFE. No matter what the intention, poor follow through makes you look bad. This is exacerbated when it is a FIRST impression, and can have a significant NEGATIVE impact on the impression you make with others. The only way to avoid this is…DON’T DO IT.
We are known for our actions. Living a life of “Do as I say, and not as I do” smacks of hypocrisy. Granted we live in the “ME” society and we are all busy to the umpteenth degree. However, not responding to someone especially when you made a commitment to do so reflects a lack of courtesy and poor values.
You do NOT want to become someone who is known for these less than stellar behavioral tendencies. If you take ownership of following up with someone, then do so. If not, do not make the commitment to do so. By acting this way you demonstrate a lack of respect for others.
So, how can you make sure that you follow through on everything you commit to?
1) STOP and really think before you make the commitment.
Don’t be too quick to say “yes” to something. Think about the work on your plate and whether you have the bandwidth to take on the additional work. Ask for time before you get back to someone with an answer on a commitment. They will appreciate that much more than if you immediately agreed to do something and then NOT delivered on the promise.
2) Try to delegate more and ask for help when needed.
Think of other people who you can assign tasks to that can do a better job, are closer to the information required to complete the project, and can complete the task in a more timely fashion.
3) Take good notes of meetings you attend.
During meetings jot down all the information that you will need, to complete any actions you commit to completing. It helps to capture any commitments you make on your weekly task list and project plans. Use start and end dates for each task, the specific requirements, people who can help you complete the tasks associated with a project, the task’s status, and any contingencies that threaten to prevent you from completing the task on time.
4) Create template responses.
If you are expecting overwhelming responses to your communications, then you can always create canned responses that, at a least let people know when they can expect to hear back from you.
5)Manage other people’s expectations.
Let people know when they can expect your feedback. If it becomes clear as you approach the deadline to respond and you know you will not be able to make the deadline, then let them know you will need to set a new deliver-by date.
6) You can always bow out of the commitment, if all else fails.
If you simply cannot get back to someone, respond to their inquiry, or complete the task, then you owe it to them to let them know that you won’t be able to follow through on your commitment.
So whether you receive a call or email from a potential vendor, supplier, or someone looking to offer your organization services, or you are a recruiter or HR professional responsible for responding to job seekers and candidates, there is a MORE professional way to act then ignoring their communication. It’s called follow-up and follow through…and it leads to greater career success.
Embracing Our FAILURES For Future SUCCESS
Why are we so afraid of failure?
Why do we rationalize the THREAT of failure as a valid excuse to NOT pursue our wildest dreams and aspirations?
Like all other things, it probably started when we were young. Remember playing team sports and our parents teaching us that losing was synonymous with failing and failing was bad…very bad?
Slowly and bit by bit that fear of failure has stayed with us and grown inside. Maybe it was the threat of the unknown and all the failure tied to the unknown that prevented you from pursuing your passion. Maybe it was the fear of getting on stage that kept you from trying out for the drama club, or taking up a musical instrument for fear of performing in public? How about the fear of getting rejected that stopped you in your tracks from trying out for that sports team?
As we got older many supposed experts, from our High School guidance counselors to parents, friends, and family, all told us what classes to take (and avoid), what activities to pursue (and avoid), what majors to pursue (and avoid), relationships to pursue (and avoid),and jobs/careers to pursue (and avoid) until we became the preconditioned risk-averse individual that may define you today.
It’s not as if we need others to tell us all the things we can’t do. We are good enough at it ourselves. Psychologists have coined the term “head trash” to explain the fact that 65% of all the things that each person says to themselves ABOUT THEMSELVES is negative!
How do we break out of this vicious cycle of self-loathing and fear of failure that prevents us from taking the risks needed to succeed in new ventures?
Is the fear of the unknown and all its potential failure keeping you anchored to a job that you hate? Have you been stuck in the same industry that you have absolutely ZERO no interest in and passion for, just because there’s comfort in the familiar?
As trite as it may sound now is the ideal time to cast aside those fears of failure and embrace change, take risks, and seek out success. Start small. Set quantifiable “stretch” goals for yourself, both personally and professionally. A stretch goal demands your very best performance and still there is a great likelihood you won’t accomplish it. but hitting 85% of your stretch goal is better than 100% of SAFE goals that never challenge yourself to grow by pushing through your comfort zones.
Consider what the risk is to you that is associated with all the lost opportunities of you not undertaking a challenge due to the risk of failure. They add up tremendously!
Identify the worst case scenario of what failure looks like and compare it to the potential rewards if you are successful. It’s called a COST-BENEFIT analysis.
Understand that even if you fail there is tremendous growth through learning, acquiring self-confidence, developing new skills and becoming more comfortable embracing personal risk. Perhaps it would help if we take failure for what it is…part of the process of learning and growing.
“There is no failure. Only feedback.” –Robert Allen
Failure is simply one component of succeeding and most of us separate it as a separate outcome when in fact it’s directly tied to and required for being successful.
“Failure is an event, never a person.” – William D. Brown
Too many people associate the event of failing with the intrinsic sense of our own self-worth. In fact, we get conditioned to make our own sense of self-worth connected to the OUTCOMES of our actions. When an idea we have fails, it shouldn’t have any reduction in our self-esteem but it can be hard not to let that happen. We internalize that feeling of failure way down inside, like WE were that idea that failed.
What to do???
But you don’t need to think that way. If something you try doesn’t work out, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It just means you’re actively experimenting, that you’re trying, and you’re learning as a result. In that regard, the expression to be a failure (or successful) doesn’t make any sense.
Always have a contingency or fall back plan. Call it a plan “B” so if plan A “FAILS” there is comfort in having a fall back to relive the stress/fear of failing.
Seize the moment and act today! There is no time like the present. The new normal is 15-20% unofficial unemployment, 1 in 4 American workers can be classified as contract, consulting, or independent. Millions of Americans in their 30s to 50s are turning their untapped passions and talents into life-altering career transitions.
As Les Brown has famously said: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.”