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Posted: January 19, 2011

The top seven ways to cope with…

...the five major ways the nature of work is changing

John Heckers

We're in a time of unprecedented change. Our ways of doing work and employment itself are going through a revolution. This means not to expect the current high rates of unemployment to change. Here's why and what to do about it.

1). Automation. Many factory jobs have been replaced by robots or other automation. Devices don't get sick, don't take vacations, and work 24/7 without overtime. This means that most of the jobs in Detroit and so on aren't going to come back.

2). Offshoring. Many other jobs have been sent overseas to places where foreign labor can work for far less money than equivalent American workers. This effects a great many technical workers.

3). Organizational "flattening." Many companies are getting rid of layers of management and executives as well. They've simply found that more can be done with fewer people. The "middle manager" has all but disappeared. Expect a continual shrinkage of middle executive ranks, as well. This means more people going for the top jobs.

4). Project orientation. Employment itself is fading. Many companies are going to a "project orientation," which means that workers are contracted to work on necessary projects then not renewed. Expect this trend to begin to extend to previously un-thought-of areas of work.

5). Population pressure. There are simply too many people chasing too few jobs. People are living far longer and our technology has made one person much more productive. Expect this trend to expand as Social Security retirement age is extended and social safety nets are cut.

What to do about it.

1). Remain current. Whatever your age, you don't have the luxury of being "old fashioned" in your work habits. Constantly learn new technology and new methods of doing your job.

2). Get coached or mentored or both. Companies used to take the time to mentor people. But now, there simply isn't time, and companies don't want to invest in a person they might have to lay off next month. Pay for coaching and/or mentoring yourself if you must, but get it. You can't see where you're weak, but someone else can. Don't wait until a pink slip tells you that you're not performing.

Keep in mind that companies often lay off people they don't count on first. Most won't cut into highly productive people until there is no other choice. At the very least, you can learn enough so that you're last on the lay off list.

3). Network heavily. Most people do not network while they're employed. This is a career-killing error in today's world. Make the time and find the energy to keep up your network.

4). Don't do one thing. The "one-trick pony" is doomed. Make sure you can fill several different positions. The days of a niche are over.

5). No complacency. Most people wind up comfortable in a job and a life. Get over it. Change will come to your life. The question is whether or not you're ready to handle it. Expect it, and use it rather than fear it. You will almost certainly not retire (unless you do so shortly) doing the same job you are doing now. Deal with it.

6). Think about self-employment or a smaller company. The fact is: As long as you work for the Man, you're subject to losing your job. Only by working for yourself or a small group of like-minded people will you find any career security. Even there, however, you may need to change the nature of your work numerous times. But you wind up in control of that, not some pencil-pusher. Are you tame or are you wild? Only you can decide. Get help and counseling doing so, as this tends to be a very emotional decision.

7). Expect the unexpected. Get very real that nothing is secure and nothing is stable. Expect to lose your job someday. Expect that your small company will have to change directions. Expect change in every form, even if you don't know what all those forms will be. The only constant is change. Get used to it.

It is easy to see these times as negative. Throughout history, many who have lived through such times have cursed them. But I see these times as exciting and full of promise. Those who are inflexible will go through a great deal of pain. Those, however, who embrace change will be exhilarated (as well as sometimes terrified) by the ride.

Are you an executive looking for work? Join John and up to 40 of your colleagues on February 14th, 2011, for Structured Networking and have a great excuse to avoid one of those nasty Valentine's Day dinners. More info and required registration here.
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John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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Readers Respond

As always, thank you Erica for your kind words. Ethan --- the problem with a niche is that, while it is very nice while it lasts, it's kind of like a wormhole on Deep Space 9. It is unstable, disappears, and tends to land you in the wrong universe. Having said that...most of us have niche markets. The issue is to be constantly looking to expand beyond those niches and proactively add income streams from other channels. If you have multiple income streams, you won't get caught when your niche market dissolves. Think: people who depended on getting money from print media. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 01 20
Really strong piece loaded with great reminders. My only hangup is on What To Do About It 4 and it's probably semantic. I think that niche is powerful, provided you remain dynamic and evolve as foresight might suggest. Especially in the context of increasing project work, being known as the expert, go-to person within a niche should keep you busy. Owning the concept/niche/trick keeps you top of mind. By Ethan Beute on 2011 01 19
John: once again you mince no words. As someone who speaks to groups on this very subject (GET REAL!), I wholeheartedly agree with your article. It's time for the middle-aged middle manager to realize that sitting back and awaiting the jobs to come back AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN! Everyone needs to heed your advice - start their own little businesses (doing what they do best), and get on with their lives. No doubt you'll be criticized for this article -- but not by me!!! I want to hear more of the TRUTH. erika hanson brown, Principal STELLAR Connections LLC - a Home Security Resource Company COLONTOWN USA - Colorectal Cancers Survivor LOCAL Organization By erika hanson brown on 2011 01 19

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