The Death of the Career Man is Inevitable
The days of your father or grandfather are now long gone. The Global Financial Collapse of 2008 saw hundreds of thousands of loyal career men dragged behind the barn and shot. Many of them didn’t see it coming because they thought that the loyalty they showed the company would protect them.
The security that a career at a large corporation provided was always illusory. You were always a line item on a budget sheet and not a person. While some may lament the loss of a structured career path, I celebrate it. The idea of working 40 years in a corporate salt mine only to get a gold watch at the end scares the hell out of me. And while the traditional American career path may have been destroyed, the information age has created thousands of new opportunities.
Let’s examine how the career man was murdered and what we can do to make sure that we avoid the same fate.
Average is Over
We are now fully immersed in the information age and companies have access to the global economy. This means a number of things
- Companies now have access to cheap labor all around the globe
- If you are not constantly improving your human capital you will fall behind
We have left the century where America dominated the world market and we need to accept that being average is over. Gone are the days where you could graduate high school and work a local factory job and earn enough to provide for a family of four. Part of that has to do with the changing expenditures over the century (your grandpa didn’t have to pay cell phone and internet bills). Mostly, it has to do with the opening up of new markets around the world.
You cannot hope to compete with someone in Bangladesh in terms of being able to work for less money. It just isn’t a reality.
So how can you make money in this environment? The way I see it is you have two options to make real money:
- Become a skilled tradesman. Wiring houses and mending pipes won’t be automated anytime soon and as more of the population shifts to knowledge work you can charge a premium for the skills that you have and it is relatively easy to start your own business
- Acquire skills and become incredibly valuable to an employer. This will ensure that you are last to be cut and will also give you negotiating power in terms of making your job work better for you. It will also give you options to make money on the side or start your own venture
There is no point crying over spilt milk. This is the world that we live in and barring a catastrophic reversion to the middle ages, it is only going to become more competitive. The sooner you come to terms with that reality the better equipped you are going to be to embrace the information age and truly prosper.
Kill the Career Man to Become CEO
I was listening to a book called Accelerated Learning when I first heard this concept. The goal is to stop framing yourself as an employee of someone else and rather shift your view of yourself to running your own personal services company. This means that rather than being employed by someone you are now selling them your services. This puts the burden on you to create the life that you want to live, not the person employing you.
Here is an illustration of this rule in action: say I am a salesperson. Rather than thinking of myself as a salesperson for ABC Company, I should shift my mindset so that I now view ABC Company as buying my services as a salesperson. This shift in perspective will accomplish two things:
- Your actions now represent your “brand”. If you put in the effort and become a great salesperson because it will add value to your personal brand, you are now more valuable both to your current employer and a future employer. This gives you leverage
- You are now incentivized to add even more value to your personal brand through the acquisition of new skills and abilities as they will make you even more valuable and give you even more leverage in the future
While the information age has shipped many of the traditional middle class jobs overseas, the good news is that it is easy than ever to improve your human capital.
Acquire Human Capital
I have talked a lot about acquiring human capital in this article because it is the difference maker in terms of whether or not you will be successful in this new economy. For those of you that don’t know, human capital is, in essence, your skillset. So my university education and skills as a marketer are my human capital. They are the resources that I can employ to make money.
The double edged sword of the information age is that it has destroyed the traditional ladders of advancement that existed in your grandpa’s day but at the same time has made it easier than ever to acquire new skills.
There are literally thousands of resources you can use to educate yourself today. I made a career pivot from being a biochemist to a digital marketer using Lynda.com classes. I taught myself calculus by watching Kahn Academy videos and I learned how to code Python for free. I also learned SQL through CodeSchool.
Haven’t tried Audible? Click on the link in the sidebar. Download Accelerated Learning by Brian Tracy and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. Then you can cancel your subscription if you find no more value in it. I have a monthly subscription and I listen to a new book or course every month. It’s how I squeeze in as much learning as possible.
There are programs out there like Hack Reactor which have a 98% job placement rating with an average starting salary of $108,000. They may put you through four months of hell learning everything but that sure beats four years of university, $60,000 in debt and a degree that means nothing.
Interested in health and nutrition? You can start the Primal Blueprint Certification course for $1 down and pay the rest of it off over 6 months. You could be a nutrition consultant on the weekend while you go to you day job.
Do you think you would be a good t-shirt designer? Start an eCommerce site and use a drop shipper to create your shirts for you so that you have to carry no inventory.
With the undergraduate degree being ubiquitous these days we need to figure out a way to build a better signal. You can do that through building your own blog and talking about the industry you are employed in. You can acquire certifications. You can build an app that you can bring to interviews with you.
While the standard path for career advancement has been destroyed in America it has been replaced with a thousand smaller paths that you can pursue based on your interests. This century belongs to the proactive learner who can demonstrate extreme value. Go out there and find your niche.
What is going to separate high earners from low earners in this century is the ability and drive to learn new things. It is no longer acceptable to be average. You need to constantly be improving yourself and acquiring more human capital if you want to become wealthy.
There is no use complaining about it. It is not going anywhere and I’d rather be condemned to a lifetime of learning new skills than a lifetime of screwing heads onto dolls in a toy factory.
The more skills that you acquire the more flexibility you will give yourself. Leverage those skills to create a side business so that if you are fired you aren’t scraping by until you find another job. If you don’t want to create a side business use those skills to negotiate better employment terms with your employer. Maybe you want longer vacation or to work remotely. The more value you provide the more you will be able to strongarm the person who writes your check.
The information age is going to disrupt industries constantly so you need to be prepared to move at a moment’s notice. Acquire skills and become valuable and your transitions will be seamless. Stay complacent and you will be constantly in danger of going broke.