Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Career planning 25: career planning while navigating change and uncertainty 7

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on January 25, 2018

This is my 25th installment to a series in which I seek to break open what can become a hidden workings, self-imposed black box construct of career strategy and planning, where it can be easy to drift into what comes next rather than execute to realize what could be best for us (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 459 and following for Parts 1-24.)

I have been offering this series as a narrative on developing and pursuing a career path that would be right for you, the reader in the face of change that is redefining employment and employability. And as a significant part of that, I have discussed the flow, or flood if you will of change and of disruptive change that we are all facing there.

One of the core issues that I have addressed in this series, is the set of assumptions and presumptions that we make regarding our jobs and careers, and our employability as a whole. So I pivoted in Part 23 and Part 24 from the perhaps expected of embracing new and next in technological change as we pursue jobs and careers, to a path of supporting less notable but nevertheless essential, older legacy systems in them.

I offered that as a case in point example of how a next best-step forward for us along our career path might mean turning in a new direction, or even our pursuing an entirely new career path as a whole that might be both nonstandard and unexpected, and still be best for us. This series is not about identifying or mapping out generically most likely to succeed career path options. It is about knowing and understanding the context that you live and work in and the context that is emerging around you as you do so. And it is about finding what would be your best next career steps and your best career path going forward, and specifically for you.

Most everyone working today, and certainly anyone who is still early on in their work life, will find themselves doing work in the course of their overall career path, that did not even exist as a possibility when they were still in school. Many will find themselves charting such a career path recurringly, and with time as their basic norm.

I offer this posting with a goal of bringing this series to a conclusion. But more importantly, I offer this with a goal of arguing the case that you should see this series narrative and the issues touched upon in it, as offering tools that you can use to help you identify and map out your first next step forward from here.

Too many of us, too routinely just continue on with what we are doing in our work lives, hoping that that will simply continue to remain viable for us, unchanged until we are ready to retire. That approach has never actually worked reliably, and for essentially anyone. And it is becoming more and more overtly untenable every single day now and for essentially everyone.

I offer my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development that this series fits into, with a goal of helping you to secure and work at jobs and develop and pursue careers with a surer understanding of what you face in all of that: positive and negative. And I offer all of this with a goal of helping you to find your own best jobs and careers path with open and perhaps more aware eyes too.

That said, and with my legacy systems maintenance career path option of Parts 23 and 24 noted, I repeat a basic message that I have offered a number of times now in this series: embrace change and its possibilities and for all of the positive potential that you can create out of it. And I conclude this series by taking that at least somewhat out of the abstract with a few more-focused and specific questions and a few concluding summary points:

• What changes are you in fact already directly, or at least significantly indirectly facing that will impact upon and even shape your jobs and careers options and priorities?
• What contexts give them this significance?
• What is your current work situation? This calls for a deeper and more inclusive answer than simply identifying your current job title and employer, and should go on to consider what you do and can do and what your current work situation permits you to do of that.
• What could you do that would offer you the greatest satisfaction, and that would let you realize the best of what you can do, and where could you do that?
• Is emerging change going to alter the long-term value of what you can bring to your work, at least in the types of business that you work for now? And what skills and experience can you cultivate to address that? Note that this might not always mean you’re racing to master some newest and greatest next thing in what you do, that all of your workplace competition is going for too. This can mean you’re thinking and acting outside of the more standard “one size fits all” box that most will look to.

A add that I am not just writing of disruptively novel change here when I offer those questions and accompanying comments. A steady flow of same-direction evolutionary change can offer as much overall impact as a more disruptive one can, and it can arise in specific business and employment contexts just as quickly when it erupts out, as tipping points of cumulative impact are reached and business decisions are made as to what is done there and how and with what priorities.

• Even routine change can have massive impact. Consider how hands-on technical skills (e.g. in maintaining an online presence for an organization) can move from core and essential straight to secondary and better outsourced, and in a single step, when senior management decides to act upon what has been developing through a priorities reorganization.
• To take that out of the abstract, a great many businesses that once managed the technical support and maintenance of their web sites and other online channels in-house and through their Information Technology departments, have pivoted in their thinking from a focus on how this is done and where and on having the best technology in-house, to focusing on what can be achieved with these resources. So responsibility for web development and related get transferred from IT to Marketing and Communications, or to Sales or some other “for what” oriented department or service and to management by a functional area leadership that is not particularly interested in the technology of this per se, but rather on what it can be used for. And this can and in many cases has meant the hands-on tech experts working there, being downsized as the work that they have been doing has been outsourced to specialist third party providers. (Note that this type of shift particularly affects employees who have focused on new and best in upcoming technologies, and not on widening their skills and experience sets, at least visibly enough, to include content and purpose-related expertise too and with a focus on the types of issues that these new controlling departments would be concerned with.)

And this brings me back to what should for most, be a first question and back to the issues of what you know and can do that is transferable and adaptable to context, and what of it is more specialized and vulnerable to workplace and job-type change.

I conclude this series and this posting in it with a nod to a topics area that I have recurringly turned to throughout this blog as a whole: globalization, and its impact on what we do and how and on jobs and employability:

• We might live and work locally and certainly as far as our daily commute is concerned, but we all do so in an increasingly globally interconnected context and where employees can and do get caught in the wrinkles to Thomas Friedman’s global flattening, and of resistance to that.
• And we all live and work in a shifting playing field where the race to competitive effectiveness and even just to maintain business viability can and does mean shifts in goals and priorities and even in what would and would not best be carried out in-house in a business.
• And the landscape changing and at both higher conceptual and organizational levels such as those of national, regional and global economics, and at the lower and more individual levels of jobs and careers, and at all levels in between – driving change for both societies and for individuals in them as all of this takes place.

But this does not necessarily leave you helplessly drifting through change taking place around you; it means you’re needing to use new tools in new ways that will help you to have a say in affirmatively shaping your own life and that of your family, and your own work life as part of that. And helping you prepare better for that has been the goal of this series.

You can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

Addendum (added January 2, 2018):
I finished this posting and this series with it, in late 2017 but then decided to come back to it with this in-the-news update, that I make note of here to highlight how the processes of change that I have been addressing in this series, have continued to proceed. I have written here of gig work and of how an increasing number of businesses are switching more and more job categories toward hiring for that. And then the following news story appeared in the New York Times on December 31, 2017 as part of an ongoing investigation and analysis of the newly passed Republican Party backed federal tax bill as just enacted and signed into law in the United States.

Tax Law Offers a Carrot to Gig Workers. But It May Have Costs.

This tax law offers a seeming benefit to all consultants, and to all contract and gig work employees too, that would allow them to deduct 20 percent of their reportable work-related expenses from their taxable income, treating them as flow-through entities in this. On the face of that, this change sounds like a real benefit and to all involved. But as written in its particulars, any benefit arriving from this tax law change would mostly just accrue to more highly skilled and already more higher paid workers, with this option retaining value for those who use if they have an overall taxable income net of all deductions of up to some $325,000 per year. Lower skill and average income workers would in fact lose more than they would gain from this change, and certainly as it increases the incentive of businesses to shift more and more of their workforce to gig work and related, reducing their chances of being brought in-house as regular employees. Remember, in the United States (and in a number of other countries as well for at least some of what follows), outside hires such as gig workers do not hold eligibility for securing unemployment insurance if they do lose a job, or even worker’s compensation if they are injured at work. They are not even protected in the same way by antidiscrimination laws in many cases in the United States. And these workers do not have a federally protected right to form unions as an attempt to address the power imbalance that individual employees face when attempting to negotiate with an employer. And to cite a very real world example of how important that factor is, US Department of Labor statistics show that gig workers are already paid less than their same-work counterparts who are in-house employees for the same work, and even when comparing between those employment categories within the same hiring business. There are of course a great many employers who do not discriminate between those who work for them in that way, but enough do to create a visible and statistically significant difference demographically, across the nation as a whole.

And I end this addendum by noting that while there are federal laws in place that would in principle ban employers from pushing any and all job categories into gig work and regardless of the nature of their level of control in their relationship with those employees, that can only offer protection if these laws are enforced. And one of the goals of the Trump administration that it has succeeded in pushing through has been a fundamental gutting of protective regulatory law or its enforcement in the United States.

This simply reinforces a trend that is already taking place and for large categories of workers and not just in the United States.

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