OUR CHANGING WORLD: NO JOB IS SAFE—NEVER WILL BE32 As we have seen throughout this book, organizations must constantly change and innovate if they are to remain viable and competitive.This also applies on the individual level.Will Rogers once said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” The nature of work and what you will be doing in the future will constantly be changing. To anticipate changes in your career rather than react to them, you will need to be running your own personal organization development program. The mantra is planned change. NO CAREER IS SAFE The career that you are preparing for today will likely not be the career you pursue for much of your life.The shift in jobs to cheaper overseas labor markets that first began in manufacturing, textiles, autos, and steel is now moving up the labor food chain, making college-educated professional workers increasingly nervous. It seems that no job or career is safe from outsourcing to another country with cheaper labor.The list includes software engineers, lawyers and legal professionals, accountants and CPAs, financial analysts, customer support, and medical specialists. Service jobs were once considered safe, but, for example, in 2005 an estimated 200,000 income tax returns are being prepared in India by $500-a- month CPAs, then reviewed and signed by a CPA in the United States. Microsoft employs programmers in countries from India to Ireland. Dell Computer’s customer help centers are in India. Even physicians are not safe from outsourcing. Patients from around the world, including North America and Europe, are checking in to hospitals in Thailand and India for everything from heart surgery to hip replacement. No matter how much politicians and talk-show hosts talk about the downside of outsourcing jobs, legislation is not likely to be a solution, nor is it likely to be forthcoming. Pleas to companies to keep jobs in-country based on patriotism are also not likely to get large-scale results. Even U.S. state and local governments are going out of the country to manage things like food-stamp programs. The U.S. Postal Service contracts for work that is performed in India. Governments, like profit-making organizations, are trying to minimize their costs. Hewlett-Packard’s senior vice president, Paul Chan, said what most companies have said about outsourcing, “We have to outsource in order to stay competitive.” Fortunately, individuals can do some things to help themselves better meet the challenge of a changing workplace. But just like companies trying to remain competitive, being innovative and on the cutting-edge is a never-ending and always vigilant activity. Here are some suggestions. CAREER SUGGESTIONS Avoid jobs that can be broken down into repeatable steps. New research from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University concludes that jobs that can be “routinized,” or broken down into repeatable steps that vary little from day to day, are good candidates to either be replaced by computer software or sent to a lowerpaid worker in a cheaper labor market.“If you can describe a job precisely, or write rules for doing it, it’s unlikely to survive. Either we’ll program a computer to do it, or we’ll teach a foreigner to do it,” says Frank Levy of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Attractive jobs include teachers, college professors, factory floor management, and law enforcement. All of these jobs require flexibility, problem-solving, creativity, and a lifetime of learning. Actually, a substantial majority of the jobs remaining in the economy are in this category. Improvements in productivity have already removed many of the routine jobs in manufacturing and clerical work. The factory workers who are more likely to keep their jobs will probably be those who excel in computer-controlled equipment or can quickly respond to one-of-a-kind customer orders. Other jobs likely to remain include work that cannot be performed off the work site, such as repairing a complicated machine. Until copying machines become obsolete, the person who services the paper jams will be needed. Pay will, of course, vary depending on the complexity of the equipment. Work that relies on complex communication skills will probably not be outsourced. Jobs that require frequent interactions with other people, often face-to-face will remain and flourish. This includes managers of people and those who sell expensive equipment, such as cars and automated manufacturing equipment. Occupations that are good bets include manager, management consultant, artist, designer, sales, and generally jobs that require good people skills. The good programming jobs that remain will go to those who have the ability to be the managers of teams of programmers scattered around the world. The information technology industry is hungry for workers with good people skills who can act as liaison between customers and programmers. Gone are the days when a programmer could sit working alone in an office all day. Multicultural teams have a big advantage over homogeneous teams. This is particularly the case when the teams will need to deal with customers and suppliers throughout the world. Multicultural teams are already built into Canadian, British, and U.S. teams, because their societies are already a global mix.A team of engineers in New Delhi, Norway, or Japan will probably not be multicultural. Get a college education. Recent unemployment statistics show that the unemployment rate for people with a bachelor’s degree or better was 2.9 percent, versus 8.5 percent for people with less than a high school diploma. THE LAST WORD A final piece of advice from Warren Bennis, OD practitioner, author, and University of Southern California professor: “No job is safe. Never will be. The half-life of any particular skill is, at most, five years. And that’s on the long side. What will keep you alive? Be curious, be willing to learn, have a moral compass and know what gives your life meaning.”
1. What are you doing to become or remain competitive in the job market?
2. Can you think of some other careers that are safe from being outsourced?
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