Any Futurists Out There?

Given what I do for a living, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that I’m frequently asked questions along the lines of “Matt, where do you think the job market is heading?” or “Matt, do you think the whole notion of careers is going to change, in the years ahead?”

My frank answer?  I have no worldly idea whatsoever!  While I believe I have an excellent grasp of how the job market works NOW, and how people can capitalize on the current rules of the game, I spend very little time thinking about what might come to pass down the road — or about how the trends we’re seeing now are going to  impact the job scene down the road.  To be truthful, I’ve just never been much of a futurist or somebody who concentrates much on the long-term outlook of things.  I sort of subscribe to the “black swan” theory that whatever earnest predictions we make now are doomed to be laughably off-base, over time, based on all the things that COULD or WOULD impact the job market and the world in the months and years to come.

Heck, I sometimes don’t even pay all that much attention to what I’m doing next week.  For the last several years in a row, in fact, I’ve booked appointments on Thanksgiving, not realizing (until the clients in question enlightened me) that the day I’d proposed was actually a major holiday!  Thankfully, though, there’s an app for that.  So now my Outlook calendar dutifully chides me when I try to book appointments concurrently with a major national celebration.  But my point is that if you’re looking for somebody to gesticulate over a crystal ball and tell you what things will be like in the job market 5, or 10, or 15 years for now, I’m probably not your guy.  That’s just not how I’m wired.

This being said, however, I DID recently indulge in a fun exchange around the future of careers with a fellow blogger, Eric Zinn.  Eric authors the Bucket O’ Chum blog and had submitted some interesting and supportive comments regarding my “My Beef with How Can I Help You?” article last week.  From that exchange, we somehow got to talking about how the job market today is different than days past and about how the value of “experience” seems to be diminishing — given that business needs are now changing so rapidly, knowing the way things were done “10 years ago” is no longer a very marketable asset.

Eric than went on to make some predictions about where he thought these trends were heading, and with his permission, I’ve decided to publish his remarks, thinking some of you might find his observations fascinating and/or thought-provoking:

Matt: You’ve hit it spot on. The 10+ year tenured job is a thing of the past, as is the value of “experience” as a generic commodity in the marketplace.

If someone is still thinking that things out there now are working the same way as they did in the 60’s or 70’s, they have real problems.  It’s not about how things were done in the 90’s or 00’s – or even about how they were done YESTERDAY!  It’s about how they were done an hour ago.

Companies are slow to learn a lesson…but once they learn it, they learn it in spades. What are they learning?  How to respond to drastic change while bolstering their bottom line.  To do that, they need a dynamic workforce that is skilled in getting things done.  They can’t be distracted by things like IT or HR.   Tomorrow’s corporations will be lean, nimble machines who drink their IT from the cloud and have a permanent workforce numbering in the tens instead of the thousands. You will not recognize tomorrow’s corporations.

I predict that in the next 20 years the following will happen:

1. Because of the transient nature of the modern workforce, employers will give their employees healthcare credits that the employees will carry in an account. They will pool their accounts with other people who have needs similar to theirs, then will benefit from independent collective bargaining, completely disconnected from their employers.

2. 401k’s will be replaced with retirement credits that the employees will carry in either a private account OR in an account provided by the government as a replacement for Social Security.

3. “Salaried” positions will be almost completely eliminated and will be replaced with contracts.  Every employee will be contracted in one, two or three year blocks.

4. Every employee will also, however, be allowed to take as much vacation as they want since they won’t be paid for time they don’t work.  There’s always an up-side, right?

I could go on and on but this is where it’s going and to be quite honest…it’s not horrible…it’s exciting. I want to be an architect of tomorrow’s corporation.  Hmm…you may have just spurred me on a new, fun, personal project.

Thanks, Eric, for letting me share your thoughts on the subject.  Any other futurist-minded readers out there?  Anybody with some interesting ideas or premonitions about how the “world of work” will be different a decade or two from now?

P.S.  I also had somebody send me the link here to a recent white paper DeVry University published on “The Future of Milennials’ Careers” that some of you might find interesting, if you’re into this stuff.  The paper discusses a series of trends related to the next generation of workers and how the career perceptions of younger professionals differ from those of previous generations…

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3 Responses to “Any Futurists Out There?”

  1. It is disturbing to consider the concept of “health care accounts” with “credits” or “premium support” (if you adopt the language of a particular political party) when the issue of health care costs have never been addressed in any legislation to date (including the recent “health care reform” law known as PPACA). The future of employee health care and the availability of self-employed health care plans (for current and future contract workers) is an issue of key economic importance to our country, yet one that seems to be little understood and not addressed as far as affordability and accessibility are concerned.

    If you think health insurance is available to purchase on the free market for those who can currently afford its very high premiums, take a look at this interesting NY Times Op/Ed:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/20/opinion/20Dubinsky.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=money%20won’t%20buy%20you%20health%20insurance&st=cse

    Let’s hope there is a future where workers will be able to access quality and affordable health care services under some type of system that makes this possible.

  2. The following thoughts come to mind after reading this latest Blog:

    “Man plans, God laughs.”

    “It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen, especially when you’re talking about the future.”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Hey, I got a mention from a real professional | Bucket-o-Chum - April 20, 2011

    […] recently exchanged a few emails with Matt which he used as fodder for today’s blog. A huge thanks to Matt for that. Always a […]

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