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As many of you have probably noticed, there’s been a generational cold war between so-called “millennials” and the older ilk. From Time’s shocking expose on Gen Y narcissism to passive aggressive memes and obnoxious viral videos, people can’t seem to get enough fuel to throw on the flames of what is ultimately a pathetic culture clash.
If you skim through the hyperbole, rage and bitterness, you see at its core two groups of people who fear for an uncertain future. Boomers fear for their future in a rapidly changing work environment and millennials fear for a career landscape that presents fewer and fewer opportunities for recent graduates.
Ultimately, Americans are scared of a society that accommodates joblessness. The reality is that is exactly the world we have mutually agreed upon. It’s no secret that over the last 100 years, technological innovations and globalization have contributed to a steady increase in productivity. It’s a trend that shows no real signs of slowing down. However, employment trends have not shared the same steady growth.
Around the year 2000, the gap widened as job growth suddenly began to slow down while productivity continued to increase. The paradox stems from the fact that our society wants an automated service culture, but also values the benefits of holding a stable job. The two seem to be at odds with each other as the need for more jobs decreases.
As we head into a future where more entry level and specialized service jobs are being replaced by cheaper, more automated technologies, it is becoming increasingly more obvious that employers will be looking for people who can bring more to the table than a solid work ethic and the ability to perform entry-level tasks. Here’s what you need to know so adapt in tomorrow’s “jobless” workforce.
Freelancing and contract jobs in marketing and tech related industries have been increasingly on the rise over the last 25 years or so. According to Business Insider, nearly one-third of the entire American workforce is legally considered to be independent contractors or freelance workers. That number is expected to increase to approximately 40% of all working Americans.
This trend suggests that American workers are taking the initiative to work for themselves rather than banking on waiting for that callback from a hiring employer. Jumping on the freelance train can be a scary thing for both Boomers and Millennials. However, if you can get passed the dying concept of the 9-5 America Dream, many have found freelancing to be much more lucrative both financially and in terms of work-life happiness.
So what tasks will be left after the machines take over? The truth is, even the most efficient and technological innovations break. There will be more of a need for managers, service reps, and liaisons to oversee these processes and bridge the gap between businesses and consumers.
It’s no surprise that Forbes predicts the customer service industry will grow by 20% by 2018. Social media also plays a large role in the catalyst for this industry’s growth. As networks like Twitter and Facebook have made companies more transparent, more and more industries are keeping a more watchful eye over how they interact with their customers.
Forward thinking working professionals already know the benefits of brand integrity and a good percentage of the workforce will be about managing and maintaining customer relationships.
For the typical American pessimist, it’s easy to become nostalgic about a time where this country hung its hat on the production and manufacturing of many products and services that supported local businesses and provided thousands of sustainable jobs for blue-collar Americans. The reality is that those days are long gone, and that those who want to stay competitive in the modern, globalized economy need to look elsewhere to see where the opportunities lie.
It’s easy to look at the Internet and the digital space as a new land of economic opportunity for ambitious Americans, both young and old. From the viral story of a programmer helping a homeless man develop his own mobile app to the President urging Americans to learn code, it seems like the country’s focus is shifting to encourage more in computer science. However, there are also plenty of other career opportunities for those who are willing to put in the time and effort to look outside their comfort zone.
Whether you’re a freelancer hopping onto the crowdfunding train for your great idea or a salaried employee that makes things run more efficiently, now is the time to get creative in your line of work.
No matter how old you are, where you went to school, or what generation you’re from, it’s never too late or too early to start thinking about tomorrow. The key is to not complain or blame other generations for the collapse of the economy or job growth, but rather to use this time as an opportunity to start preparing for tomorrow’s workforce.