When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

25 March 2006

Will Your Job Survive?

In case you've been worrying about how the war in Iraq will end, or the coming of avian flu, or the extinction of the universe as we drift into the cosmic void, well, relax. Here's something you should really fret about: the future of the U.S. economy in the age of globalization.

For a discussion of same, let me call your attention to an article in the March-April issue of Foreign Affairs by Princeton University economist Alan Blinder...

In the new global order, Blinder writes, not just manufacturing jobs but a large number of service jobs will be performed in cheaper climes. Indeed, only hands-on or face-to-face services look safe. "Janitors and crane operators are probably immune to foreign competition," Blinder writes, "accountants and computer programmers are not."

Let me break it down for you in even simpler language.

I've spent the last couple of years working for the outsourcing division of a major multinational consulting firm (I'm moving on to a new job next month, after taking a long-delayed vacation/rest break) and I can state this with a high degree of confidence:

If (a) you are primarily a knowledge worker whose job does not demand your physical presence, and (b) if your job can be reduced to a set of written instructions and described in conventional language that other professionals can understand, you've already been outsourced and/or offshored; you just don't know it yet. (Credit goes to Bruce Sterling via Kottke for the seed that sprouted this observation.)

And if this piques your interest, here are the two most important things I think you need to do to hold on to your (professional-class) job in the New Economy:
  • Work on your "soft skills" and on creating hard-to-find (but needed) combinations of skills. If you're primarily a technical guy, work like hell on your business and communications skills! If you're primarily on the business side, get technically literate, fast.

  • Focus on roles that require your presence. You may dig the idea of working from home, but if you can telecommute to your job from your house or apartment, a guy who’s much hungrier and much cheaper than you are can probably do it from Bangalore, Krakow, Prague or Shanghai.
Will Your Job Survive? (Harold Meyerson, Washington Post)

Also posted at Knowledge Work.

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