Lamenting the “State of the Workforce in 2016”, I shared with our Business Owners’ Advisory Board (BOAB) my feedback from the state Workforce Development (WFD) Office, which indicated that the main problem in WFD is finding prospects with ANY INCLINATION AT ALL to BE “Developed”.
An astute member of the group said she is not only acutely aware of the problem but senses a feeling of HOPELESSNESS on the part of many non-aspiring prospects who seem to have given up.
A moment’s sobering reflection suggested this may be a core problem, and multiple factors may contribute to such a condition. Potential contributing factors include:
- Economic Conditions: There has been a tsunami of economic change from a manufacturing economy in the US to an automated workplace with a proliferation of low-wage service jobs. And “middle management” – long the mainstay of middle-income America – has disappeared with the flattening of corporate organizational structures.
- Foreign Competition: Due to highly skilled, cheap labor in developing countries, the US no longer represents the “gold standard” in either quality of goods or value of goods.
- Homefront Competition has Increased:
- Even traditional “Professional” occupations are now saturated with certified “Professionals”.
- At the bottom and middle, immigrants to the US work harder for less pay and are content to live in associated sub-standard conditions with an undying hope – which they see as promise – that they will eventually rise to the higher standards they see around them. Many DO! Then they are both doubly rewarded and doubly resented for it!
- Upper-middle and advanced professional careers are increasingly being filled by foreign nationals. [In Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medicine, it is extremely rare to find natural-born US citizens either willing or able to shoulder the load of preparation in these disciplines.] THAT’S DEPRESSING!
- “Fluffy” Career Visioning: “Hard Sciences” are to be avoided like the plague!
- STEM careers are for NERDS.
- “New Age Mainstreaming” includes college degrees in: Professional Nanny, Personal/Private Chef, Tourism & Event Management, Culinary Arts, Hotel and Restaurant Mgt., Marketing & Sales, Communications, Logistics & Transportation
- It’s too easy to convince oneself that all you need is a guitar, a mega-amplifier and a screaming voice to “make it” BIG TIME in the entertainment industry.
- When the economy goes south, guess which occupations dry up the fastest?
- Unrealistic Expectations: Even a college education does not automatically open doors of opportunity to “having it all”.
- Fantasy: Super Heroes, Knights in Shining Armor, Fairy Godmothers and deus ex machina rescues do not exist in the real world.
- Too Many Choices: Where would you start in choosing a 21st century career?
- Safety Nets: Living at home is no longer an unattractive option as an ultimate “fall-back” position. Thus, a do-or-die /\ failure is impossible/unacceptable mentality no longer applies; hopelessness and helplessness is not only easier but often enabled (see #11).
- Cocooning: Life in Syria is hopeless. Those who can’t or won’t leave are, indeed, both hopeless and helpless. Emigrants, though facing threat of death, have at least half a chance … and are getting critically needed assistance from benevolent countries.
- Discordance: Sharks can’t mate with zebras and Cellular One adaptors won’t power up iPhones – even if you can buy them in the same store! THAT’S hopelessness!! Start low (with “common denominators” where opportunities mesh with skills) and GROW! (Need a suggestion? Start at the bottom in fast food and see how quickly you can work your way UP to manager … perhaps even to owner! They even provide training!)
- Soft Consequences and Delayed Ramification: Along with expansion of the concepts of equal opportunity and self-determination has come an increased risk of flagrant failure. Expectations have been lowered, primary and secondary education grades have been inflated, and the “village” has become diffused to a point that nobody is accountable. It’s getting easier to circumvent the system – up until the system won’t take it … and then it’s often too late. Faced with escalating boundary breaches, parents will say “Wait ‘til you get to high school!”, teachers will say, “Wait ‘til you get to college!”, and colleges will say “Wait ‘til you get a job!”. Employers are, thus, left having to freeze positions until they can find qualified outside help to do what needs to be done with an appropriate level of accountability. HOPELESSNESS, INDEED!
Finally, our innate penchant for avoiding responsibility has the net/ultimate effect of pulling the rug out from under ourselves:
“Goldbricking, also known in computer-related tasks as cyberslacking or cyberloafing, generally refers to an employee doing less work than they theoretically could. A modern example is staff who use their work internet access for personal reasons while maintaining the appearance of working, which can lead to inefficiency … Some estimate goldbricking costs employers $1 billion a year in computer resources.
Goldbricking became a mainstream topic when Yahoo! announced in late February of 2013 that it was banning the practice of telecommuting because it discovered its remote employees were not logging into the corporate VPN often enough.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldbricking
Given all of the above, we’re not generally as hopeless and helpless as we may make ourselves out to be. While we can blame the government, the economy, Wall Street, Democrats, the 1%, etc., until doomsday, we have to own up to our own responsibility to preclude hopelessness, haplessness and helplessness.
Even the Almighty gets unfairly blamed. An unwillingness to use wisely the talents and resources already bestowed on us will make the Almighty appear to be inept, uncaring and inattentive:
A massive flood was ravaging the region. As dire circumstances turned grim, a man was seen clinging to a chimney on the roof of his house praying for God to deliver him to safety. A fellow in a canoe came by and offered to take him to higher ground, but the stranded man declined, saying: “God will save me!” A fellow in a motorboat came by and threw him a lifeline, but the stranded man threw it back, exclaiming loudly: “God will save me!” The water continued to rise. Just as the house began to lose its moorings, a helicopter flew by. The pilot lowered a harness line for rescue. But, again, the stranded man rejected it, saying: “God will save me!” Only moments later, the house finally gave way and the man drowned. When he found himself at the Pearly Gates, he was furious and demanded to speak personally with the Almighty. He cried, “How could you have abandoned me in my greatest hour of need?” After a deafening moment of silence there was a sobering response: “I sent you a flood warning, a canoe, a motorboat and a helicopter – what else could you possibly have been expecting?” Hopeless & Helpless!
Yes, OTHERS are absolutely critical to our success – perhaps even including the Divine. Some will be helpful and some not. But we’re definitely NOT going to do it without applied personal effort! However, we need to connect meaningfully with significant others who can help and we need to make ourselves “Helpable”. We need to be “Players”. Hopefully and Helpfully “Making It” involves positive, deliberate engagement. The human spirit requires both support and affirmation. Go GET some and go GIVE some! And remember: Everything you deserve is going to take everything you’ve got, and “Just Deserts” will not forever be denied! Quartermaster