The forces of the job market: #1 Ephemeralization

A question we regularly hear is, “How is the job market?” or “How will the job market be?”. Allow us to tell you this: the job market is difficult. Oh, it’s terrible! If it’s not post or pre-crisis, we are in the middle of one. Either an economical or socio-geographical or a political one. Or is the word “crisis” an excuse of people who haven’t learned how to navigate change?

Conscious managers and professionals have to be aware of the following factors when designing and planning their careers:

A term coined by R. Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller (a 20th century inventor and visionary), is the ability of technological advancement to do “more and more with less and less until eventually you can do everything with nothing”.

Democratization of and access to technology
Anybody with an Internet connection can access anything from anywhere instantly incl. data & knowledge. Solutions are smaller, faster and cheaper or even free. The open-source movement. The Sharing Economy. All of these elements have led to the decentralization of power.

A diversified workforce
Changes in law (e.g. quotas), society and technology have led to the most diversified work force in the history of mankind in terms of race, religion, national origin, gender, personality or age (Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millenials)

These intermingling three factors have contributed in varying degrees to the “new reality”.

So, what will the future look like?

Nobody has a crystal ball. Some predictions from the past have been right, some wrong. Who would have thought that Star Trek replicators are 3-D printers, Siri is a voice interface and we do have something very close to holodecks, i.e. virtual realities thanks to the Oculus Rift?

But there are two things that can be said with certainty about the future of the market:

Something interesting is happening.
As Tom Goodwin puts it in his article “The Battle Is For The Customer Interface” (posted Mar 3, 2015) “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening. Since the Industrial Revolution, the world has developed complex supply chains, from designers to manufacturers, from distributors to importers, wholesalers and retailers, it’s what allowed billions of products to be made, shipped, bought and enjoyed in all corners of the world. In recent times the power of the Internet, especially the mobile phone, has unleashed a movement that’s rapidly destroying these layers and moving power to new places. […] By 2015 things changed. The balance of power between the different service layers is a jostle for control. […] the customer interface is everything.”

The job market to date has been rather hierarchical
rewarding people with money and promotions and is now shifting to be more transitory. The futurist Thomas Frey says, “The average person that turns 30 years old in the U.S. today has worked 11 different jobs. In just 10 years, the average person who turns 30 will have worked 200-300 different projects. Business is becoming very fluid in how it operates, and the driving force behind this liquefaction is a digital network that connects buyers with sellers faster and more efficiently than ever in the past. […] it has begun to morph and change virtually every aspect of how business is conducted including the duration and permanency of work assignments, the employer-employee relationship, and the organizing principals around which work assignments and talent coalesce.

What does that mean in practice?

The “who does what and how” will change.

Who: the job market will require professionals and managers to develop these 3 competencies:

  • Self: this goes beyond “The 7 habits of highly effectively people” and “GTD”. It’s about learning how to effectively & efficiently work from the office or remotely while communicating with seven different cultures in two different time zones. And while, obviously, managing to have a family.
  • Digital: understand technology, use it and, ideally, be able to adapt it to your needs. This starts at learning how to “really” use tools like laptops and smart phones and ends at playing with (writing) the code of certain applications and programs.
  • Change: irrespectively of whether professionals and their corporate environments are “Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority or Laggards”, fact is that “in the new world, it is not the big fish which eats the small fish, it’s the fast fish which eats the slow fish.” Learning to swim fast under different conditions will determine the success of individuals and companies.

What: thanks to technology new professions will emerge: Augmented Reality Architects (you may recall the movie Inception), Alternative Currency Banker, Waste Data Managers, Urban Agriculturists, 3D Printing Engineers or Privacy Managers.

How: quoting Thomas Frey, “at the heart of the coming work revolution will be a new kind of business structure serving as an organizational magnet for work projects and the free-agent talent needed to complete the work.” He calls them business colonies, we would call them “talent hubs” that “are an evolving new kind of organizational structure designed around matching talent with pending work projects. […] People who can effectively manage this type of operation will be in high demand.”

How does this translate into your career planning?
Let’s discuss that in the next post!