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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

June 7, 2010 at 10:15 AM

Uncharted territory: Jobs — and vote about your experience

Friday’s jobs report shows that most immediate affects of a great reset are painful. A mere 41,000 private-sector jobs were created. The American jobs machine was sputtering even before the recession, adding a net 1 million in the ’00s, a stark change from the ’80s and ’90s. It will take years to make up the lost ground.

The “rules” have changed: More companies are turning to temps and part-timers as a matter of course, off-shoring of jobs is no longer merely reserved for low-end work and entire professions have been vaporized. The world has a surplus of labor, and even skilled workers in places such as China work for a fraction of what Americans are paid. Also, retraining often doesn’t work. USA Today recently documented how laid-off workers retrain but can’t find work. Many may never get back their old earnings power.

I put this to my long-time friend Andrea Kay, a national career consultant, author and syndicated columnist based in Cincinnati. “All of these issues have been going on to some degree for years,” she said. “But we are in a major shift that’s affecting more lives and careers than ever. There’s lots to be upset about. So many things we counted on have let us down. And, so my question to people is, OK, all of that is true, but what are you going to do about it that’s constructive and will get you what you want?”

Among her points: “You have to stay on top of what’s changing, how that affects your industry and your specific job and how you’ll remain relevant and valuable. Most people don’t change until they feel the heat. Sometimes, that’s too late…” Also, “Prepare for ‘hurricanes, sinkholes and manana,’ which is all about what to do so you’re not caught off guard, but instead prepared.” As for older workers, “look for ways to demonstrate you’re ‘not old’ in your thinking, in your attitudes, in your skills and how you look.”

Richard Florida, in his new book The Great Reset, also emphasizes that people must be willing to be mobile and move where jobs are, one more reason he is skeptical of the old paradigm of home ownership.

All good advice. Still, we’re in uncharted territory — at least within our lifetimes. And the best prepared and agile average American is up against very powerful forces outside his or her control. What’s your take? (You may choose multiple answers).

I’m out of a jobonline survey

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Hungary like Greece?

Where have the banks been gambling?

It’s toxic goulash

Comments | More in Income/living standards, Jobs/Unemployment

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