Seth Godin, master of the provocative power of common sense, was recently cited in a Business Insider article titled “If You’re An Average Worker, You’re Going Straight To The Bottom” where he believes this recession is the end of the Industrial Age where we all show up for work; do as we are told; collect a paycheck to live a middle class life and that is that. And he seems to be right. Check out the latest economic trend statistics published by Brookings for the 100 largest metro areas in the US and you see that we need a reinvention, not a recovery. According to Brookings:
“Seventy-four of the 100 largest metropolitan areas lost a greater share of jobs 15 quarters after the start of the Great Recession (the fourth quarter of 2007) than they did during the first 15 quarters after the start of any of the previous three national recessions.” And…
“Employment rebounded from its low point in 92 of the 100 largest metropolitan areas by the third quarter of 2011, but only 22 gained back more than half the jobs they lost between their employment peak and their post-recession employment low point, and only six made a complete jobs recovery.”
Of course there are some bright spots such as the technology industry, new services, simple products solving simple needs, etc. The places and industries doing better have things in common – constant innovation, creation of customer value, and differentiation that is fluid with changing customer needs. So how do you build this in to your career so you are not average and on the fast track to the bottom? Some ideas:
- Be fearless. Take a cue from FDR that in times of great change, like now, the only thing you have to fear is your own fear of change or failure. Now is the time to let it all go. The world moves so quickly that if you make a mistake, you can fix it; learn something useful; and meet some great people in the process. As long as you do that, there is no failure.
- Be constantly curious. HR people call this being a lifelong learner but being constantly curious sounds more fun to me. Be curious about how things work; how they could be better; take a seemingly crazy idea and just run with it – you might surprise yourself.
- Be mentally elastic. This is a trait I always hire for. Can you stretch your thinking from brainstorming to strategy to planning to execution and back again across multiple topics? Can you apply what you learned from one experience proactively to another? Do you do this before you are asked to? Build these capabilities as a muscle you can rely on over and over.
- Fly Your Freak Flag of Value. Don’t look to only have all the desired skills listed on a job description or RFP because there are thousands of people who can check those boxes. Everyone is freaky good at something. What are you uniquely great at? This is your answer when someone asks “Why should I hire you / your company over anyone else?” Differentiate yourself by flying your own freak flag of value to stay ahead of the game and to likely command a higher price for your skills.
The world is an amazing and diverse place so don’t shove yourself in someone else’s box – that would make the world a very generic and boring place. Instead, be part of the reinvention with your own unique value.