Scary stuff, but here’s an article on the changing job market that I’d encourage you all to read with the permission of the author, Dr. Ira Wolfe of the “Perfect Labor Storm 2.0” blog.

High Unemployment: Slow job creation is just part of the problem

As Dr. Wolfe points out, and I’ve echoed in many of my own writings, the biggest challenge right now for our economy isn’t simply a lack of job opportunities.  It’s (to quote the good doctor) that “the U.S. does not have enough people with the right skills to fill the jobs that are being created.  We do however have an ample supply of people ready, willing, and able to fill jobs that are or should be obsolete.”

Again, this is sobering stuff, since the vast majority of us likely fell into our career paths at an early age without the slightest bit of analysis, wonder, or worry about the long-term potential of the occupational field in question.  Back in the day, though, this was okay.  Things moved more slowly and there weren’t nearly as many careers on the “endangered species” list as there seem to be now.  As long as you kept your head down and your nose clean, the majority of employers would keep you on the payroll and even (gasp!) invest in ongoing training for you, so that your skill sets could stay razor-sharp and highly relevant to the company’s needs.

In the last few years, however, the obligation of maintaining “ongoing marketability” has been dropped squarely on the shoulders of each of us, as individuals.  It’s become crystal-clear that capitalism, practiced in its purest bottom-line form, is indifferent to our fate.  It’s not the market’s job to care about our individual livelihoods, in other words.  It’s now, unquestionably, our own job.  We each need to take responsibility for staying relevant in today’s economic system, and at best, government and/or society at large will hopefully still be able to provide at least some semblance of a minimal “safety net” to help those folks who fall into hard times.

Dr. Wolfe’s article, in my opinion, underscores this notion.  Just yesterday, in fact, I ran smack-dab into some evidence of what he’s talking about (especially the part about “transactional” careers)  when running some afternoon errands.  My first stop?  The local Albertsons, where I was picking up lunch and got herded into one of those new “self-checkout” lanes where you scan your own groceries — and a single attendant oversees the simultaneous transactions of 4-6 customers at once.  Following this chore, I headed to the bank, where the employee who greeted me pretty much INSISTED I make my checking deposit using the ATM machine, versus the way it’s always been done before — which is to fill out a deposit slip, stand in line, and conduct business with a real live person.

In fact, my skeptical nature leads me to suspect that the NEW deposit slip that Bank of America has created, asking for a bunch of additional information, is simply a ploy to force behavior change on consumers — and condition us all to start using the automated ATM kiosks, versus the more “expensive” option of a bank teller.  Then again, this could just be my twitchy paranoid streak acting up again.  Hard to say.

The takeaway?  The times, indeed, they are a-changing, and we’ve all got to be more forward-thinking in our outlook and willing to keep a close eye on our own professional development.  There’s a common bond, after all, between spotted owls,  giant pandas, and the accountant who doesn’t know QuickBooks — and isn’t willing to learn!