Just how in the world did we ever get things done before e-mail?

Having experienced some “turbulence” with my e-mail system over the last few days, with many of my messages getting inadvertently flagged as spam by certain sites, like Hotmail, I’ve had to come to grips with how much we all tend to take certain things for granted — such as the ability to send a message to anyone on the planet instantaneously, for free.  It wasn’t all that long ago, after all, when inviting a group of folks to an event, or sending out a newsletter to one’s clients, involved dozens of hours of printing/folding/stuffing/stamping, in addition to some pretty significant postage charges.  Trust me, as a former admin assistant, I know what I’m talking about!  Now, however, we expect such things to be possible at the touch of the button — and (based on my experience in the last 48 hours) it can be incredibly disconcerting when these capabilities suddenly disappear.

And while I’m hoping my tech team now has these problems on the run, and my e-mail woes will be in the rear-view mirror shortly, the whole affair got me thinking about some of the things we all likely take for granted on a daily basis.  For example, I was teaching a workshop the other day and one of the attendees hadn’t shown up by the time the class was scheduled to start, so I posted a sign on the lobby door (the meeting was in another part of the building) asking him to call my cell phone number, when he arrived, so I could come down to let him in.  It never crossed my mind until later that this person might not actually OWN a cell phone or have it with them!  I just assumed that everyone carries some kind of phone with them these days, despite how crazy this might have sounded 30 years ago, watching the original Star Trek series, if one were to remark “you know, one day soon, I predict we’ll all have these little flip-out communicator devices like Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock…”

Having gone through a bout of quasi-laryngitis all of last week, too, I even came to realize how much I take my VOICE for granted and how challenging it would be to perform my responsibilities without being able to speak clearly for 8-10 hours per day.  So as random as I know it may seem, this thought pattern is one that has been occupying my mind recently, which got me thinking about some specific things many of us might take for granted in terms of our career plans and the employment world.  Could it be that the growing shakiness of some of these assumptions accounts for much of the anxiety, angst, and stress many professionals are facing today?

For example, here’s a quick list of some career-related “truths” I think many of us have automatically accepted as gospel for many years, at least those of us in the Generation X set and older:

•  That we will have a decent job if we graduate from college
•  That our incomes will rise steadily and predictably throughout the course of our working careers
•  That we will one day be able to comfortably retire on a middle-class salary around age 65 or so
•  That if we work hard and are loyal to an employer, it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever be laid off
•  That if we send in a resume to a company, or give them a call, we’ll at least get some kind of response
•  That wisdom/experience is inherently more valuable than technical skills, potential, or raw enthusiasm
•  That we can buy big houses, and ring up big bills on credit cards, we’ll eventually be able to pay them off, somehow
•  That America will always be able to “invent” or “spend” our way out of a recession

Would you agree that these are all common assumptions most working Americans have held up until now?  How many of them do you think still hold 100% true?  Which ones are on shaky ground?  Just thought it made for some interesting contemplation.  And if some of these things we take for granted start to erode, what new assumptions will arise to take their place?  For example, based on the events of the past weekend, I’m wondering whether there might be a day in the not-too-distant future when all Americans take access to affordable, portable health care for granted.  Love the new health care bill or hate it, it unquestionably represents a sharp departure from days past when the assumption was that most Americans (hopefully with help from the companies that employed them) would be completely responsible for their own medical coverage — and that this system would consistently meet the needs of the majority of citizens.

Not a lot of answers in today’s posting, I’m afraid, but lots of questions I couldn’t help but blurt out there, based on recent events!