90% of Jobs Disappearing?

Almost 10 years ago, Tom Peters predicted that “ninety percent of White-Collar Jobs — as we know them today — will disappear or be changed beyond recognition in the next 10+ years.” I think the reasons he gave were sound. But at any rate, it’s a huge restructuring in the workplace. Could this restructuring be what’s happening right now?

Think about this in terms of the way technology and machinery affected “blue collar jobs”. It’s a continuation of how technology caused the destruction of “farming jobs” if it’s fair to think about it in these terms. With machines causing huge increases in productivity in the factories (and on the farms), it freed up huge numbers of people to take on other issues.

In historical terms, this phenomenon has been called “unemployment” — well, maybe not in the case of the “lost farm jobs”. But there was a time when advances in technology enabled huge numbers of people to give up farming and move to the cities to work in factories. Later technology enabled the factories to do more with less manufacturing labor.

The Wall Street Journal’s lead story today notes that “in recent days, [policy leaders] have all talked publicly about the unusual disconnect between growth and employment.”

“Growth” has resumed. The uptick in employment that normally accompanies “growth” has not. So one of two things could be happening. First, the uptick will occur, but it just has not occurred. Or second, it could be that no corresponding uptick is going to happen.

What’s the right way to deal with this? In eiter case, I think that the solution is going to have to be an entrepreneurial one. I’ll have more to say about this in future posts.

Is the recession over?

I’ve been reading a lot of snippets that suggest that the answer to that question may be “yes”.

The OECD, which measures “leading indicators,” suggests improvement is on the way:

Some of the world’s leading economies showed tangible improvement in May … They suggested many major economies — including the U.S., the euro zone and China — could end their declines later this year. Overall, the OECD lead indicator rose by 0.8 point to 94, the sharpest rise this year, but it was still down 7.3 points from May 2008. The indicators are designed to indicate turning points in economic activity about six months in advance, and the calcuations are based on a wide variety of data.

This article suggests that “an increase in exports bodes well for growth”:

Tentative signs of life in global trade are emerging, buoying growth forecasts in the U.S. and China, two of the world’s most important economies. U.S. exports grew in May, while imports fell, helping to narrow the trade deficit to its lowest level in nearly nine years. The report prompted economists to revise up their estimates of second-quarter gross domestic product. Some even suggested the economy might have grown slightly in the second quarter. “It’s a very good sign for GDP,” says Paul Ashworth, senior U.S. economist for Capital Economics in Toronto. “The economy didn’t shrink by much in the second quarter, and there’s an outside chance it recorded a gain.” Forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers increased its second-quarter GDP forecast from minus 1.6% to plus 0.2% on the news. New figures from China offered more support for the prospect that the massive drop in global trade is abating. Exports in June fell 21.4% from a year earlier, a smaller drop than May’s 26% decline, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Friday, citing official data.

That’s not huge, but it’s more in the right direction.

Still, I think everyone acknowledges that there are drags on the economy. The WSJ’s David Wessel suggests the recovery will be a painful (i.e., “jobless” one):

All signs point to a recovery so painful that many Americans may not realize when it finally arrives. There are signs the recession may end in coming months, but the U.S. economy’s recovery is likely to be so painfully slow that many won’t feel the difference. First, the good news. Auto sales and housing starts have fallen so low that they are unlikely to fall further, hence the talk of “stabilization” in those big, beleaguered industries. The mountain of unsold goods in factories, warehouses and stores, though still large, is shrinking. That eventually will lead manufacturers to stop reducing production and laying off workers. U.S. exports perked up in May. Credit markets are beginning to heal. Big companies are selling bonds. Even banks are selling new shares of stock. “Right now, we’re like a patient whose condition has stabilized and whose fever is just starting to come down,” Janet Yellen, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said recently.

But the job market remains awful. In December 2008, forecasters surveyed by The Wall Street Journal predicted the jobless rate would hit what then seemed a very high 8.1% at the end of 2009. Surveyed again this past week, forecasters now anticipate year-end unemployment of 10%. That suggests 775,000 more Americans will join the ranks of the jobless in the next six months.

On balance, though, I think that the signs are very hopeful that my own job search is going to be a good one.

The downside of “magicJack”

On my Facebook site, I’ve written fairly extensively about the technology troubles I’ve been having, mostly with the eMac. It’s still dead. I use this machine for desktop publishing, and so I need to get a replacement soon. Fortunately, thanks to a program called “DiskWarrior,” the files are saved and able to be retrieved. I think. That’s what they say, anyway. My hope is to get this done soon, although, I’ve had a $500 repair bill on the van, in addition to my other expenditures.

Which included the need to replace my cable modem and router. I had an all-in-one Linksys unit; this was down late in the week last week. It was another $130 to replace it (this time with two units).

In exchange for these expenses, enabled by technology, there are compensations, provided by technology. I bought one of those magicJack units to enable me to scale back the cellular service, and also to avoid the monthly phone bills. But the unique downside comes when you need to call the cable company to report that your cable is out. You need to use the cell phone, and waste precious and sometimes costly minutes.

This is not, I suppose, the fault of the magicJack people. The unit is doing what it’s supposed to do.

Took a few days off

Part of the “inner gyroscope” thing. I know, the search for work should be full-time work, and I’m up for that. Monday I mailed the first 30 from my Dun & Bradstreet list (www.zapdata.com) of Pittsburgh area software firms. No bites on that yet — one returned — but I’ve also created a series of documents so that I can phone and otherwise follow-up with each individual that I write to. The process of direct mail and follow-up is one I intend to farm over the next several weeks, as a way of building up a current network of contacts, perhaps gaining such project work as is available out there, and even leading to a full-time position.

Awesome printer for printing envelopes

For a long time, I’ve advocated “individualized mass mailings” as a way of reaching the marketplace. Sure, we live in an electronic era — but we’re still human beings, and we still have that sense of touch. That’s why I think personalized mailings are an effective way to go. I’ll find out more as I go along — I’ve just started a mailing with some 40o pieces to go out.

I’m finding that a cheap old Canon IP 1800 is doing an awesome job printing my envelopes. (At HyperActive, we recently had a fight with a new Toshiba printer that SUCKED at envelopes — so badly that I barely did one.)

An Assessment

a little help from your friends
a little help from your friends

At the time I was let go, I was totally focused on doing my own job — my thought was that the company itself would be my vehicle to success, and in the words of Carnegie, “put all your eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket.”

Well, I had done that, to the exclusion of having joined any networking groups, or having met any people in the (local software industry) outside of the industry.

I haven’t posted for a few days — and I’m not normally one to “take a few days off,” especially in a situation like this one. But you have to recharge yourself. You have to take time and give your “inner gyroscope” time to right itself. That’s what I’ve been doing, and here, in my unique (or not-so-unique) situation, I’ve taken that time, done an assessment of myself (in general terms, I guess, but as it leads to a plan of action), and I’m ready to move forward.

Nourish your inner gyroscope

maintaining balance
maintaining balance in turbulent times

The Tom Peters Company is using this gyroscope graphic on its website, under the header, “future shape of the winner.” Of this gyroscope, he (or someone in his organization) says, it is “a navigation system that finds dynamic balance and sets direction in a constantly changing operating context.”

Of course, their hope is that the Tom Peters Company will provide you with a consulting service that will enable you to balance seven different elements, as follows: … Ambition … Architecture … Brand … Execution … Experience … Performance … Talent ….

That’s all well and good; a company needs to be able to respond like a gyroscope to changes in the market. In fact, that’s quite an intricate balancing act. (And I have a story to tell about HyperActive in that respect). But the individuals in question will also have inner gyroscopes (or not), and that’s the key to the whole process, I think.

“The best time to start a company”

Cathy Mosca posted a New York Times article on TomPeters.com entitled “The Self-Employed Depression.”

Now, maybe I’m just too new to the ranks of the “self-employed” to be so jaded, but the Wall Street Journal today posted an article entitled “Processing a Software Idea Into a Suite Job at Google” — a story about how Sam Schillace, an engineering director at Google, got that way.

Serial entrepreneur Sam Schillace had been writing software professionally for 16 years when one of his ideas caught Google’s attention. Within seven months, he had sold his online word-processing program to the search-engine giant, where it joined an existing online spreadsheets program to form Google Docs. Now, he oversees engineering for Google products including Gmail, Picasa and Reader.

That’s a much more hopeful article — very positive about the need for perseverance.

Schillace says, “You start a company because you have an idea that you think will be great for some customer — and great ideas are always worth doing, even in a tough market. It’s also the case that many big companies are started during downturns and benefit from the added focus and discipline that’s necessary. So it might actually be the best time to start a company, if it’s the right idea and it’s done well.

Admittedly, Google represents a world that most of us don’t have the skills to aspire to. But there’s also a whole lot of ground between Google and “depression.” That’s ground that most of us can take, to one degree or another.

Here’s what I recommended the last time I was in this position:

… when I started, I almost had to be frantic about getting paying work. I can’t say it enough: pursue new work furiously. By that, I mean you should do all you can to  make sure you are doing an effective job of selling yourself, and not worry about much of anything else. Even if you’re not comfortable selling yourself, it’s the one thing you should be doing with all of your might. In my case, I did everything that the job search professionals recommend in order to get new work – networking, cold-calling, mass-mailings – and I put a great deal of effort into all three of those methods. I ended up getting work from all of those sources, as well as from other sources.

From Breaking Free, The Quest, pg 96.

“Perpetual Revolution”

During those first few months on my own, I read (the book) The Tom Peters Seminar over and over, making notes in the margins, highlighting different sections of it in all different colors, and filling the pages with business cards and sticky-notes so I could find the good parts as I needed them.

Peters advocated a “perpetual revolution” in business, in which imagination is the main source of value in the new economy, where everyone could benefit by assuming they had just been laid off permanently (and adjusting their career strategies accordingly), and that a person’s resume and rolodex were the true sources of their ability to prosper in business.

(emphasis added).

From Breaking Free, The Quest, page 74

The other “day one”

All things considered, I thought yesterday went much better than a prior “day one” for me. I wrote about that in my free ebook, “Breaking Free, The Quest”:

I had that experience on September 17, 1996. The first day of my new life, I could not contain myself. Literally. I was awakened far earlier than I would have liked by an aggressive case of the runs. I rolled over immediately and felt the sheets. They were dry, at least. My pants, however, were a mess. It was a good thing the weather was getting cool, because my extra clothing had kept things otherwise contained.

Yes, all in all, I’d say things have gone much better this time.