Coping with Job Loss and Uncertain Times

English: Job loss chart from BLS data here: ht...

English: Job loss chart from BLS data here: http://data.bls.gov/PDQ/servlet/SurveyOutputServlet?series_id=CES0000000001&output_view=net_1mth. Prelim data for Dec 2009 and Jan 2010. Made with OpenOffice.org Calc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a previous post, I mentioned the possibility of a future in which a greater proportion of the population work as free agents (such as described by Daniel Pink’s Free Agent Nation). Although this is an ideal that I would embrace for myself, the picture isn’t all rosy as this also means fewer secure employment opportunities being available for those who want them. The days of having a secure job at the same organization for one’s entire work-life have declined indeed, however it’s become apparent that not everyone has made the adjustment in mindset. Furthermore, there are many who are ill-prepared for, and/or don’t welcome, the difficulties associated with more autonomy and taking a more entrepreneurial approach with their careers.

Apparently, there appears to be room for debate about automation being the cause behind the decline of jobs (see Robert D. Atkinson’s post – an explanation which, I’ll admit, is new to me). In addressing a transition to a more entrepreneurial way of life however, I agree with many of the recommendations proposed by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, authors of Race Against the Machine. In this book, they listed changes to policies and societal infrastructures to support people as conditions necessitate a greater need to be one’s own boss – subject matter that I’ll cover in a future post.

For now however, I’d like to share some tips, videos, and articles that may prove helpful in putting you in the mind-frame to think about important steps to be taken if you happen to be dealing with job loss under these current conditions. Continue reading

Lynn Patra:

Is it conceivable? Thinking of a way to reconstruct a society in which all the work is being performed by technology makes for an interesting thought exercise indeed. However, some thinkers (such as Andrew McAfee in his TED presentation – see my previous post “The Move Towards Self-Employment“) do see the possibility of a life where people are freed up to do other things. Can the currently assumed exchange between work and consumption be broken? Can the current unemployment situation be but a painful transition on to a life that is ultimately better? If money no longer mattered, perhaps some people would still be working and striving, but for different rewards (such as popularity or mere thrill of competition) as one of my conversation partners hypothesized. This possibility has optimists exclaiming “100% unemployment now!” However if we are striving towards this type of society, one of the worst risks we take is that our creations turn on us and we live out an event akin to “The Terminator: Rise of the Machines.” On the other hand, the way we currently work is already ruining people’s health and therefore slowly killing a good number of us so, if things keep going the way they are, the issue of our welfare becomes moot. Check out this interesting blog post, “Is 100% unemployment realistic, desirable, and statelessly doable?”

Originally posted on In defense of anagorism:

I find it hard to imagine a situation in which all real needs can be satisfied without any work being performed by people. I find it equally hard to believe that we will ever see full employment; understood to mean enough jobs to go around. Automation is real, and it’s inconceivable to me that the future needs all of us. Thus, as long as we are living under a market economy, some of us will be expendable.

Kurt Vonnegut envisioned this scenario in Player Piano, in which people not in-demand enough to merit a paying gig were relagated to the humiliation and indignity of the “Reeks and Wrecks,” a make-work program created to provide the illusion of being a contributing member of society, but the illusion wore thin rather quickly. In Player Piano, the “engineers and managers” are the last dominos left standing. As the nightmare is materializing…

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The Move Towards Self-Employment: A Big Picture & “Little Picture” View

Nowadays you don’t have to search very hard to find well-respected thinkers forecasting the decline of traditional employment and a corresponding rise in self-employment. Daniel Pink, author of Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working For Yourself, had been tracking the decreasing average “half-life” of organizations well before this book was published in 2001. During his time as former speechwriter for Al Gore, he was one of the first to see the information that the Bureau of Labor Statistics churned out on a weekly basis. The relationship between organizations and employees is changing thanks to technological advancement and, in particular, the Internet. Pink foresees a future in which a great proportion of the population will be working as contractors, getting together and working on one project, dispersing when the project ends, then getting together with a different group to work on another project in the fashion of film crews.  Here is Daniel Pink discussing this scenario in the following video: Continue reading