By Caitlin Kelly
Here’s an interesting piece from Quartz.com — a site I’ve written for — about the three essential skills we’ll need to survive the world of work:
The way that work looks, feels, and functions is in the midst of a dramatic shift. Every time we have gone through a major shift in work in the past, we have had to learn new skills to support it. We had to learn the work of agriculture. We had to learn how to work on an assembly line. We had to learn to use typewriters and fax machines.
So the question now becomes, what do we need to learn that will help us thrive in this new world of work today and ten, 20, 30 years from now? From my experience, I see three of the main categories of skills as: problem solving, technology, and self-management.
To which I say — with all due respect — Duh!
At the turn of the 19th century it was the captain of a whaling ship or a carriage driver who had to re-invent immediately as technology changed around them, no matter what their past achievements.
Today, anyone working in what’s quaintly called “legacy media” — i.e. print — is learning to pivot as fast as they possibly can, regardless of their awards, education, age or level of experience. Anyone with enough years and income to completely re-train or upskill is doing so. Those of us with an antipathy to the costs and time demanded to re-credential more formally are tap-dancing quickly.
In this respect, I feel fortunate to have grown up in a family of full-time creative freelancers. My father made documentaries, feature films and television news shows for the BBC, CBC, Disney and others. My late stepmother wrote and edited television dramas and my mother was a print writer, editor and broadcast journalist.
No one ever had a pension to look forward to; negotiating for our full value was standard operating procedure, with agents and accountants a normal part of worklife. We never relied on anyone to “take care” of us financially, so I learned to be
really cheap frugal with my income and save as much as possible.
I started my writing career with — yes, really! — a manual typewriter and an answering service. No internet, no Google, no email, no Twitter or Facebook.
I had to develop my “individual economic resilience” while still in college, as my freelance photo and writing work put me through it and paid my bills.
I’ve had, and sometimes really enjoyed having, a steady and healthy paycheck. But I’ve been laid off and I’ve been fired — losing that income overnight, sometimes with no warning.
Full-time freelancers learn how to manage money, or quickly flee self-employment, but learning those three skills is second nature by now. Any freelancer unable to create and sell their skills, over and over, raising their rates whenever possible, is not someone with IER. It comes with the territory.
Having said that…
A few thoughts on IER:
— How deliciously laissez-faire capitalist! We’re all just “units of labor”, individual mini-cogs in the enormous and rapacious machine of capitalism — hire/fire/repeat.
— How utterly American this is! Cooperation? Co-working? Finding shared solutions through a sense of solidarity with other workers? Snort! Every man for himself, boys — and devil take the hindmost.
— Can you say “union”? Of course you can’t! Now that American unions are the smallest and weakest in decades — 7 percent private sector and 11 percent of the public sector — it’s a foregone conclusion that The Man owns us, leaving each of us to fight individually for what we feel (or do!) deserve in return for our skills.
— Can you say “confidence?” If not, kiss your ass goodbye. It take some serious chutzpah; (see that soothing phrase above “self management”) to know when, how and how hard to push back against your freelance clients or full-time employer for better wages and working conditions. In a crappy economy, millions of us have lost our jobs, our former earning power and our nerve.
My biggest problem — the same one faced by millions of American workers in age of record corporate profits? (See: “problem solving”?)
From the Nov. 14 edition of The New York Times:
“We are adding jobs, but it is still a wageless recovery,” Elise Gould, an economist with the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, said, adding that average hourly earnings rose only 0.1 percent in October after no gain in September. “The economy may be growing, but not enough for workers to feel the effects in their paychecks.”
The story received 410 comments, such as:
Joining this story with last week’s about fast-food workers in Denmark earning $20 per hour is an illuminating cultural history lesson. Many of the recently hired workers in the U.S. story are part-timers with no health insurance who are earning below the poverty level. In Denmark, the common interest in maintaining a society that offers a living wage to workers has created a higher scale. While the employers in Denmark are willing to make a little less profit than their U.S. counterparts, they still do make a profit, which combined with the vitality of a work force of decent wage earners pays dividends across the whole society. It’s a matter of choice. In the U.S., maximum profit at all cost rules the land and the workers suffer.
How’s your IER?