Preparing your career for a binary star economy

Globalization and digitization are modifying the way we live, and therefore how we work


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Career development is as fluid a field of study and method of personal improvement as can be found. It's elasticity and growing erratic nature is due to the changing state of the world of work. In an environment that requires continual improvement, adaptability and thorough planning, long-term career design can be a difficult and uncertain endeavor.

As we each seek to chart an unclear and enigmatic career development landscape for purposes of changing existing careers or determining new ones we can benefit from a North Star, a beacon and guide that ancient mariners discovered when navigating vast and strange oceans.

However, binary star may be the more apt metaphor — a system consisting of two stars orbiting around their common center of mass — since the duality we have to now regularly consider are the two interdependent powerhouses known as globalization and digitization.

The future of work appears to be heavily influenced, if not governed, by these two harbingers. In tandem, globalization and digitization are modifying the way we live, and therefore how we work. The expanding utilization of technology combined with the spreading integration of people, businesses and governments around the world is altering economic history in a way that hasn't happened since the Industrial Revolution.

As paradigm-shifting as the change from handwork to mass production was over 100 years ago, we are now witnessing a transformation just as groundbreaking, if not more.

When people like Ray Kurzweil, the 67-year old director of engineering at Google, predicts that by 2029 computers will be able to perform all tasks humans can now do, only better, then I pay attention — and you should to.

It's not just the prognostications of one man that matter (and he has some doozies), but the unmistakable short- and long-term trend lines indicating rapid proliferation in new and disruptive technologies and business models (think Airbnb, Uber, SaaS, MOOCS) and increased activity in what the International Monetary Fund refers to as the four basic aspects of globalization: international transactions, capital movements, migrations of people, and knowledge dissemination.

Ask yourself, how well do your career plans hitch themselves to the forces of globalization and digitization? It's wise to look for some connection. Enough work is already being made redundant that new ways of organizing work tasks are in the process of being discovered.

Free thinking encouraged

Were I as prescient as I wish I could be I would now present a neat and tidy list of specific and guaranteed jobs of the future. But alas, I'm not that farsighted. Nevertheless, here is what I think will help in preparing for the brave new world and strengthen our decision-making as we move forward.

Pessimism and hand-wringing will not fortify us against ambiguity. Those who will find success are those with a positive attitude allowing them to see and grasp opportunity others do not or cannot.

We also need to get back to having big ideas. The Hoover Dam, the Golden Gat Bridge and the Empire State Building were all built during the Great Depression. Winning World War II, constructing the interstate highway system and launching six crewed moon landings followed.

Today we're all in a twist about whether to extend health insurance to the uninsured and whether or not to fund bridge repairs. Big problems exist in need of substantial solutions. Let's find our lost courage to make grand proposals and realize lofty outcomes.

Free thinking of the type that stimulates innovation and entrepreneurship also needs to be encouraged. This has always been America's strong suit and it demands continuation, if not invigorating, in an ever-competitive global economy. Our schools, for one, can do a better job of transitioning from the mechanized industrial-aged model to one more consistent with a broad-minded enterprising ethos.

Business dedicated to sharing, rather than old-fashioned consumption and disposal of resources is becoming fashionable — and profitable. Making money by sharing homes, cars, locally grown foods, breweries, office space, etc., is becoming increasingly common. Disruptive of legacy business models to be sure, but isn't that the way it's going these days?

From an ecological viewpoint, an economy that utilizes resources in common may in part reverse the throwaway trend of the last half century.

Reframing our attitudes and ways of thinking about the binary impact globalization and digitization is having on our economy, careers and ways of life may be the best approach we can profitably take from this economic conversion.

Bill Ryan, founder of Ryan Career Services LLC, Concord, can be reached at 603-724-2289 or bill@ryancareerservices.com.

More of Bill Ryan's Columns

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Consider a career in gaming

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