President-elect Donald Trump promised to “make America great again” in part by bringing back jobs that he believes were lost as a result of various poor trade agreements, including NAFTA. But while some of those jobs may indeed come back, the truth is that many of them no longer exist; they have either been replaced by technology-based processes or have simply become obsolete.
As the world continues to evolve, so must anyone who wants to get ahead. Blacksmiths were replaced by auto mechanics, and mechanics are now reinventing their own careers as cars become more computerized and vehicle repair becomes more technology-based.
Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist and best-selling author, hit the nail on the head when he compared the difference between finding a job when he graduated from college, and what his daughters will face: “When my daughters graduate from college, they have to invent a job. … And then, you may get lucky and get your first job, but you’ve got to invent, reinvent.” In other words, innovation and adaptation are now essential for survival in a global economy.
Take, for example, Limoneira Co., a 124-year-old Santa Paula-based international grower of citrus, avocados and other crops. It has adapted and diversified to become a major global agribusiness and not merely a grower of farm products. With approximately 10,700 acres of rich agricultural land, real estate properties and water rights in California and Arizona, Limoneira has diversified its board of directors, too, as reflected with the recent election of Betsy Blanchard Chess, whose expertise goes well beyond agriculture. The USC alumna has received many awards in philanthropy, education and journalism. According to Limoneira’s dynamic Chief Executive Harold Edwards, “we’re excited to have her passion and expertise on our board.”
Workers today have to grow and adapt as well. Multiple sources, including the Bureau of Labor and Forrester Research, tell us that most people will average between 10 and 15 jobs during their lifetime and it is unlikely that someone will spend their entire career in the same field.
In exploring this further, a McKinsey Global institute study identified six sectors that are expected to account for most of the job growth going forward: health care, business services, leisure and hospitality, construction, manufacturing and retail. According to the study, layoffs today are more likely to be permanent, and new jobs that are created afterwards will be in different industries. If you’re in business services today, it’s quite possible you may transition into health care services at some point. Manufacturing jobs have become more automated, meaning more traditionally trained manufacturing professionals will end up moving into another industry.
Here are five actions job candidates and employees can take to adapt and have the best chance of thriving in today’s evolving work environment:
1) Excel in your current duties – it’s easy to become complacent. As the first CEO I reported to told me, “If you exceed expectations, the rest will soon fall into place.”
2) Continually expand your network of friends, associates and advisers. We learn from others’ experiences and perspectives, so it is vital to regularly keep in contact with others, never forgetting to thank them for whatever help they give you.
3) Never stop learning. After one promotion I received, I remember the counsel provided by one of the Navy admirals I worked for: “Your promotion is due less to what you’ve accomplished in the past than it is for what we expect of you in the future.”
4) Explore other parts of the organization. If you work in finance, spend some time understanding manufacturing or marketing. You will expand your value to the organization as well as sharpen your own skill set.
5) Remain positive and don’t lose your sense of humor. Don’t become cynical or be influenced by those who are petty, backstabbing, cruel or worse. Misery truly does love company.
While this changing dynamic provides new challenges for workers, it provides equal challenges for employers who must help their employees innovate and adapt. Don’t assume employees are unable or unwilling to learn a new skill. Be willing to give employees a chance to show competence in a changing environment. If someone wants the opportunity to learn a new skill, try to make sure you provide that opportunity. You might be surprised how resilient and adaptable your employees are to the changes and challenges placed before them.
Ritch K. Eich is founder of Eich Associated, a leadership and management consulting firm in Thousand Oaks. He has authored three books: “Real Leaders Don’t Boss,” “Leadership Requires Extra Innings” and “Truth, Trust + Tenacity.” He is a retired captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve.