In my last post, I mentioned that one thing that the Boomers had not questioned was the concept of work and employment.
This is perhaps because during the last 60 years, we have transitioned from the Industrial or Manufacturing Age into the Post Industrial or Information Age. The industrial world of their parents and the one they might have entered was not the demanding, dangerous Industrial Age but the end of the era when many workers had secure jobs for their entire work lives.
A job in this not so long ago age, was defined as continuous long-term employment with an organization that provided a regular salary, health benefits, a pension plan and the assurance of a continuing need for the worker’s skills. This relationship between employers and individuals was called “the social contract.” Basically it meant that an employer in return for the good service and productivity of an employee, offered lifetime employment with an inherent potential for promotion, regular increases in salary, a good fringe benefit plan and an assured retirement package. It was a given that the organization that offered employment was stable and would be around “forever.”
Since the 1980s corporate America has dramatically altered the context of work and the “social contract” is a relationship of the past. The Information Age (or PostIndustrial Age) is defined by the ease and rapidity of worldwide communication. Wireless communication, computer networks, the World Wide Web make almost instantaneous communication possible.
Manufacturing still occurs even in the US, but it is driven by computer technologies including robotics and nanotechnologies. The stability and long-term endurance of companies is no longer a given. Even profitable, highly regarded organizations can be sold or merged.
If you are over 50, you may remember the “olden days.” If you are over 60, you may have begun your work life expecting the continuance of the “social contract” or a hybrid version of it where employers honored the “social contract” but employees, especially early in their careers, would change jobs several times before settling into a good job and a good company.
So we are now in the 21st century looking for meaning in our work in a work world characterized by: a reduced workforce due to downsizing, a reduced workforce due to outsourcing, a reduced workforce due to automation and robotization, increased customization, increased hiring of temporary employees, a increasingly diverse workforce, globalization, fewer corporations, long-distance collaboration, an emphasis of skills not job titles, and an increased need for continuing education.
As Stephen R. Covey describes it …..
“We live in a new economy that is moving from the Industrial Age, top-down, command-and-control, hierarchical model to the Knowledge Worker Age of empowerment and courage and creativity. We also live at a difficult recessionary time, but that does not mean we a fundamentally a product of our environment. We are not victims of circumstances. We are the creative force of our own lives.
Unfortunately I do not think most of us were raised to think creatively about the economy and the role that we play in the economy. I sense a longing in many of my clients for the so-called good old days when everyone knew where they fit-in in often paternalistic corporations. In an evolving, creative, empowering, what are we supposed to do era, what are our new roles? Will we hold a job or be an entrepreneur or some combination of both?”
With a job loss after age 50, an individual can wait and hope that they will find employment in their field. Many become underemployed taking jobs in retail and telemarketing, Some cannot find work and live off their savings and spouse’s income. Some enthusiastically become the entrepreneurs they always wanted to be while others reluctantly begin to look at their entrepreneurial options.
By age 50, your employment, your leisure time, and your everyday life have given you a wide variety of skills and expertise. To identify potential areas of self-employments, I would interview a reluctant entrepreneur about their skills and expertise.
Here are some questions I might put to them if they are searching for business ideas and a niche.
- What opportunities in the market place did you last employer seem to be missing? EG: parts for older models, refurbishing equipment, custom orders
- What skills can you sell as a freelancer? EG: project management, website design, accounting, computer programming
- Do you have the knowledge and experience to buy out an existing business? EG: gift shop, home security installation, photography studio, print framing shop
- Do you have a manual skill that others would pay for? EG: laminate and hardwood floor installation, stained glass design and installation, bricklaying
- Do you have a hobby product you can offer as a business? EG: knit goods, jewelry, customized wooden signs, Christmas decorations
- Do you have friends who rave about your cooking or baking? EG: ethnic deserts, chocolate specialties, wedding cakes, catering for small groups, pre-cooked meals
- Can you sell your talent in a sport? EG: canoeing/kayaking trips, running soccer or tennis camps
- Do you possess talent in graphic or fine arts design? EG: Designing websites, designing logos, custom painting clothing or shoes.
- Is there a service you need personally but cannot find? EG: taking children to after school activities, driving elderly relatives to doctor’s appointments, locating pieces of silverware or china
- Can you provide a product or service your friends can’t find? EG: pet sitter, home delivery of live seafood, genealogical research
- Do you do something as a volunteer that others would pay for? EG: teach ESL, transport elderly shopping or to medical visits, visit elder who are home-bound
- Do you have experience in importing or exporting? EG: used machinery to India and other countries, scientific equipment to Eastern Europe, craft items from Africa, Asia, Central and South America
- What knowledge do you have that you can put into a special report or book? EG: internet marketing, raising a child with ADHD, foreign travel with children
- Are you experienced and talented in teaching or training? EG: English or foreign languages, music, job social skills, negotiation and mediation
- Do you have experience in “New Age” disciplines or alternative health practices? EG: Tapping (EFT), Reiki, Reflexology, Fung Shui, card reading, past life regression analysis