In his recent column, "How Did the Robot End Up With My Job" (October 1, 2011), Thomas Friedman talks about a changed world, first sharing an anecdote about doing book reviews for television. He shows up at the studio, is greeted by a rent-a-cop security guard, and is ushered in by a college student who also powders his nose, mics him up, and operates the camera. His interview is conducted via video feed, from a distance. He interacts directly with only two people during the entire process, neither of whom are full-time network employees. Technology, he claims, has made business more convenient, but it has also put a lot of people out of work.
The point, though, is not to bemoan the steady advance of technology but to be fully awake to our changed world and fully prepared to compete in a new marketplace for human resources. Many of those "out of work" people are talented; they're good, better, and best. And they're all out competing for jobs in a time when there's a "bigger pool of cheap geniuses." Friedman says that it's never been harder to find a job, but for those who are fully aware and fully prepared, it's never been easier to invent a job. If you doubt that, just look at the number of new small businesses springing up on the internet daily, the ascendance of the entrepreneurial spirit, and the overwhelming traffic on sites like freelancer.com or oDesk.com.
Businesses and employers can easily cruise these sites, and others, and find the best talent for their companies at the best prices. In the past, a prospect with good preparation and good talent could land a good job. But now, the competitor pool includes better prospects, and even the best prospects. Plenty of PhDs are out of work. Friedman quotes Matt Barrie, founder of freelancer.com as saying “They all have Ph.D.’s. They are poor, hungry and driven: P.H.D.”
How will you compete in this changed world? Will you be aware and prepared? If you're enrolled in a UNCG Online program, keep doing what you're doing. You'll need a solid background in liberal arts to make you stronger than candidates limited to single disciplines or single skills. And you'll need to be web-savvy. You're practicing that right now. Finally, get connected, be active in social media and make connections.
Be the best you can be. As Friedman summarizes "[it's] more vital than ever that we have schools elevating and inspiring more of our young people into that better and best category, because even good might not cut it anymore and average is definitely over."