A Dirty Little Secret

A Dirty Little Secret

Economists have long reassured people “that new jobs would be created even as old ones were eliminated. For over 200 years, the economists were right. Despite massive automation of millions of jobs, more Americans had jobs at the end of each decade up through the end of the 20th century. However, this empirical fact conceals a dirty secret. There is no economic law that says that everyone, or even most people, automatically benefit from technological progress.”

That’s the view of Erick Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee in their book Race Against the Machine. And, they’re absolutely right. Creative destruction – economists’ jargon for the impact of technology on employment – doesn’t nicely replace either one old job with another or one good job with a better one.

In fact, in the two years since end of the Great Recession, creative destruction has actually replaced good jobs with lousy ones. According to research from the National Employment Law Project, 60 percent of the jobs that were eliminated during the downturn involved occupations in the middle of the salary range, while 58 percent of the jobs that have been produced since are in occupations at the low end of the salary range.

How can you protect yourself from getting caught in such a perverse quid pro quo?

Bring the one thing to work that machines can’t: your innovation and imagination – your ability to be creative on-the-job. Those traits are the energy source of successful 21st century careers. Employers are desperate to hire and will do whatever it takes to hang onto those who have them. Why? Because they also give companies a real and sustainable competitive advantage in the global economy.

Regardless of what economists may say, therefore, only creative workers benefit from “creative destruction.” So, make that trait the centerpiece of your occupational brand.

Work Strong,
Peter