When I was in undergrad in the 90’s, I had a desire to be a creative writer, maybe even for a science magazine because I love nature so much. But because it was engrained in me that that kind of job wasn’t stable, I just got my degree and got a job that was. Though where I ended up and where I would have ended up may have been two different places, the journey on one level would have still be the same, because of all the changes within the past 20 years.
1)Two of these changes affected me, and probably would have no matter which route I took 2-3a) the technology boom leading to job instability and 2-3b) a social mindset change of doing what you love instead of what you’re paid to do.
2-3a) When the boom in technology hit the way we work, many processes became more streamlined. They were also more individualized and simpler for people at different levels to use correctly. There was less paperwork, less bureacracy and faster turnaround times.
However, there also were less jobs. Though the manufacturing area was hardest and most obviously hit, what’s not talked about are the number of lower level white collar jobs that have been lost due to technological advances. Digital VoIP systems replaced switchboard operators and receptionists, Microsoft Office, Outlook, and Lotus Notes replaced traditional secretaries, online purchasing systems, such as Ariba replaced many AP billing and receiving personnel.
Because of the loss of many of these support personnel, this required middle managers and program managers to become more self-reliant and to learn how to manage not just people and accounts, but also their administrative tasks. The look of the workforce started to change: older employees who could not adapt to new technology were being pushed out, or into less complex jobs, while younger, more tech savvy workers were hired and job descriptions were changed to meet new workload demands.
Individuals had various responsesto this technological change. Many went back to school or took specialized classes to improve their computer skills. Companies realized this could make them more productive and many provided learning development classes and tuition assistance for employees. Some changed their professions, realizing support and manufacturing jobs would continue to decrease. And still others opted to retire if eligible.
2-3b) People started to realize that job stability was no longer a norm in any company; it was a lucky perk. To add to the changes in the work landscape, the Great Recession of 2008 forced many people out of very lucrative jobs. Because of the nature of the recession, they could no longer find those jobs again. This helped change the way people viewed work. If we’re not guaranteed a job, and we’re not going to get paid enough to have the comforts we want outside of our jobs, we better start doing something we like.
Currently I’m affected by this change. As an administrative support professional, I realize these positions will continue to be phased out, and because of supply-demand they will not be paid at the levels they were in the past. If i’m going to spend 40+ hours a week doing something and making little monetary compensation, I should get some emotional or mental satisfaction out of what I’m doing. This is the mindset of a lot of people who were adversly affected by the Recession. What results is a number of start-up and small businesses, giving consumers more customized offerings than before. The trends in the consumer markets are moving away from big box stores, to online shopping, and small brick-and-mortar stores. People are going back into the service industry again, but as business owners. Because some want to do what they love but don’t like the idea of being out there alone, they instead contract with bigger companies, or work freelance on dedicated projects, giving them the income they need, but also the flexibility to do what they want.
Individuals are re-thinking what they want out of their jobs, and their lives, and they’re no longer thinking about those things separately.
4) When I see these changes affected our workforce on such a grand scale, i am convinced constant change is inevitable in our organizing practices. Some of these changes (like technological advancement) are spurred on by free-market forces: competition for consumer dollars, the need for the latest and greatest device. And when that happens, organizing practices can’t help to continuously change.