by Guest Blogger, Jonas Altman, Knowledge Seeker • Deliberate Thinker • Coffee Drinker • Contributor @ Quartz, Inc, The Guardian & more • www.jonasaltman.com. Originally published in Medium.
Nearly a decade ago I awoke from my slumber. I was in a toxic business partnership and badly needed to change directions. So I pulled up my trousers, and went back to school. Colliding with a bunch of kooky creatives, I’ve since made a life of work that I love.
Along the ride, I keep attracting (or more likely seeking out) others who love what they do. I’m electrified every time I ask one of these elated souls ‘what are you working on?’. The words flow so fast, their mouths struggle to keep up. It’s evident that for this lot — the distinction between work and life doesn’t exist.
Yet soon I appreciated that like me, these folks were anomalies. The majority of the working world (87% to be exact) simply aren’t engaged in their work. While many actually dread it, hundreds of millions of others don’t even have work to complain about. If this is the current state of play in our world, what might the future hold? I don’t really know. But I do have some ideas. Lots of them actually (and I have even more questions).
We are on course for massive unemployment (as well as underemployment) like we’ve never seen before. Many leading thinkers call this scenario post-work.It’s a world without the traditional jobs as we know them. And there is very likely some form of universal basic income (UBI) required to help supplement those working as well as those not working.
The issues are rooted in a compound of inevitable realities:
The continuing disparity divide, a shortage of workers for growing occupations, a widening skills gap for job categories yet to exist, algorithms and automation that keep eating the world, and a new generation of workers desperate to find meaning in work.
These are just some of the issues likely to be overheard at the World Economic Forum just as they are at your local college campus.
So how do we start to address these concerns and step outside our reality distortion field? I think one place to start is with a public discourse around values, intelligence, and workitself.
It’s not that a Gen Xer like me, nor an ‘entitled millennial generation’ suddenly resolved to find purpose in their work. Finding meaning in work is a deep-seated human impulse but something so often absent from the traditional workplace.
I recently asked the president of the New America Foundation, Anne-Marie Slaughter, about the importance of finding meaning in work and how it could help build a more resilient society. She believes that deriving purpose in work is vital. The truth however, is that many Americans just want the reassurance of a regular paycheck. Herein lies the problem. Until the turn of the century, craving stability of income made sense. But the safety a job might yield today is a myth.
Loyalty and the security of a paycheck have been replaced by talent and opportunity. A precarious existence is simply par for the course if you were born in or after the early 80s.
The members of the emerging workforce yearn to have their values and purpose aligned with the work they do. It’s a big reason why so many are striking out on their own. And several pioneering organisations are also taking note. These companies are going the extra mile by catering to, and evolving with, the ambitions of their workers. Call it a “retention strategy”, “employer branding”, or what you will — I call it good business.
Todd Oppenheimer, the founding Editor & Publisher of Craftsmanship, has been working as a journalist since 1978. The publications he has written for include The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Atlantic Monthly. He has won a variety of awards for his writing and reporting, including a National Magazine Award and a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE). He is the author of “The Flickering Mind: Saving Education from the False Promise of Technology” (Random House, 2003, 2004), which was a finalist for IRE’s investigative book award. Todd has been writing about unusual artisans since 2008, when he profiled Bob Kramer, a master bladesmith, for The New Yorker. An expanded version of that story, entitled “The Kitchen Bladesmith,” is now in our pages. Todd lives in San Francisco with his wife and two boys, and is a long-time member of the now-fabled Writers Grotto.
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