College Career Life Planning

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Changing Global Workplace

Global Workplace (Audio)      Disappearing Social Safety Net  (Audio) 

Today's world presents our youth with tremendous opportunity.  The worldwide Web, outsourcing and virtually free, real-time global communication have permanently changed the business environment.  The world market is now accessible to any young person who develops a better idea, product or service. A start-up company can compete with an industry giant.  The world is "a land of opportunity" for the best, the brightest and the most ambitious. 

However, today's world also presents our young people with tremendous challenges. The worldwide Web, outsourcing and virtually free, real-time global communications have also permanently changed the work environment. "Internet-empowered" consumers demand the lowest priced, highest quality product when and where they want it.  

In order to survive, companies are forced to eliminate efficiency/waste, aggressively cut costs and continually improve to provide the "informed consumer" with the best possible value.   As a result, performance expectations have increased throughout the entire supply chain (retailer => manufacturer => suppliers => employees).  Jobs are quickly transferred from the inefficient, less effective companies (and workers) to the more capable and productive ones.  

Virtually free, real-time global communications has made it economically feasible for people on the other side of the globe (e.g. India, China) to provide services (e.g. customer service) to U.S. customers.  Historically, these services were provided by U.S. employees.   Companies no longer perform all operations internally.  Many functions are now outsourced to companies that excel in a particular function (e.g., manufacturing, product design, payroll).  Today's U.S. employees compete for jobs with people in China, India, Mexico, Poland and a host of other countries based on their individual marketable skills. This intense competition puts increased pressure on every employee to perform every day.   

Unfortunately, while the competitiveness of the workplace has increased exponentially, the social safety net has nearly evaporated.  In prior generations, it was common to work for the same company until retirement, receive a company-funded retirement including healthcare, then die at about age 70.  In addition to your company's pension, you received a sizable Social Security check during your retirement years.  Today's youth are likely to live to be 85 or even 90, company-funded pensions are increasingly uncommon (especially in the private sector), retirees are increasingly responsible for their own healthcare and the future of social security is uncertain.  

We need to prepare our young people to succeed in this more-challenging environment. Helping our young people 1) identify occupations that match their interests/abilities and 2) screen the prospective occupations based on their personal needs and the occupation's future prospects is a good start.  As a recent high school class told me, "You tend to be happier and perform better doing something that you enjoy and are good at."  Also, your odds of getting and keeping a job increase when your skills match the market's needs.

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