Friday, March 25, 2005

The New American Work Force

No one can argue that being an employee in today's marketplace is vastly different than what our grandparents and great grandparents experienced. Most of us have accepted that at some point in our work history, we may be downsized, right sized or outsized out of our job. Yet, amazingly, many American workers are not prepared for this stark reality - financially or emotionally. Some choose to believe that it can't or won't happen to them. This is, in my opinion, as frightening as the person who has chest pains and doesn't take time to see a doctor. Neither scenario has a happy ending.

For those that continue to earn a living by being employed must realize that showing up every day and hoping for the best is no longer good enough. The new American worker must be savvy enough to have a Plan B, and a Plan C. They must always be thinking one step ahead and never allow themselves to be lulled into a false sense of security. What does this really mean? Start cutting expenses before you're faced with a job loss. It is easier to cut back and make different choices when things are going well. You think you've earned the life you're living, that you deserve a little luxury after all your hard work? If you lost your job today and could not find work for 12 months, would you still feel the same way? The harsh reality is in today's economy, there are many talented, well educated people who are out of work for extended periods of time. Are you prepared for a sudden job loss, a sudden illness? Getting your finances in order is only one piece of the puzzle.

In this new world, it's imperative to have a backup plan and a backup to the backup. While employed take advantage of every opportunity to broaden your skill base. Take classes, volunteer to learn new skills. Think ahead and begin working on that second career while still employed. It's far easier to sacrifice a little time when you have a steady paycheck than when you are out of a job and desperate.

Finally, there is an emotional component. We spend a great deal of time at our jobs. We are sadly, more connected at work than we are to our families and communities. Losing your job can also mean the loss of a social outlet, the loss of a community. Again, in this case a little pre-planning can go a long way. Companies are impersonal machines that are focused on the bottom line. Begin to see your workplace for what it really is, a job. Enjoy the work, enjoy the people but do not expect that big, impersonal machine to take care of you. Form a support network outside of work. It's amazing how many of us neglect to nurture friendships and family relationships because we're too busy working. Spending time with people who have nothing to do with work will give you balance and help you to be more relaxed and dare I say it, productive at your job. However, if you do lose your job, you will have a network of people to help you through the rough times.

At the end of the day, spending less, sharpening your skills and nurturing relationships will improve your life, even if you do keep your day job.

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