It has been a long time since my last post. I knew when I started this blog that my writing would ebb and flow; that’s my reality. To a large degree, I’ve dedicated most of my time lately to my job. Back in April, when I last posted, I was traveling each week to Harrisburg, PA to work on the state’s unemployment compensation system. I won’t go into the details here, but if you’ve followed the news in PA then you’ll know that I was immersed in a critical situation that left almost no time for personal hobbies. For me, this assignment ended on July 1 when I took a new job as the Technology Services Executive in New England. This was a huge change for me: new division, new role, new co-workers, and new responsibilities. As with any new job, I began a long climb up a steep learning curve, and I have yet to see the top of the hill. Make no mistake, I am lucky; I am working in a difficult economy. Nevertheless, I am acutely aware that my work life does not resemble my father’s, who had a stable job working up the ladder at the same company for 47 years. Instead, I sometimes visualize myself running across a wood plank footbridge that is collapsing behind me: to remain working I must continuously stay one step ahead of rapidly changing economic conditions.
I think a lot of people have this same feeling of uncertainty about their work, and are running on that footbridge right beside me. We’ve all just lived through the great recession and naturally wonder when the good times will begin again. My prediction is that we’ll collectively hit the other side of the bridge around 2025. Once we get there, if we’re lucky, we’ll have discovered how to make prosperity available to many, and we’ll understand the need for new economic models to make this happen. Between now and then, I expect uncertainty to continue as society grapples with the changing nature of work. Many people are likely to fall into the abyss as the collapsing footbridge catches up to them.
This topic is not just about workers my age; I am also thinking about the generation that is just now entering the workforce. I have three children in this category and I think about their future constantly. So far they have been fortunate; all three worked this past summer. My oldest son, who just graduated from college with a degree in Environmental Science, has the good fortune of working full-time in his field. Nevertheless, I know that my kids are on the footbridge with the rest of us. I hope they keep up. There are many other young adults that I have talked to, who are equally talented, but are unfortunately unemployed or underemployed.
If you’re thinking that this series of posts will be about doom and gloom, that’s not the case. We can build a bright future, but we need to make that collective choice. Between now and then I expect changes that will shake us to our foundation. No one knows what that future state will be, and no one knows exactly how long it will take to get there. Nevertheless, for the purpose of this series of posts, I am choosing to discuss how history might unfold between now and 2025. I know that predicting the future is fraught with danger, but I think the benefits of putting this discussion into a concrete time frame make the topic more tangible. A few things are certain: I need to work during these years, so do my children, and so do many of you.
This is post one of five. You can expect one post each week. Next, I’ll talk about economic trends that provide context for this series.