When I was 27, I worked for the Sprint Corporation selling land based long-distance phone and data services. Sitting in my cube one day, a thought hit me like a ton of bricks. I pushed with my legs hard and drove my wheeled chair into the cube next to me, my buddy Jeremy.
A bit startled, he looked up at me.
“It just hit me. All of this is going away.” I told him.
“What’s going away?” he countered.
Gesturing with my arms I waved them across the seemingly endless rows of cubicles, “All of this. Jobs that pay $60,000 to $90,000 to sell long-distance minutes and data connections.”
That thought had been building for a while. Six-months earlier, I attended an internal meeting where Sprint announced plans to consolidate their separate land based technologies onto a single platform.
The consolidation made the technologies I had spent the last 5-years learning irrelevant.
As the presentation continued, I thought about how the factory workers must have felt as they watched their company install robots.
Four-years later, I left telecommunications and launched a new career in the financial services industry. My full transformation from telecommunications professional to financial advisor took 7-10 years. During that same time, Sprint transformed itself into a predominantly wireless phone company. It also got 40% smaller in the process.
In December of 1997, Sprint had roughly 51,000 employees. Twenty-years later, Sprint has shrunk down to approximately 30,000 employees.
Often when some jobs are rendered obsolete, other new jobs in industries we couldn’t imagine twenty-years ago spring up. This is the point of my message to you today.
Technological change is accelerating and the ‘thinking jobs’ are now being affected. These changes could potentially be financially disastrous for those caught unprepared.
Maybe not this year or next, but some of these ‘thinking jobs’ will soon become obsolete.
It’s easy to say that a machine or a computer couldn’t possibly do your job and that might be true.
Or, it might be wishful thinking.
Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk tells audiences, “The market is the market. You cannot be romantic about how you make your money or you will lose.”
We owe it to ourselves and to our families to not be blindsided should technological change impacts us. Be open to the possibility your current profession may not last until age 65.
Here are some questions to consider:
- Imagine your job was computerized tomorrow. How long would it take you to replace your current income in a new industry? If it takes 7-10 years like it did for me, how would you support yourself in the interim?
- Are there aspects to your profession that are harder to automate than others? What skills can you develop to help insulate yourself?
- Who are the technological thought leaders in your career space? What are they saying and where can you learn more?
Your greatest asset is your ability to earn a paycheck. Expanding your career options in the face of technological change is one tool you can use to protect your greatest asset.
Don’t be romantic about how you earn your money. It is likely that some factory workers that didn’t believe it could happen to them either!
Please take time to think through these questions and how you can respond to a changing market. In the end, you might not need a plan. If you end up needing that plan, you’ll be glad you got started sooner as opposed to later.