I read an article today that kind of made me take a step back.
Not literally, because I’m sitting and that’s not something I could physically do even if I wanted to. Maybe I could roll back in shock, but I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t convey the actual feeling I have but would look more like I was suggesting we have a rip-roaring round of office chair races on my not-carpeted floors.
Which my kids have done before, so I know is possible.
Maybe chair races would be more enjoyable than thinking about what kind of jobs my kids are going to have when they grow up.
I might just come out of this article sounding like an old fuddy-duddy that’s against technology. If I do, I have not communicated well because I love technology.
Back to the Article
When Facebook announced it was buying WhatsApp I took a moment and thought, “Huh.” because I have the app and used it for a while on my iPhone before I got used to the Android keyboard when I had to make that transition. Now it has hundreds of millions of users.
It also has 55 employees.
My favorite quote from the article, the one that made my brain grind to a halt for a minute is: “In the emerging economy, there’s no longer any correlation between the size of a customer base and the number of employees necessary to serve them.” (click anywhere on the quote to go to the full article. It’s pretty short.)
True in so many cases. These amazing companies that give us beautiful technology that makes our lives easier, faster, and more organized are not giving us jobs.
It’s not just the tech sector, either, it is the sectors affected by the tech sector. The more we email the less we need paper mail. The more we use Amazon the less we need local stores providing those same things.
It’s not a zero-sum game by any means. We will always need a store with milk and bread for those last minute jaunts to the store at 11pm but we have Walmart and Target for that – and even Meijer – and for now the Jewel/Oscos of the world are hanging on barely but other stores aren’t faring so well. Whole Foods will live on because it’s niche. I’m not talking about imminent destruction, I’m talking about where my kids are going to shop in 30 years.
The landscape is changing so fast. I even get most of their yearly school supplies online now so I don’t have to fight the other mothers over folders that have to be red and pencils that have to be Ticonderoga.
Where Will My Kids (and I) Fit In?
In this scenario, what is left for my children to do? There will still be fast food and shelf stocking and cashiering to do and that’s great. I hope for my children to have those jobs to earn extra money while they are still in high school or to buy things while they are in college. Whether or not it will be true, I want for those to be entry-level, get-your-feet-wet jobs that give them the hang of going to a place to work and coming home when you are done.
A stepping stone. Not a lifetime.
But with tech becoming like American Idol where for every WhatsApp millionaire there are probably thousands of screaming-for-attention-in-the-stands-of-the-arena startups that failed and don’t have rich employees and venture capitalists patting themselves on the back. I mean, if the tech sector has the same risk as wanting to be an actor, a professional singer, or a professional football player…where does that leave everyone else?
It might make me sound horribly old fashioned, but what happened to a job you love that you do well? There are even too many lawyers! That used to be a high-quality profession where you knew if you made it through you would have work for life. Trust me, because I almost went to law school when I was thirty-something because I realized I really loved it and had a knack for it. Too bad I wouldn’t have made it into a top firm unless I made it into a top school and I wouldn’t have made it into a top school unless I both paid top dollar and scored five points higher on my LSAT. So the dream was shelved.
Even if I had gotten into a top school and a top firm I would have been rewarded for all my hard work with 80-hour weeks and never seeing my family again. I look at my consideration of law school as dodging a bullet more than passing on an opportunity.
There’s still healthcare, I guess. Too bad two out of three of my kids are needle-phobic. Also, we need to see how that all pans out in the next ten years. I was already hesitant to push the kids toward healthcare with the insane malpractice insurance premiums around these parts. If healthcare prices normalize because of the ACA I’m not sure how that’s going to translate to doctor/nurse/etc. salaries.
Maybe they (and I) can all just decide to become accountants. Every company has an accountant. We’re all whip-smart at math so we would be playing to our strengths.
Oh, see, I’m looking for something I can do once they’re all in school, too. Don’t tell Mr. Brickie, though, because he thinks I’m going to write the Great American Novel™ once I have the time to myself during the day. I might, but in the meantime I have to study traditional publishing models vs. self-publishing and figure out which is more lucrative. I mean, do I want the money now, or the legacy forever.
The money. Always the money.
Do I have to be a futurist to be a decent parent? Determine what the next big thing is going to be in the career atmosphere? Figure out where the shortages will be and figure out which of my kids can fill those?
Are we getting to a point in American history where we will no longer ask our children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and, out of necessity, ask them, “What does the country need you to be when you grow up if you want a life that is a little more stable than purchasing a lottery ticket?”
Ask not what your country can do for you, right? (I’m stealing, chopping, and paraphrasing a famous quote there. Shame on me!)
What About Academia?
That is what most grants are. Lottery tickets that let you do your work for a year or (if you’re really lucky) more. You have to keep going back and begging for scraps from the administration or from private companies. Always asking for money has to be a draining part of a job, don’t you think?
Or you could publish papers. Each of them take years and have to go through peer review which could help or you could be unlucky and someone you don’t like could be on your peer review comittee and good luck getting that paper through. Also, it has to be published in a good journal or it kind of doesn’t count.
Once you do all that? You might get tenure. Work for many years for a promise you won’t get fired. Sounds legit. Except it kind of doesn’t.
Make Your Own Luck!
Or they could be entrepreneurs. That would be great if they had an idea for a business. I’m still trying to come up with one and I’ve been at home with the luxury to think about nothing else for years. I’ve done customer service at home while trying to “figure out my passion” I’ve done surveys for money while I tried to “follow my bliss” and I’ve even written for money – and still do – all the while trying to figure out a way to have a “big girl business” instead of a freelance career that is kind of driving me insane.
I would not wish the ebb and flow of this on anyone except people with the strongest character and who do not have a tendency toward anxiety.
Maybe they will own a storage facility and then they can have a television show where they auction off the stuff inside units that people have stopped paying on. Or perhaps they will have a reality show that makes me look like an awful mother who raised kids that eventually had a reality show.
There are so many ways being an entrepreneur can go right…and so many ways it can go wrong. So, we are back to the gambling issue. C’est la vie.
You Know I Worry Too Much
Maybe they’ll be fine and fit in to everything like a square peg in a square hole. I shouldn’t let my ennui affect their chances of success in my mind. It just seems like the world has changed so much and I can’t quite put my finger on where my kids – or myself! – should be to position ourselves in the best way for the transition.
I also read (on a tech blog, natch) that everyone should learn how to code because it will be the thing to know as the future moves forward.
But here I sit in the backend of WordPress.org that looks an awful lot like Microsoft Word typing away not knowing a line of code. All that HTML I learned ten+ years ago? Worthless to me. The CSS I learned to tweak the way my blogs look? Probably going to be as worthless as HTML in another ten years. If I’m even blogging. Do you think I’ll still be blogging?
Let’s be honest. I’ll still be blogging. Why deny it? Hopefully I’ll be an amazing blogger sometime in between then and now because right now I’m producing one and a half thousand words and not sure if I’m getting my point across or if I even know what my point is. Then again, I’m not that much different in person, so it’s not an inaccurate representation.
The one I think I have. I do not begrudge anyone who works with or for WhatsApp their success. I don’t have a problem with anyone being successful or rich through skill or luck or a combination of both. It’s not about dragging someone else down, it’s about trying to figure out a way to lift ourselves up, right?
If I do ever come up with an amazing idea and get it to prototype format and actually launch the thing, this might be the best “in retrospect” post ever.
There is always hope!