Some people really do deserve to be fired

By Neil Patrick

Sometimes I wonder what people were thinking when writing online content. Perhaps the simple answer is, not much at all.

Tonight I was researching Hugo Boss and stumbled across a blog for a cologne website. It’s so tragically brilliant, I couldn’t resist sharing a small piece of it here.

Hey there and thanks for visiting Cologne Boutique blog!

Hey there! I was actually looking for something else but now I have been tricked by your devious SEO, I might as well see what you’re all about.

A man’s scent of choice should smell like his personality. 

Should it? Oh. Okay then. Yes my personality. So that’s pedantic. What smells like that?

Wearing the right cologne will attract women to you, much the same way the small deer attracts the lion.

When small (or even larger) deer are approached by lions they usually get eaten next. Right? And I don’t think I want to be ripped to shreds and eaten by women (or men for that matter). At least not today. Call me weird, but cannibalism is a big no-no for me.

But with hundreds of fragrances available on the market, with each claiming to be the best, it’s not an easy task for a bloke like you to find one that suits your taste and, more importantly, your personality.

Spot on! You nailed it! Nothing is easy for a bloke like me. I am seriously inept at almost everything I do. You’re very smart to notice. And thanks for confirming my suspicions.

Therefore we came up with the idea to create an easy to read resource to show you everything you ought to know about cologne but were afraid to ask.

Wow! You’re right again! There’s just SO much I was always afraid to ask about cologne. Really terrified in fact. Most often, it’s ‘How much?!’ because when I get the answer, my eyes do this weird exploding frowny thing.

With tons of information placed all over the web and multiple reviews websites, we feel that Cologne Boutique will be of a great value to anyone searching for a great gift ideas for a loved one’s (yes, ladies!).

You’re right, it is of a great value to anyone searching for a great gift ideas. For a loved one’s…erm what exactly? Ladies?

My loved one’s…ladies? Ummm…

Sorry I’m confused again now.

For a time being, check our top recommended men’s fragrances to start with while we are preparing some delicious content about famous Perfume Houses, historical facts about top fragrances and just helpful “how-to” guides.

I’m sorry. But you’ve got me distracted now. I’m still worried about being ripped apart and eaten by a herd of hungry women. And that thing about what my personality smells like is a conundrum. On second thoughts I don’t really want my personality to smell at all. Nope, an odourless rather than odious personality is the best sort I think.

If you don’t mind, I’ll leave 'for a time being' while you prepare that delicious content about Perfume Houses. I’d quite like to own a Perfume House I think, but I don’t know how to eat one (or its contents). So if you could provide a ‘How to Eat a Perfume House’ guide, many people would find that useful I think.

Keep up the great work! You’re awesome (in ways you don’t even know).

PS. To be blunt, please fire whoever wrote this. They deserve it. Really.

We must all learn to rise above tribalism

Photo credit: Roy Lister 

By Neil Patrick

If we want a better world we have to intelligently manage some very primal urges which are hardwired into us.

One of the most basic human instincts is tribalism.

A while ago one Saturday morning the doorbell rang. Standing in the porch was a middle aged lady clutching leaflets. She said to me:

"Hello. What troubles you most about the world today?”

I paused for a second – this was a big question which demanded a succinct yet comprehensive answer.

I said, “Tribalism, sectarianism and blind devotion”.

She looked dumbstruck. She seemed not to know what to say next.

Because she was, and I knew it, about to peddle her own particular brand of sectarianism.

She writhed about for a moment and finally said, “Here are some leaflets you might want to read. Goodbye.” She turned and left.

I looked at the leaflets, which I wasn’t surprised to find were from the local Jehovah’s Witnesses. An archaic looking amalgam of biblical quotes, event announcements and essays on salvation.

I skimmed them, wondered briefly who was in charge of their editorial content (because they weren’t doing a very good job I thought) and went back to my desk.

This was about devotion.

I thought no more about this until today. As I was going through my Twitter feed, I came across a post from a politician whose views I normally find hard to swallow. Nonetheless, I read the article attached and thought it was actually a very sound argument. So I retweeted it. It mattered not to me that I have never voted for this person or their political party and disagree with much of what they say.

I did this not because of tribal loyalty. Because I have none. The fact is that my currently low regard for this person doesn’t mean that I would never vote for them. Or that everything they say is wrong. Or that I hate them. I just disagree with many of their opinions. And that’s fine.

As I continued, I found myself on the BBC news website. The Syrian conflict dominated again. And as usual I found myself pitying the people caught up in a conflict which seems insoluble. It's not about nation states in conflict, (which is bad enough), it is about sectarianism. And worse, the sects involved are so diverse and numerous, that it’s inconceivable that any settlement could satisfy them all. So these tribes condemn everyone in their vicinity to the prospect of eternal hate, conflict and destruction.

It’s sectarianism.

As I continued down my feed, I came across more and more tweets which were blindly supporting one political view, and denouncing the opposition. It’s as if loyalty to a faction always trumps (sorry) rational consideration of the merits of alternative viewpoints.

It’s tribalism.

And tribalism is dangerous when no-one thinks and just follows the herd.

Pulitzer Prise winner E. O. Wilson, said, “Tribalism is a double edged sword. The collective communion that it promises isn’t open to us all. The flipside of tribal belonging is brutal exclusion. No human institution easily escapes the darker angels of our divided self.”

Tribalism is at work everywhere in our societies because it promises community, belonging and hope. But it also fuels hate, intolerance and prejudice. It’s a fine balance to deliver one without permitting the other.

But we must all try.

Sports retailers abuse of their workers is something we cannot ignore

JD Sports, Birmigham
Photo Credit: ReissOmari

By Neil Patrick

This week has seen the humiliation of JD sports following an undercover investigation by Channel 4 into working conditions at its Rochdale warehouse. Conditions it described as ‘worse than prison'. Iain Wright MP, Chair of the Business Select Committee didn't mince his words either. He said the workers there were 'treated like scum'.

Unsurprisingly, both companies have been enthusiastic users of zero-hours contracts; a device excused by those who advocate flexible working policies, but which in practice is often a cruel instrument of low pay torture.

Only a couple of weeks ago, JD Sports was crowing about how its main competitor, Sports Direct, had seen a collapse in its share price following a similar exposé of appalling working conditions at its warehouse in Mansfield.

Some call this the unacceptable face of capitalism. Yet for all the hand-wringing and condemnation by everyone from trade unions and politicians to the media, this situation is not just caused by exploitative business owners.

Yes, the owners of these businesses, ranked amongst the UK super-rich are easy targets for criticism. This in no way condones their actions, but they are doing what business moguls do; building their businesses and their wealth (more or less) within the law. (Although I suspect that they will have to spend a lot more on lawyers and advisors in the coming months and years than they ever have before).

But almost everyone can play a part in changing things for the better.

In this particular sector of employment, this problem is enabled by the participation of five diverse groups with heavily vested interests. It's a chain of stakeholders. Each link in the chain is critical. Yet they share out the benefits between each other very unevenly.

Power determines who gets what…

So when we look at this dispassionately, there are many who are accessories to this situation. But what if instead of distancing themselves, these people decided to take some ownership and actually do something about this?

They have the power and it's time to use that power responsibly.

 1. Sportswear brands

There's a (mostly) cozy co-operation between brands who spend millions creating image and glamour for their products and retail chains who enable their distribution on a massive scale. Each needs the other. Brand investments essentially massively inflate the price that any item can be sold for relative to its cost.

Vested interest: The building of brand halos which enable goods to be sold at prices totally unjustified by their true value or utility. Yet brand owners can choose where their goods are sold...

2. Sports stars

These people take millions every year from sponsors in exchange for doing just what they do - pursue their sporting ambitions. They just have to display their sponsors' logos at every possible opportunity – particularly when they are competing. Their role is to help create the halo effect of the brands willing and able to pay what their agents demand.

Vested interest: Maximising their income when they may have a relatively short working life when they can earn money. Yet sports stars can choose to reject sponsorships - there will always be others...

Why would anyone want to top this list? Or need to?

3. Mainstream media

Without the mass appeal of sports events on TV and other media, the exposure of the sports stars in their branded garments is diminished. So big media companies are the last link in the brand value chain. And for them, televising sport is easy stuff. Much less difficult than say a costume drama or wildlife documentary.

Vested Interest: Access to hugely popular events which guarantee big audiences in exchange for relatively simple broadcasting and cheap production costs. Yet the media can make choices about which events and players it covers...

4. Consumers

There’s a paradox that most sales by these retailers are not made to active sports people. They are sold as leisure wear to the young and the poor. This is a group who are in love with the mythology of brands. Put a Nike tick on a garment and suddenly they will pay three or four times more for it.

Vested Interest: Easy access to fashion which they believe confers some of the brand’s status and value upon them. Yet consumers can choose to switch from one retailer for another...

5. Shareholders and investors

Investors seek profits. Only ethical investors concern themselves about how fairly those profits are achieved. But when something occurs like this which potentially causes long term reputational damage, almost all investors are quick to flee elsewhere. And sure enough, JD Sports share price has fallen off a cliff:

This time last year, JD sports traded at around £10.25 a share. Today, that figure is £3.16. So this group of stakeholders (ironically the most financially self-interested) have already voted with their feet.

This is not a free market where value is exchanged at a fair price. It’s a distorted market, where the powerful commercial players exploit those with less power.

But critically none of this could happen if even one link in the chain was broken.

Think about it if apart from investors voting against this, the other stakeholders did too:

Consumers refused on ethical grounds to buy branded sports wear? Thousands were quick to criticise Barclays in the 1980's over its willingness to operate in apartheid South Africa. A student boycott of the bank led to a drop in its share of the UK student market from 27% to 15% by the time it pulled out in 1986.

The media refused to televise any sport where advertising by unethical firms was displayed.  All television commercials for cigarettes were banned on the UK way back on 1 August 1965. Yet today, bailed out banks continue without challenge to print their names all over sportsmen and women.

Sports stars turned down sponsorship contracts? Or imposed ethical trading requirements on all sponsors? Footballers have been quick to support the outcry against child abuse by football coaches. Now all professional sports people have the opportunity to show they have some ethics too.

You might shrug and think none of this will happen. There are too many vested interests and there's too much money at stake.

But that sort of resignation gets us nowhere. Sure you can come up with a pile of reasons such changes cannot happen. But if you belong to one of the groups above, you have the power and the obligation I think to make a stand.

Whilst the media and politicians will doubtless continue to wag accusing fingers at the owners of these businesses, the truth is there are many more of us who are unconscious accessories. And we have a lot more power to change things than we might think. Especially if we vote with our wallets.

Shock as Mark Carney spills the beans (and agrees with me)

By Neil Patrick

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney
Photo credit: World Economic Forum 

What is front page news today in the UK? Well it’s that the Governor of the Bank of England agrees with me about the jobs crisis.

Mr. Mark Carney’s speech last night in Liverpool was the first time I have ever seen one of the world’s most senior central bankers endorse the very things I have been banging on about here for the last four years.

But I am not gloating. There can be no joy in the confirmation that one’s worst fears are indeed reality. What’s tragic is that this demonstrates just how long institutions take to acknowledge that a problem exists. Let alone do anything about it.

And the Bank of England is falling back on its get out of jail free card to pass responsibility for solving the problem to the government. After all, monetary policy is a blunt instrument, as central bankers are always swift to remind us.

Anyway for fun (if such a thing is possible) on hearing this not so new ‘news’, I have taken a look at his main points and compared them to things I have said here, and when I said them.

The Daily Mail’s front page headline today read:

On 15 Sept 2015, I wrote:

“The endless rise of tech is one of what I call the “six pillars of job destruction”. The others are globalization, demographics, monetary and fiscal policy, educational lag and digital communications… “

The front page story by Hugo Duncan in the Mail went on:

‘In an alarming vision for workers, Mark Carney warned many jobs would be 'hollowed out' as huge technological advances meant roles could be automated instead.

‘The Bank has said the march of the machines in the workplace puts administrative, clerical and production staff most under threat.

On December 1 2014, I wrote:

“Whilst the whole of a job may be currently impossible for a machine to replicate, parts of that job may well be perfectly capable of being replaced or aided by technology. This fact in turn means that fewer people are needed to deliver the same amount of work.”

‘The Bank of England predicts that entire professions, such as accountancy, could be pushed to the brink of extinction as developments in computers make their roles redundant.

On 27 July 2016, I wrote in reference to the endless rise of tech:

“In the US and Europe in particular, this is why the middle class is becoming an endangered species”.

‘Mr Carney claimed that 'up to 15million of the current jobs in Britain' – almost half of the 31.8million workforce – could be replaced by robots over the coming years as livelihoods were 'mercilessly destroyed' by the technological revolution.

And in July this year I said:

“The last remaining argument for tolerance of the jobs carnage created by the tech tsunami is that the Wikipedia version of history tells us technological progress is inevitable, and has only ever resulted in greater wealth and a better society. But this assertion doesn’t bear much scrutiny if you have even a basic knowledge of economic history.”

Mark Carney again: 'The fundamental challenge is, alongside its great benefits, every technological revolution mercilessly destroys jobs and livelihoods – and therefore identities – well before the new ones emerge.

I said in 2014: 

“The jobs created by tech are totally different to the ones destroyed by it. Which means those who lose their jobs as a result of technology are largely unable to switch.”

Carney: 'This was true of the eclipse of agriculture and cottage industry by the industrial revolution, the displacement of manufacturing by the service economy, and now the hollowing out of many of those middle-class services jobs.'

In October this year I wrote:

  “We have to understand how technology is going to impact our area of professionalism and get ahead of the change curve”

‘Speaking at Liverpool John Moores University yesterday, the Governor also claimed workers had suffered '…the first lost decade since the 1860s', with living standards suffering the biggest squeeze since Dickensian times. Calling for the Government to tackle 'staggering wealth inequalities' through redistribution, he said: 'Real wages are below where they were a decade ago – something that no one alive today has experienced before.'’

‘Globally, the share of wealth held by the richest 1 per cent rose from a third in 2000 to half by 2010. In the UK, the income share of the top 1 per cent tripled from 5 per cent in the early 1980s to 15 per cent in 2009.

In September 2014 I reported how: 

“quantitative easing policies have benefited mainly the wealthy. About 40% of those gains went to the richest 5% of British households...exacerbating already extreme income inequality and the consequent social tensions that arise from it”.

‘Mark Carney went on to say: ”…globalisation has seen 'the superstars and the lucky' thrive while others have struggled. ..Now may be the time of the famous or fortunate, but what of the frustrated and frightened?”

On 8 April 2015 I wrote: 

“…the globalization of workforces means that many jobs which used to stay firmly in the domestic market are now spreading around the world. And it’s not just a cheap labor argument. I recently had lunch with an entrepreneur friend who told me that almost his entire workforce was now composed of freelancers based the Philippines. Yes it was cheaper than a UK workforce (by about 75%), but critically this wasn’t his main reason for the choice. He was in the business of web content production and he had found that his overseas workers were more diligent, more proactive and had better written English than the people he used to employ in the UK.”

And in January this year I wrote that:

“There will be many more super rich in the world, but also a great many more who used to be comfortable, becoming very uncomfortable.”

Carney again: “One of the things that I think contributes very understandably to the level of anxiety that households feel in this economy, in other economies, is the fact that it has for them been almost a lost decade of growth.”

On 15 November 2015 I said:

 “…persistent slow growth will continue to dampen employment prospects…real wages have stagnated across many advanced G-20 nations and even fallen in some.”

Carney: 'Real incomes in this country have not grown for the last ten years. That is incredible and that shines a light on inequalities that exist in this economy and make people question what is being done to address those and what are the fundamental causes of those.'

He added: 'For free trade to benefit all requires some redistribution. We need to move towards more inclusive growth where everyone has a stake in globalisation.'

For the first and I hope not the last time, I applaud Mark Carney for not mincing his words and spelling things out to the government. Even if he is a bit late in diagnosing the problems.

We need change and we need it fast.

The destruction and degradation of jobs is something I’ve been documenting here since 2012. Now four years later, we have an acknowledgement of the problem from someone who has the influence to do something about it. But we cannot wait another four years for practical solutions to begin to be implemented.

The machines aren’t going to wait and neither can we.

The Internet of Things and how it is creating YOUR next job NOW

By Neil Patrick

Drawing credit: Wilgengebroed on Flickr

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the next big thing. The thing is this; right now, digital tech is set to inhabit more and more of the devices and products we use everyday.

If you follow me on Twitter you might have noticed that I am not exactly a fan of AI. Call me a Luddite if you wish – but let’s face it, it’s much less cruel to poke fun at machines than people.

The simple fact is that I am not against technology, I am against the fact that it is destroying jobs faster than we can create new ones.

I like progress, but since the main driver is profit, no-one who has a big stake in this cares one bit about whether or not this progress delivers more jobs. In fact, the business models for most tech startups rely on the fact that they need less people and cheaper ones than the bigger businesses they disrupt.

Technologists want to make new things. Businesses want to make money. Governments are just happy to see a new factory or office doing internetty things, quite oblivious to the fact that this may well be disrupting jobs in more traditional businesses.

Anyway, we cannot change any of this.

What each of us can change is how we think about the IoT. Because this is going to be a massive growth sector in jobs in the next few years.

The temptation I think for most people who are not digital and tech specialists is to think, “Okay Neil, but that’s all computer stuff and that’s not my field at all. I don’t how to write computer code and I don’t want to either.”

And my answer is that you don’t have to do any of this. I am not suggesting that all you lawyers and accountants should grow beards, don cargo pants and become all techy.

Because what’s coming isn’t just more jobs in coding and programming. What’s coming is a transformation in which understanding how to deal with the issues surrounding the IoT will create huge numbers of new job opportunities in every area of specialism. And ones for which there will be a real shortage of skills.

What everyone should be doing right now is figuring out how the IoT is going to impact their job field. If you are a marketing person, what are the ways in which the IoT will impact the consumers of goods or services you deliver? If you are a real estate person, how will the IoT make property more or less saleable? If you are a lawyer, what sort of legal issues are likely to arise as the IoT becomes more and more established?

Because if you start thinking about these things right now, figuring out what the questions are (not even the answers) in YOUR specific area of expertise, and better still writing and talking about them, you’ll be positioning yourself as a rare expert in your field. Your know-how will be scarce. You will have transformed your value and marketability by one simple small change in what you do today that will be a massive investment in your career assets for tomorrow.

And tomorrow is coming very soon.

PS Despite my worries about the impact if the IoT on jobs in business, one area that I really hope grasps this opportunity is the NHS. If anyone needs to do more with less people and cost than before, it's our struggling public health services. Now that would be progress for the benefit of all...

How to alienate 99% of the people you want to like you online

By Neil Patrick

I have never written a knee-jerk post about anything. Ever.

But this post is going to break that mould. No research. No references. No editing. So forgive me if this isn't the most elegantly written post from me you have ever read.

But critically, you can read it without any interference or demands from me at all.

That's good I think.

This is a very simple message. For anyone who has a website:

Don't push people away who are trying to help you.

Duh. Sure you know that right?

But if you stick with me, I am going to explain why more and more websites are devaluing their brands and alienating almost everyone they want to influence.

I am a big user of social media. I tweet everyday. And I like to share content which I think is good and may be useful to others.

But I don't share just anything, regardless of who posts it. I may like it myself, but that's not enough. I exercise some discretion and try to decide if it will also be useful or interesting to my connections and followers.

So I actually read posts before I decide if I will share them or not.

Just now I saw a tweet with a website post link which I thought looked interesting. I thought to myself, "this will interest others and if I like it, I will share it online". The deal was almost done before I even read the content. The title alone had seen to that. Good work!

I clicked the link to read the post.

I arrived at the website.

Then bang!

Up popped a 'Subscribe now!' message.

I closed the box and started to read through the post.

BANG! Up popped another message, this time more insistent and covering up all the content I was trying to read.

Can I find the close tab? Um...hang on. No. Keep looking. Ah! There it is (cunningly disguised away from the box). Click.

The box closed and invitation to talk to an advisor appeared. The scroll also locked. Damn.

No I don't want to subscribe or talk to an advisor.

I just want to share this post. And since I have quite a lot more followers than you on Twitter, that's helpful yeah? No charge. Just a little bit of help for you.

But now I won't because I don't want anyone who follows me on Twitter to put up with this BS.

So goodbye.

I know. We've all had this experience. It's almost routine.

I know that content costs. That websites have to make money. But this sort of nonsense just makes me hate you.

The origins of this insanity and desperate marketing is a redundant marketing concept which came into being in the early days of the internet. This was a time when businesses thought the internet worked the same as every other piece of old media.

So businesses decided they should use online content as bait for lead generation. Basically the creation of lists of people they would then send junk mail to. Either electronically or sometimes if they were rich AND dumb, envelopes onto doormats.

The problem with this is that for every post view, perhaps just 1 or 2 percent of readers (if you are lucky) will think, "I love this so much I really do want more of it coming everyday into my mailbox"

Which leaves the other 98 or 99% who visited and just like me, got really hacked off...

If marketing is about making people love us, this is worse than bad, it's brand destroying.

What this misses is that the internet in the era of social media is two way communication. It doesn't work when you try to bludgeon us into submission by forcing us to do what you want. It works when you help us to do what we want.

Basically when you make it easy for us. When you treat us nicely, with some care and respect.

Especially when all we want to do is help you out a bit.

But now I won't. Not today. And probably not ever.


Even more cut and paste catastrophes

By Neil Patrick

My impression of the people responsible for this job ad.

I never cease to be amazed at the idiotic job descriptions for professional roles which are posted online for supposedly reputable employers by supposedly professional recruiters.

Okay I am being deliberately inflammatory. I know that most employers are good at what they do. And most recruiters are good at what they do. If they weren’t, they’d be out of business.

But amidst all the daily pressures, some things just don’t get done properly. And it’s always easier to fix little problems than big ones. Job descriptions and adverts are little things that are worth doing well, because there’s a really handsome pay-off.

Better job descriptions, means better job applicants, means better people, means a better business.

For once, it really is that simple.

Which is why from time to time, I feature job ads and descriptions on this blog. I call them 'cut and paste catastrophes'. I don't have to search very hard. This one was the just the second or third I found after a few clicks. That's hardly scientific research, but it's reasonable I think to conclude that if terrible work is so easy to find, it must be very prevalent.

So I beg anyone reading this who is in HR or recruitment to take this post in the constructive spirit it is intended. I am not just being mean-spirited – as usual this job ad is anonymous, and I have provided a commentary in italics (admittedly frequently tongue-in-cheek) to show where I think there’s erm, let's call it, 'room for improvement'.

So let’s get stuck in!

Today’s job ad catastrophe plumbs new depths of sloppiness. Not only is it full of management speak nonsense (these days though, that’s no longer enough to get you featured here); it showcases hilariously bad grammar and punctuation and is frequently self-contradictory.

But worst of all, it is unquestionably in breach of UK discrimination law.

So here it is in all its catastrophic glory:

Digital Manager - London

Salary: £60,000 per annum + car / car allowance

Are you a digital native with a real passion for what you do? Do you have gravitas and authority and the ability to guide and collaborate with those who are not digitally savvy? If so then please read on?

NO! Stop right now. This is age discrimination. And yes, that’s illegal in this country:

Put another way; you could find yourself in court very quickly with careless behaviour like this.

Exhibit 1: The term “digital native” is defined thus:

This job advert essentially excludes anyone who was born or grew up before digital technology existed. Whilst this date is not precise, the internet first became accessible for public and commercial use in mid-1989 with the connection of MCI Mail and CompuServe's email capabilities to the (then) 500,000 (!) users of the internet. Anyone born before that date (i.e. older than about 30-35) is patently not eligible to apply.

Apart from being illegal, this requirement makes the assumption that if you were born much before the mid 1980’s, you cannot possibly be competent to do this job. In this case, being the ‘wrong’ age is a definite exclusion to being hired for this post. 

But apart from being young, the employer also wants you to have ‘gravitas’. Let’s just remind ourselves how this is defined:

I might be a bit biased, but these character traits are more readily found in older not younger people. You can see now why this job description contradicts itself. Let’s face it, whilst there are exceptions of course, those who grew up taking an iPhone to school are not widely recognised for their dignity, solemnity or sobriety.

Oh and please tell me, why does the invitation to “please read on” end in a question mark?

You will be working in an FMCG business with a large global travel retail team who look after everything from Russia to Spain. You will have line management responsibility of one and be the digital guru for the business. You will know how to communicate and coach those who are keen to learn more about digital. You will also be responsible for ensuring all digital capabilities are disseminated and driven through the business, both locally and globally.

I suspect that Vladimir Putin and Mariano Rajoy Brey will be upset to hear that this job involves the jobholder’s team taking over responsibility for ‘looking after everything’ from Russia to Spain. In fact since France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Poland and the whole of eastern Europe lie between Russia and Spain, I really hope these nations have at least been consulted. Have they agreed to this? We should be told I think.

What is line management responsibility of one? One what? One person? One team? I am guessing it’s just one country. Shame, I had hoped for more, like say the whole of the EU or something.

Apparently it is a requirement to ‘know how to communicate’. No adverbs here. Such as being able to communicate clearly or persuasively. Nope. It’s just to communicate. Last time I checked, this meant being able to listen, talk, read and write. To make a phone call, write a letter or email. But this is all about digital so I guess we should assume it also means writing online content,  social media posts, compiling and disseminating online analytics, and perhaps writing a bit of HTML coding. If you cannot communicate, for example if you are profoundly deaf, dumb or illiterate and have no idea what a PC, tablet or smart phone does, how are you expected to be reading this advert or considering this job? So why is such an almost universal human skill in the 21st century mentioned without the essential adverbs?

You will always strive for digital excellence and be able to communicate with all levels to ensure the business is on board and believes in it as much as you do. You will deliver cross regional campaigns, whilst managing the KPI's for digital activations. You will provide digital training and capabilities to the wider business and work with the brand and customer teams to ensure synergy across all departments.

This is about as much as most people understand about creating synergy.

Ah synergy. Now that’s a can of worms. This is one of those wonderful management speak buzzwords which gets bandied about by those who have no idea how it is actually created, delivered or measured. Of course it’s an easy enough concept to explain; it’s the idea that 1+1 = 3. In other words, if we put A and B together, the outcome is more than A+B were worth separately. But if I were given the task of creating interdepartmental synergy in any organisation, without the essential authority to drive it through, I’d chuck it right back. Not because I have no staying power or competency, simply because for a mid-level manager, it’s like herding cats while being expected to turn them all into unicorns.

“Managing the KPI’s (sic) for digital activations.” Haha! My that sounds impressive doesn’t it? This is management speak for what normal people call hitting targets. Translation: if you can produce lots of nice graphs going ever upwards, you’ll be fine. If they don’t, you’re in trouble.

You'll be star if you can do this...

You will establish a roster of digital agencies and delivery digital asset management platforms to ensure efficiencies in delivering digital as a relevant channel. You will need to be personable, approachable and have gravitas. You will adore all things digital and this will show in your approach to everything you do.

I would adore to explain on my resume how I am passionate about “delivery digital asset management platforms”. Yes I have extensive experience of them all. From Royal Mail to Federal Express. Yup, I’m your man when it comes to delivery digital asset management platforms. And yes I really do simply ADORE all things digital especially digital delivery – analogue delivery is just like so totally ewww.

This is a 9 month maternity cover contract where you will be able to make an impact in a very short period of time.

Sorry but I don’t know how you can be so confident that I will make an impact in a short period of time. I mean, I haven’t even sent you my resume yet. I have to assume you have psychic superpowers. I admit I am impressed by that. And flattered too. Thank you.

Now for the serious bit. I will stop messing about I promise.

The point is this. Recruitment is a serious business. Every business wants and needs to get the best talent they can. But the best candidates are judging potential employers from the get go. And if you are not a big and well known business, a job ad might be the very first piece of information a prospective candidate sees. Which means the very least an employer should do is take some care to specify the job as clearly and professionally as they can. If you don’t, like here, the best candidates are going to at best ignore you and at worst put you down as a bunch of fools – which is a tragedy, because I honestly believe that's a totally avoidable own goal.

My guess is that this was written by someone in a recruitment firm and then emailed to the client for approval. Recruiters are busy people. Finely crafting words isn’t particularly high on their priorities. I get that and I understand it. Mind you, if this recruiter were recruiting staff for me, I’d definitely be on their case, because this sloppy piece of work has the potential to land us in court.

And whoever signed this off would be regretting their slackness too.

How and why you should want to get hired by a start-up

By Neil Patrick

Warning: This post is an announcement (but doesn't contain nuts)

Not all start-ups look like this. Fortunately. Photo credit: Erin Siegal

Start-up activity in the US has been slowing since the explosion of the 80s and 90s which ultimately prepared the way for Google. Amazon, Uber, Facebook and many more of today’s biggest employers. But these giants of tech are by no means the only types of businesses which are creating jobs. Across all sectors, start-ups are springing up everywhere.

Meanwhile Twitter, Intel and Microsoft are shedding jobs – looking more like the disrupted than the disruptors.

But not all start-ups are tech companies, and not all tech companies are start-ups.

So the news about start-ups can be very confusing and off-putting for job-seekers. Yet I contend that it shouldn’t be so.

Start-ups don’t need to be successful for people to acquire hugely valuable skills and earn money.

I haven’t written a huge amount about start-ups. Which on reflection is odd, since I have been a founder of three so far, including the biggest ever venture capital funded start-up in the UK.

So I’m delighted to announce my new column about this topic which is being hosted by the very wonderful is probably the most comprehensive online information resource for job-seekers available today. It was founded in 1998 by career expert Susan Joyce, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management

My friend Patricia Frame (also a contributor to introduced me to Susan Joyce at several weeks ago and we soon got talking about the subject of jobs at start-ups. Not only have I not written much about it, neither has anyone else it seems!

Which is doubly odd, because no business columnist can seem to stop writing about entrepreneurs, disruption and digital businesses. But the mainstream media are obsessed with the entrepreneur hero archetype, whereas I'm  more interested in the people that work in start-ups rather than just the people that start and lead them.

Anyway, the outcome was that I accepted Susan’s invitation to write a column at about the reality of working for a start-up. What it’s like. How to get hired by one and how to excel in this unique and exciting work environment.

And critically, how to tell the next superstars from the lemons.

Start-ups are not just for boys with beards, they are for everyone.

I honestly think there are way too many myths, assumptions and prejudices about start-ups which are hurting both job-seekers and employers.

It’s time to re-evaluate things and I hope this new column will assist people who are more interested in working for the disruptors than the disrupted.

If you want to know why, and how you can turn the risks to your advantage, head over to my new column at here, and find out.

See you there.

P.S. My weekly ramblings will continue as usual here.

The trouble with business awards

By Neil Patrick

Right now we are in the grip of the annual business awards season. Everywhere we turn, someone is announcing they have won this award or that award. If you are one, I congratulate you. Sincerely.

There is no better feeling than seeing our work recognized and appreciated by others.

I’ve picked up a few awards in my time. And been a judge too. So this post isn’t sour grapes from someone who feels hard done by. It’s just that I have some niggling worries about the true motives, purpose and value of awards.

A spate of award announcements on social media made me think about whether these things really matter very much and even why they exist at all.

  1. Awards are a clever business model
The real raison d’etre of most awards isn’t to encourage excellence and recognise success, although all awards can claim with impunity that this is their purpose. The sad truth is that awards exist primarily to increase the profile and coffers of the organisers (any benefits to winners are secondary to this goal). Awards have become a business in their own right.

In the UK alone today there are over 3,000 business award events every year. This is a booming industry. And with categories increasing at each award event, it's getting ever easier to win one of them.

If we assume an average of just 20 awards per event, that's at least 60,000 awards being made each year.

Business isn’t generally very glamorous. And awards exploit this reality by providing a bit of glitter and razzmatazz for people whose daily work experience is often rather grey and routine.

It’s a really clever way too to extract money from businesses year after year. Here’s the menu and ticket prices for an award I chose at random this morning:

A VIP (sic) table for 12 costs £519 a head. If you’re a cheapskate and you are taking just four guests, it’s £695 each. Small beer to a big business. A no-go zone for a small one. Mind you, that price includes half a bottle of wine per person, (which they are going to need to get through the three hour round of envelope opening, applauding, handshaking and grinning at photographers).

Granted this event is being held at a top London hotel. It’s not a cheap venue. But I could host 12 of my friends at the same hotel for a private dinner function for just £95 each, according to the hotel’s own website.

Now for the clever bit; if I invite you to a business dinner at these prices, the chances are you’ll decline. If I invite you to a business dinner AND I tell you you have been nominated for an award, the chances are much higher you’ll accept. I will sell a LOT more seats and make a LOT more money in the process.

And no doubt, you’ll want to bring some of your friends/clients/colleagues to share your moment of glory.

  1. Awards encourage complacency
Awards themselves cost almost nothing to produce. Yet who wouldn’t like to win such a glittering prize? It makes us feel great. That’s human nature. But it can also blind us. It can become self-vindicating. And by extension, an inducement to keep on doing the same thing. Whether that’s good, bad or indifferent. It potentially acts as a blockage to critical judgements about our future.

  1. Awards are usually relative not absolute
As the awards circuit has grown and grown, so it becomes more and more niche. We end up with ever more awards for ever more ‘specialized’ areas. First we take a geographic region, like a country or state. Then we apply a sector filter. By these means, in every category, the competition is diminished to a handful of candidates, especially if you demand that entrants provide an exhaustive submission describing why they deserve to win.

If the candidates list is still a bit long, we can always overlay another category like small, medium and large. Through this process, we narrow the contenders down to such a small field that most people have a more or less evens chance of winning something. So the majority of people go home feeling great, with a glittery trophy/plaque/certificate, eager to tell the world next morning on social media about this great news. And by having runners up, we can even encourage those who didn’t win to enter again next year.

  1. And the winner is…
Then we have the selection process. These can vary a lot. Sometimes there’s an ‘expert’ panel of judges. Sometimes, it’s judged on some superficial business data. Whatever the process though, we have the same situation. The judges’ decision is final. It’s not transparent (even if the judging criteria are made public) or democratic. 

Rarely is there any sort of benchmark or quality bar applied. If it was, there would be years in which no-one made the grade and no-one won an award. Except that never ever happens. Someone HAS to win each category.

  1. Awards don’t really change anything
Awards are great. We can put a cool logo on our website. Frame the certificate on the office wall. Post pictures of us grinning on stage, trophy in hand. It’s all a ruse though.

In reality it means nothing at all. It’s just ego massage.

An award doesn’t make us better. In fact it risks deluding us that we are better than we actually are.

If you want proof, and you have won an award recently, just answer this question honestly. “What did you do differently as a result?” Because if you didn’t do anything apart from brag about it, the experience did nothing to improve your business. In fact it probably risked making you a little more complacent.

And if you want even more proof, please tell me about an award you know of which satisfies these criteria:

  1. It has no gala dinner.
  2. Its judges’ assessments are transparent and/or made public
  3. It has just a handful of categories which are not tiny niches.

That’s the rub. Awards are no more than a way to spend our money to make us feel good. They don’t make our business any worse. But they probably don’t make it any better either.

There's really no contest when everyone's a winner.

Just how much disruption is good for us?

By Neil Patrick

There's a lot of  fog in Uber world...

This year, Yassen Aslam and James Farrar, have been busy taking on the might of Uber in court. Their grievance was that as Uber drivers, they were denied basic workers’ rights: no minimum wage, no sick pay, no paid holiday. An employment tribunal judge, Anthony Snelson, heard the case over several days in July, where they argued that this classification was both wrong and unfair. And yesterday at the end of the hearing, the judge agreed.

There has ensued a great deal of jubilation from other Uber drivers, trade unions and the political left. Personally I am also pleased at this ruling. But not because I am opposed to disruptive businesses per se. We need innovation in business, but this needs to be balanced with legal and statutory interventions which curb the tendency of new business models to become exploitative long before regulation catches up with them.

Business do what businesses do. They seek profits and growth. If we seek to regulate them such that they cannot innovate, the result is inevitably a bureaucratic free enterprise devoid climate in which progress and growth are suffocated. Think USSR and all those grey apartments and Trabants.

Self-employment is the biggest jobs growth trend in recent years. And I have jokingly referred to it previously as ‘self-unemployment’. But in this case, we are not talking about a new breed of Bransons, Trumps and Zuckerbergs, we are talking about people at the lowest levels of pay who are being forced by the absence of better options to take whatever they can get.

Such people are not hot-shot entrepreneurs. They are just people trying to feed their families. This is the terrible reality of the current gig economy. Business models like Uber grow fast because they design out the costs from traditional business models, leveraging scale and IT investments to provide a product or service cheaper than the competition. And much of this cost is cunningly passed to their workers.

It’s not unlike the off-shoring revolutions of the last 25 years. At first everyone is enthusiastic because, it drives down prices. And Uber make much about giving people freedom, flexibility and choice. But the reality is this is all PR spin. If you are paid even the new higher minimum wage in the UK, you will earn just £288 for a 40 hour week. Yet Uber was not even paying minimum wage. And it passed much of its costs to its drivers.

Uber position themselves as a plucky underdog, providing jobs for people on their own terms. It’s nothing of the sort. First Uber has a market cap of $50bn making it more valuable than Tesco and Barclays combined. Second, Uber manage their drivers just like employees. They are interviewed, disciplined, and submit to Uber’s rules just like any employee.

As Aditya Chakrabortty wrote today in the Guardian (rarely my favourite source), “For some Britons, self-employment doubtless means freedom. But for others, it means the freedom to be exploited, deprived of rights – and to be underpaid. According to recent research from the Resolution Foundation, the typical self-employed Brit is now earning less than when John Major was prime minister.” (that was 1990-97, in case like me you can’t remember dates).

This isn’t really the future. It’s the past. A regression to a world where labour exploitation is revived, cloaked in a bit of high tech ‘innovation’ and pitched to the world as progress.

There’s a world of difference between a self-employed person who is truly independent and a self-employed person who is freelancing through a global mega-corporation. The former is free to truly work on terms that they decide. The latter has no such choice.

It’s time that disruptive businesses thought a lot more strategically about their impact on the people that they use. And this judgement is going to force them to do that. It’s a small but significant step in the right direction.

Why take the flak for the politicians?

By Neil Patrick

Politicians won't like this post. At all.

Whether its Trump vs. Clinton, Brexit or Remain, gender politics, millions of people every day are busy making themselves enemies online by taking a stand for their political beliefs.

Do we really want to lose friends and make more enemies by doing politicians' dirty work for them? If you do, that’s fine. Stop reading this right now, because you’ll probably hate me when you have. And I really don’t want that to happen. Honestly.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is good to stand up for what you believe in. UNLESS it’s your political views AND you are doing it in public. Then we make ourselves targets for everyone who doesn’t agree with us.

And in the online world, one thing is a sad fact of life; many more are quick to attack than are quick to praise.

But I’m not talking about the morons who troll people. If we are adults, we should be able to take trolls in our stride, regardless of how venomous and threatening they appear.

No, I am talking about others we are connected to online who just like us are good, decent, honest people who mean well. They just don’t share our political views. That’s all.

If your social media presence in any way involves anything other than chatting with family and close friends, there are lots of things which could go on a list of don’ts. And we’ve mostly seen these many times before:

Don’t abuse others. Don’t criticize people. Don’t be a bigot. Don’t be racist, sexist, ageist or anything else which ends with ‘ist’.

Don’t be cruel. Don’t endlessly advertise yourself. Don’t share junk.

Don’t ignore others. Don’t be unkind.

Basically, don’t be an ass.

If you have intelligence and integrity these things are pretty obvious. And they are as much sensible rules for life as online behaviour.

But there is one thing that isn’t on this list which I think should be:

Unless it’s your job, don’t discuss your political opinions in public online.

We all have our political views. And I know some very fine people on social media who do this a great deal and have a lot of followers.

But the problem is that when we discuss politics online, for every person who agrees with us there will be most likely one or more, who doesn’t.

Do you wish to alienate yourself from them just because you have different political views? Some of my best friends over the years have completely different political opinions to myself. And we have enjoyed many fierce debates together.

But these are people I am close too. People whose opinion of me is based on long-standing relationships based on mutual trust and respect. People we have these close relationships with will not suddenly spurn us because we don’t agree on a political point.

These people have a multi-dimensional relationship with us. That relationship is usually a rich and mature tapestry of intermingled life events. They are based on much more than a single online post, comment or tweet.

By contrast, many of our online contacts are brief and fleeting. Often people who will see our social media content know little or nothing about us. But the moment we share something political, we risk alienating ourselves from almost everyone who has a different opinion.

Yet in every other respect, these people may very well be good, decent, folk with whom we would otherwise have a positive and productive relationship with.

If you really cannot resist expressing your political opinions online, then do it through DMs with those who you trust. There you can freely express your views without the world seeing and judging you.

As the US elections approach their conclusion, I see many tweets supporting or condemning one or other candidate. Some I agree with. Some I do not.

But if I express my opinions on social media and in public, I am pretty sure that at least some of the people I am connected with will disagree with me. And for many, such disagreements are terminal to the relationship.

And it never needed to be like that.

Have your political views. Pursue your political causes. Vote and support the politicians you think deserve it.

Just don’t do their dirty work for them and risk your friendships for a political cause.

Because ultimately our friends are more valuable to us than any politician.

The secret of influence everyone forgot

By Neil Patrick

Go and take a look at your Twitter feed. Do it now.

Scroll down the tweets in your feed and look at the little icons beneath each tweet.

Notice anything?

I'm willing to bet that most tweets you see will have zero shares, zero likes, zero comments.

No-one sees or is interested in 99% of their Twitter feed. This fact is a problem for the posters. And an opportunity for everyone else.

The explosion of online content (and the platforms’ manipulation of it for their own ends) means that only the very highest profile people and most active posters get much engagement with their social media output.

And this simple fact is in my opinion the most overlooked opportunity to create online influence.

This isn’t a marketing or media blog. So why am I bringing this up?

Because this current state of play is a huge opportunity for anyone who wants to build influence online. And online influence translates to offline influence more than ever.

If you are serious about your career, how much better placed are you if the internet recognises you as influential in your profession?

You’ll have a bigger network. A more authoritative voice. And the ability to help others.

Notice the last point. Help others.

Not ourselves. As the global marketing director of one of the big four global consulting firms once said to me about her firm’s social media,  "We have too much media and not enough social".

She summed up the situation perfectly. Her firm employs thousands of the best and brightest minds globally. Their daily production of expert and insightful material posted online far exceeds what I could produce in a year.

Yet when I looked at the social media influence of even the most active and established people people at her firm, almost none had achieved any significant online influence.

They were all putting high quality and interesting content online. But no-one cared. Their impact was virtually zero. It was because they thought that merely creating and posting things online was the whole task.

It isn’t.

Online influence is the outcome of positive interactions with other people, not fire and forget. And as Dale Carnegie wrote in 1936, "You can make more friends in two months by being interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you".

So if you want to be influential online don’t follow the herd. Show your network that you care about them more than yourself. It is actions more than words which determine how others see us.

Decide who the people and organisations are that are potentially valuable to you. Put all of them onto a Twitter list. Call the list something flattering, such as ‘My favourite people online’.

Forget your main Twitter feed. Instead when you go to Twitter, go to your list and you can see what all of your important accounts are tweeting.

Share the ones you like. Better still add a positive comment.

This task takes no more than about 10 minutes a day.

Do it daily and the people you want to build a relationship with will notice. Sooner or later they will reciprocate. At the very least they will remember you and think well of you.

A similar approach applies to Linkedin. Last night as I was going through my new invitations to connect on LinkedIn, I came across an invitation from a lady who was a singer/songwriter. On the face of it, I have no reason to connect with such a person. Nonetheless I accepted.

But I also sent her a message thanking her for connecting with me and offering to introduce her to someone I know who is influential in the music biz. She was thrilled at the unexpected offer.

How often have others done a similar thing for me at our first encounter? Hardly ever.

Which is the whole point. In the space of 10 minutes I had been able to help out two people. Perhaps the introduction will be fruitful. Perhaps not. That is up to them. But this simple gesture of goodwill cost me nothing. For me there are no downsides.

In itself, this gesture won’t change my world. But because I do such things almost every day, I accrue goodwill from an ever increasing number of people. And that cumulative goodwill does amount to a great deal.

Almost daily, I am approached by others with requests for help. Offers of collaboration. Business enquiries. And even the postman must be confused by the number of packages that arrive from all over the world, when people send me things as gifts of thanks.

Recently I met with a director of one of the world’s biggest recruitment firms. At the end of our meeting, he said, "I follow you on Twitter - that’s how I knew about you". I was somewhat embarrassed that this fact had escaped my notice. He had noticed me, but I hadn’t noticed him.

But if he had ever engaged with me on social media, I would have certainly noticed.

If these anecdotes still don’t convince you, I have one final argument for adopting this approach - it’s a great deal easier and much less time consuming to be kind to others online than it is to create a new piece of content that goes viral.

And if you want a guide to social media, the best book about it was written in 1936. It was called simply, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’.

‘Nuff said.

Welcome to the age of opportunity

By Neil Patrick

In life there are things we can change and things that we cannot. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIR) is something none of us can change. It's demolishing the life expectations of a generation. But from amidst the smoke and debris, new hope is coming into view for those who can embrace it...

We can adapt to survive and thrive in this fast changing world.  And the first step is recognizing and ditching the baggage that we have been accumulating for our entire lives about how the world of work works. The only reason millennials are taking all the glory in the world of business start-ups is because they just did it. No-one told them they couldn't or shouldn't.

And just as older people can become victims of ageism in their job-search, so too do recent grads. They get passed up because they haven't got enough experience. The difference is they say, "Well if no-one is going to give me a job, I'll make my own".

Forget all the headlines about multi-million pound crowd-funded start-ups. About franchises. About network marketing. All these are just working for someone else's benefit - for investors, for franchisors or some shady character you'll probably never meet.

The FIR may be destroying 'old' jobs, but its also creating new ones. It's time that boomers learned how to make their own jobs too...

Creativity, flexibility and adaptability are key requirements for every person and every business that wants to prosper in the fourth industrial revolution.

According to Dr.Yuval Noah Harari, best selling author of  Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, our abilities to adapt and collaborate are the principal reasons humans came to be the dominant species on the planet.

But the world we spent most of our careers in, the old world of corporate control, hierarchy and obedience, was pretty successful at repressing these essential human qualities. Despite having teams of people who supposedly 'managed' human resources, they didn't and they don't. Mostly they seek to control and administrate it. Not nurture it.

We have to recover our abilities to adapt and collaborate. And this involves thinking outside the box, learning  new skills, developing new networks, and nurturing our creativity. It's no co-incidence that these are the traits that the most progressive and promising businesses and organisations place high value on.

They are also the key requirements for anyone who wants to stop relying on whatever job they can get and make their own way in the world.

We have to get used to the fact that everything we learned about how the world of work worked is either wrong now or will be soon.

There’s not much that most of us learned at school which carries much value in the FIR. Traditional education places value on facts and understanding. Facts have become devalued to such an extent that they have little value in and of themselves. They might be useful in a pub quiz or crossword puzzle, but in the workplace they are worth pretty much zilch because the internet has reduced knowledge to a universally available and virtually free commodity.

You might think understanding and raw intelligence is less devalued. In part it is, but understanding only has economic value if it is coupled with creativity. So for example, you may understand how a solar panel works. But you can only harness this knowledge and extract significant value from it, if you can create a new version which works better, or find new applications for the technology, or solve problems within the industry. Otherwise, the best you can hope for is a low paid job making, installing or repairing them.

The previous industrial eras made incomes possible for people because at almost every level, the same type of work needed doing more or less endlessly. In the FIR, almost any task which can be reduced to repetitive sequential activities can and will be done by AI and/or robots. Including the ones which can be done better by real people - yes I'm talking about you, you rage-inducing recorded phone menus...

We cannot stop this change. But we can seize hold of the opportunities it delivers, to do things faster, cheaper and better than ever before. It's putting power into the hands of everyone that in the old world was only available to big corporations.

We have to re-engage our creativity. Rediscover our core talents and use them. Everyone has talents, but most people work in jobs where they have none. And last but not least dive into the online world to really discover all the power that's now at our fingertips.

We have to become comfortable with uncertainty and spotting change before it hurts us

For the first time in history, the shape of things to come is harder to predict than ever before. Every decade in the 20th century was a reaction to the preceding one. Change happened relatively slowly, there were inter-generational changes but these were more about social attitudes and ideas than a changing world. Today and in the future, the world will be changing faster than ever before.

So understanding what will change in our own areas of professional activity will become an ever more important career survival skill. Early last year, a friend of mine in the oil and gas industry realised that his industry was on the cusp of flipping from a high profit, steady growth sector with great career security and prospects, to one which was going to be increasingly unstable. He spotted the coming change and immediately went about setting up his plan to cope with the threats. His colleagues continued as normal, relying purely on hope that all would be okay. Today his expectations have been realised. He escaped relatively unscathed. Many of his colleagues didn’t.

We have to be able to see ahead of the curve. And this means keeping our antennae alert for change and threat, not just ploughing on hoping everything will be okay. And it is exactly the same sensing apparatus which spots opportunities as well as threats.

We have to understand and constantly grow our career assets and intellectual capital

It doesn’t matter if you are an architect, a steel worker, an accountant or a bus driver. If our only career asset is knowing how to do what we do today to earn money to live, we are extremely vulnerable. The moment our work or employer changes for any reason, we are high and dry.

So we need to not just predict change, we have to take action to create career assets which may not be useful today, but which will support us and our incomes in the future. This requires spotting where our income opportunities will be in future and figuring out how we can make ourselves a prime candidate to exploit them.

Our time needs to be carefully managed so that we are continually amassing assets which may be of little or no value to the job or work we are doing today, but which we will need when the day comes that we no longer have that job.

We have to nurture diverse and global networks

Increased connectivity is a key aspect of the FIR. The world now operates globally and it is as easy to have a video chat with someone on the other side of the world as it is with someone in the next office. Social media gives us the opportunity to meet people online that we would never even have been aware of in the pre-digital world.

My own clients are all over the planet. Almost every single one of them found me through social media. The only limitation on who I can communicate with is language, but how long before real time translation apps remove that barrier too?

And my network is growing daily. New Twitter followers, new Linkedin connections and last but far from least, new people who even though they live on my doorstep, only became aware of me because of the internet.

I can never tell who is going to be of value to me and who isn't. I just know that someone will. So I treat everyone I meet with care, courtesy and generosity. And more often than not that's what I get back in return.

We have to understand how technology is going to impact our area of professionalism and get ahead of the change curve

This is an age of opportunity. It just doesn’t feel like it for people who have spent their entire lives being conditioned to deliver what the pre-internet age required.

What is tricking people is that opportunities don’t look how they used to. Do you really think that a 25 year old, fresh out of university is smarter than you? More valuable than you? More skilled than you? I don’t.

The only difference is that he or she has less fear; the boundless optimism of youth. He or she has nothing to lose and everything to gain. And it is this fear which is our greatest enemy.

In the next post, I’ll look at the five things I think everyone needs if they want to find and exploit their own opportunities in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

And it seems I am not the only one who has this opinion. Gary Vaynerchuk has expressed pretty much the same view with his own unique brand of raw energy:

Career survival in the fourth industrial revolution

By Neil Patrick

As I wrote about in my post here, the main theme of the 2016 World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos was the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIR). And most normal people completely ignored it (that's both the Forum and my post about it!). But this particular topic has profound implications for anyone who wants to earn a living in the next 20 years or so.

Change has always been around us, what's different is the speed 

These things are going change everyone's experience of work - what we have seen so far is just the start of changes so profound that almost no-one has figured out yet how individuals need to respond. Not being one to shy away from a challenge, I am going to attempt to describe what this means and what I think everyone needs to do about it.

Most people are not even aware of the third industrial revolution (this was when computers and the internet combined to create a new digitally connected world), let alone the fourth. The defining characteristics of the fourth industrial revolution are extreme connectivity, rapid change and the increasing automation of work.

VUCA (Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) describes the conditions which will dominate the world in the coming decades. A VUCA world is a place in which some will thrive, but many will wither because they simply do not know how to respond to it.

Davos: where the 'great' and the 'good' ponder our futures.

Education alone will not be sufficient to equip us to cope

Despite my somewhat bearish view of what this all means for the future of jobs, there are things we can all do to reduce our risk exposure. We cannot change the world we live in, but we can change how we respond to it.

I am not yet convinced that the key agents of change (business leaders, educational institutions and government, public and legal bodies) have the motivation, insight and sense of ownership to create the conditions for economic success for citizens in the FIR. They have to become visionary, agile and deeply committed to responding rapidly and effectively to this challenge. I see very little evidence that much of this is happening.

Education is a key pillar to enable the necessary changes in our societies for the digital age. As Vishal Sikka, CEO of Infosys says:

“Today’s classrooms often operate in the same way they did when farmers composed the majority of our societies; when memorization was rewarded more than curiosity and experimentation; when getting something right outweighed learning through failure. We must transition away from our past; shift the focus from learning what we already know to an education focused on exploring what hasn’t happened yet. This system would resemble an ecology – constant, small adjustments made by independent actors inside of a cohesive whole.”

Educational attainments are no longer something we strive for only when we are young. It has to be a lifelong commitment. It is not learning that is redundant, it is how and what we learn as individuals and societies that must change.

But if education is geared to the needs of the past, not the future, it cannot deliver the sort of learning we all need. Just the other day, I was asked by a friend about the wisdom of a decision his sister was making to career shift to being an interior designer. Her plan was to spend the next 3 years and many 000's of dollars studying this at college. I thought she was crazy. Much better to just start doing it - educational qualifications are not the barrier to success in this sort of field. Winning clients and generating profits is. It seemed to me this was a plan for self indulgence, not a successful career shift.

Traditional jobs are going to become much more scarce

In essence this is the problem; if AI and robots do more and more of the work that people used to do, just how much confidence should we place in the ability and commitment of government and businesses to create the 600 million new jobs that the World Bank forecasts we will need by 2030 just to keep pace with population growth?

If you want some stats, the WEF estimates that the following job losses will occur by 2020 i.e. the next four years:

4,759,000 clerical and administrative jobs

1,609,000 manufacturing jobs

497,000 construction and mining jobs

151,000 sports and creative industry jobs

109,000 lawyers

40,000 maintenance and mechanics

So taking just clerical, admin and manufacturing jobs into account, these two categories alone are forecast to lose over 6.3 million jobs in the next 4 years.

The simple maths of the World Bank’s goal of 600 million new jobs is that we need an average of 40 million new jobs being created globally every year between now and 2030. And this requires a massive growth in work for people to do and be paid for. There is just no way that current or projected economic growth will deliver this currently.

All careers need one of these...

Who will win and who will lose?

These changes will create winners, but many more losers. In general, the winners will be those with the most in demand competencies in the FIR which are expected to be flexibility, creativity and tech skills; those without these will be the biggest losers. And if you think the growth of wealth inequality is a problem today, you’ve seen nothing yet…

As Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum says in his insightful commentary here:

“In addition to being a key economic concern, inequality represents the greatest societal concern associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The largest beneficiaries of innovation tend to be the providers of intellectual and physical capital—the innovators, shareholders, and investors—which explains the rising gap in wealth between those dependent on capital versus labor. Technology is therefore one of the main reasons why incomes have stagnated, or even decreased, for a majority of the population in high-income countries: the demand for highly skilled workers has increased while the demand for workers with less education and lower skills has decreased. The result is a job market with a strong demand at the high and low ends, but a hollowing out of the middle.

This helps explain why so many workers are disillusioned and fearful that their own real incomes and those of their children will continue to stagnate. It also helps explain why middle classes around the world are increasingly experiencing a pervasive sense of dissatisfaction and unfairness. A winner-takes-all economy that offers only limited access to the middle class is a recipe for democratic malaise and dereliction.”

So this is the problem. Our economies are still functioning (sort of) using 20th century models and policies. But traditional monetary and fiscal levers have all failed to reignite the growth that is required for this model to function. Politicians have run out of answers despite their protestations that this or that policy will solve the problem. It won’t.

So when the state fails to deliver for us and shows no promise of doing so, the thing we have to do is take care of ourselves.

In my next post, I’ll describe what I think these things need to be. Just follow this link.