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21st Century Opportunities

21st Century Opportunities

21st Century Opportunities

    Productivity expert Jason Womack is working on a project aimed at teenagers on the careers of tomorrow.  He asked me to contribute a few ideas, and he graciously agreed to let me turn it into an article for Lifehack.org.  From where I sit, there are a couple of very broad categories in which people can expect to excel in the future:

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    1.  Data Analysis

    Data and computation have never been cheaper than they are this morning.  They are cheaper than when I first wrote this in October, they will be cheaper this afternoon, and they will be even cheaper this time tomorrow. 

    What is not falling in price, however, is analytical ability.  The ability to find intelligible information in a very noisy world will be of great value in the future.  If I were sixteen and knew what I know now, I would focus my time and energy on mastering the theory of probability and on learning an analytical social science like economics. 

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    This comes with an important caveat: the ability to perform statistical computations by pressing a few buttons on a computer is very different from knowing what the output means and how to apply it.  Statistical computations will be almost costless in the future: there are a number of excellent, free statistical software packages floating around, and I wouldn’t be surprised if “Google Stats” is in the offing somewhere. 

    The real value added, though, comes from knowing what the computations mean.  A disconcerting fact about the way science is done today is that while a lot of it is very computation-heavy, the results are often interpreted incorrectly not just by the media outlets who report on them, but by the scientists doing the investigation. 

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    For more on this, I encourage people with advanced training in statistics to read Ziliak and McCloskey’s The Cult of Statistical Significance, which I reviewed for Economic Affairs recently (a draft of my review is available on the Social Science Research Network at www.SSRN.com).

    2.  Product Design

    The cost of manufacturing goods continues to plummet, and as it gets cheaper and cheaper the value will be added not by the physical production process but by the design process.  Understanding people’s goals and what they will actually use products for will be a way to add value going forward. (To this end, I highly recommend Donald Norman’s The Design of Future Things, which I expect to review in this space sometime soon).

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    3.  “Technology Ecology” 

    This is kind of like tech support, but different.  As production costs continue to fall, part of value added in design will be in workplace design, or what might be called “Technology Ecology.”  Integrating the material of the last millennium (paper) with the material of the new millennium (silicon) is of paramount importance, and there are many margins on which to add value by designing workspaces.  The computer has been inserted into a work environment designed for people pushing pieces of paper across a desk, and many workspaces are fundamentally mid-twentieth century workspaces specked with a variety of early twenty-first century tumors.  Adapting the workspace to new technology will be an important way to help people add value in the future.

    4.  Financial management

    Economic and financial illiteracy is rampant in the United States and in the world, and there is room to add value by helping people better manage their money.  My wife is a CPA and I have a PhD in economics, and one of the most valuable lessons we’ve both learned is that “active management” or trying to “play the market” is a non-starter.  We enjoy a lot of peace of mind by socking our money away in passively-managed index funds.  A lot of poeple don’t know what “index funds” are, which means that they are leaving a lot of money on the table.

    5.  Personal nutrition and training

    As life expectancy increases, we will want to do all we can to increase the quality of our later years.  It has been said that “sixty is the new forty,” and as society gets wealthier there will be a lot of room to add value by helping people stay “fit and effective,” to steal a phrase from Jason.  Information filtering will grow in importance as the amount of information increases, and as we get richer more of us will find it to our advantage to outsource nutrition- and exercise-related information processing.

    A rapidly changing world creates enormous challenges, but these enormous challenges are also enormous opportunities.  The early twenty-first century presents us with incalculable opportunities to engage our creative faculties, and the fields I mention here are only a few of the areas in which those opportunities will emerge.

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    Art Carden

    Art Carden is an Assistant Professor of Economics and Business at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.

    A Review of the Book “The Art of Learning” 21st Century Opportunities Learning from A Master: Review of “Bear Bryant, CEO” On “The Substance of Style” Productivity Hints from Booker T. Washington

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    Last Updated on November 26, 2020

    How Relationships Building Helps Achieve Career Success

    How Relationships Building Helps Achieve Career Success

    As playwright Wilson Mizner supposedly said all the way back in the 1930s,

    “Be kind to everyone on the way up; you will meet the same people on the way down.”

    The adage is the perfect prototype for relationship building in 2020, although we may want to expand Mizner’s definition of “kind” to include being helpful, respectful, grateful, and above all, crediting your colleagues along the way.

    5 Ways to Switch on Your Relationship Building Magnetism

    Relationship building does not come easily to all. Today’s computer culture makes us more insular and less likely to reach out—not to mention our new work-from-home situation in which we are only able to interact virtually. Still, relationship building remains an important part of career engagement and success, and it gets better with practice.

    Here are five ways you can strengthen your relationships:

    1. Advocate for Other’s Ideas

    Take the initiative to speak up in support of other team members’ good ideas. Doing so lets others know that the team’s success takes precedence over your needs for personal success. Get behind any colleague’s innovative approach or clever solution and offer whatever help you can give to see it through. Teammates will value your vote of confidence and your support.

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    2. Show Compassion

    If you learn that someone whom you work with has encountered difficult times, reach out. If it’s not someone you know well, a hand-written card expressing your sympathy and hopes for better times ahead could be an initial gesture. If it’s someone with whom you interact regularly, the act could involve offering to take on some of the person’s work to provide a needed reprieve or even bringing in a home-cooked dish as a way to offer comfort. The show of compassion will not go unnoticed, and your relationship building will have found a foothold.

    3. Communicate Regularly

    Make an effort to share any information with team members that will help them do their jobs more effectively. Keeping people in the loop says a lot about your consideration for what others need to deliver their best results.

    Try to discover the preferred mode of communication for each team member. Some people are fine relying on emails; others like to have a phone conversation. And once we can finally return to working together in offices, you may determine that face-to-face updates may be most advantageous for some members.

    4. Ask for Feedback

    Showing your willingness to reach out for advice and guidance will make a positive impression on your boss. When you make it clear that you welcome and can accept pointers, you display candor and trust in what opinions your superior has to offer. Your proclivity towards considering ways of improving your performance and strengthening any working interactions will signal your strong relationship skills.

    If you are in a work environment where you are asked to give feedback, be generous and compassionate. That does not mean being wishy-washy. Try always to give the type of feedback that you wouldn’t mind receiving.

    5. Give Credit Where It’s Due

    Be the worker who remembers to credit staffers with their contributions. It’s a surprisingly rare talent to credit others, but when you do so, they will remember to credit you, and the collective credit your team will accrue will be well worth the effort.

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    How Does Relationship Building Build Careers?

    Once you have strengthened and deepened your relationships, here are some of the great benefits:

    Work Doesn’t Feel So Much Like Work

    According to a Gallup poll, when you have a best friend at work, you are more likely to feel engaged with your job. Work is more fun when you have positive, productive relationships with your colleagues. Instead of spending time and energy overcoming difficult personalities, you can spend time enjoying the camaraderie with colleagues as you work congenially on projects together. When your coworkers are your friends, time goes by quickly and challenges don’t weigh as heavily.

    You Can Find Good Help

    It’s easier to ask for assistance when you have a good working relationship with a colleague. And with office tasks changing at the speed of technology, chances are that you are going to need some help acclimating—especially now that work has gone remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Much of relationship building rests on your genuine expressions of appreciation toward others. Showing gratitude for another’s help or for their willingness to put in the extra effort will let them know you value them.

    Mentors Come Out of the Woodwork

    Mentors are proven to advance your professional and career development. A mentor can help you navigate how to approach your work and keep you apprised of industry trends. They have a plethora of experience to draw from that can be invaluable when advising you on achieving career success and advancement.

    Mentors flock to those who are skilled at relationship building. So, work on your relationships and keep your eyes peeled for a worthy mentor.

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    You Pull Together as a Team

    Great teamwork starts with having an “abundance mentality” rather than a scarcity mentality. Too often, workers view all projects through a scarcity mentality lens. This leads to office strife as coworkers compete for their piece of the pie. But in an abundance mentality mode, you focus on the strengths that others bring rather than the possibility that they are potential competitors.

    Instead, you can commit relationship building efforts to ensure a positive work environment rather than an adversarial one. When you let others know that you intend to support their efforts and contribute to their success, they will respond in kind. Go, team!

    Your Network Expands and So Does Your Paycheck

    Expand your relationship building scope beyond your coworkers to include customers, suppliers, and other industry stakeholders. Your extra efforts can lead to extra sales, a more rewarding career, and even speedy professional advancement. And don’t overlook the importance of building warm relationships with assistants, receptionists, or even interns.

    Take care to build bridges, not just to your boss and your boss’s boss but with those that work under you as well. You may find that someone who you wouldn’t expect will put in a good word for you with your supervisor.

    Building and maintaining good working relationships with everyone you come in contact with can pay off in unforeseen ways. You never know when that underling will turn out to be the company’s “golden child.” Six years from now you may be turning to them for a job. If you have built up a good, trusting work relationship with others along your way, you will more likely be considered for positions that any of these people may be looking to fill.

    Your Job Won’t Stress You Out

    Study shows that some 83 percent of American workers experience work-related stress.[1] Granted, some of that stress is now likely caused by the new pandemic-triggered workplace adjustments, yet bosses and management, in general, are reportedly the predominant source of stress for more than one-third of workers.

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    Having meaningful connections among coworkers is the best way to make work less stressful. Whether it is having others whom to commiserate with, bounce ideas off, or bring out your best performance, friendships strengthen the group’s esprit de corps and lower the stress level of your job.

    Your Career Shines Bright

    Who would you feel better about approaching to provide a recommendation or ask for promotion: a cold, aloof boss with whom you have only an impersonal relationship or one that knows you as a person and with whom you have built a warm, trusting relationship?

    Your career advancement will always excel when you have a mutual bond of friendship and appreciation with those who can recommend you. Consider the plug you could receive from a supervisor who knows you as a friend versus one who remains detached and only notices you in terms of your ability to meet deadlines or attain goals.

    When people fully know your skills, strengths, personality, and aspirations, you have promoters who will sing your praises with any opportunity for advancement.

    Final Thoughts

    At the end of the day, it is “who you know” not “what you know.” When you build relationships, you build a pipeline of colleagues, work partners, team members, current bosses, and former bosses who want to help you—who want to see you succeed.

    At its core, every business is a people business. Making a point to take the small but meaningful actions that build the foundation of a good relationship can be instrumental in cultivating better relationships at work.

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    Featured photo credit: Adam Winger via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] The American Institute of Stress: 42 Worrying Workplace Stress Statistics

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