A 30-Day Experiment: Appreciating Team Members
Are You Prepared for the "Internet of Things"?

How Prepared Are You For "The Start-Up of You"?


Tom Friedman had an interesting op/ed piece in the New York Times last week entitled, "The Start-Up of You," in which he makes the very compelling argument that one of the fundamental changes we are experiencing in work today is the need for employees to think like entrepreneurs:

Whatever you may be thinking when you apply for a job today, you can be sure the employer is asking this: Can this person add value every hour, every day — more than a worker in India, a robot or a computer? Can he or she help my company adapt by not only doing the job today but also reinventing the job for tomorrow? And can he or she adapt with all the change, so my company can adapt and export more into the fastest-growing global markets? In today’s hyperconnected world, more and more companies cannot and will not hire people who don’t fulfill those criteria.

Just as entrepreneurs have had to function with unstable, ever-changing conditions, now job seekers find themselves faced with the same uncertainties in employment. As Friedman points out:

Indeed, what is most striking when you talk to employers today is how many of them have used the pressure of the recession to become even more productive by deploying more automation technologies, software, outsourcing, robotics — anything they can use to make better products with reduced head count and health care and pension liabilities. That is not going to change. And while many of them are hiring, they are increasingly picky. They are all looking for the same kind of people — people who not only have the critical thinking skills to do the value-adding jobs that technology can’t, but also people who can invent, adapt and reinvent their jobs every day, in a market that changes faster than ever.

Today’s college grads need to be aware that the rising trend in Silicon Valley is to evaluate employees every quarter, not annually. Because the merger of globalization and the I.T. revolution means new products are being phased in and out so fast that companies cannot afford to wait until the end of the year to figure out whether a team leader is doing a good job.

The money quote here is that employers are looking for "people who can invent, adapt and re-invent their jobs every day, in a market that changes faster than ever." In other words, people who are investing in their own professional development and looking at how their skills and abilities can add value on a regular basis. 

Four years ago I was talking about "who's in charge of learning," arguing that individuals need to be responsible for their own professional development, rather than leaving it to their employers. This is even more critical now. Businesses are assuming that you will add value from day one and that you will continue to add value throughout your employment. Those people who focus on honing their skills and their networks of contacts will come out the winners in this game. Those who wait for their employers to "train them," will be left in the dust. 

How prepared are you to be your own start-up? 


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Whenever I worked for someone else, my attitude was always to try to think about the business from the owner's perspective. How can I do things better? Does the system or job the way it is work best or is there a better way to do it?

As a business owner, any employee I look to hire will have to have the qualities stated in your post. The days of showing up to work and only doing the specific job someone was hired to do are over.

People better get this straight or they'll be left in the dust.

One more thing, Michele. I know you are involved in different facets of career/job counseling.

How would what you do help people to understand this concept and become more aligned with the times?

Hi Tom--One of the things that I do in my work with people is have them look at the "important questions" that face them in their work. One of those "important questions" is what are the trends that are going on with the workplace, technology, etc. and how are they going to impact me in the future.

When we are self-employed, we may be more likely to look at these kinds of trends so that we are able to adapt and change our businesses for new conditions. When we work for someone else, though, we are less likely to do this. We tend to just see what's in front of us with our particular company, rather than looking at the bigger picture and how we want to prepare ourselves for our next moves some place else. At least in my experience.

The comments to this entry are closed.