Jobs vs. Work

In today's LinkedIn Daily Rundown (US) there was a collection of articles that seem, when put together, to be telling us something about the future of work. All day I've been seeing these stories come together like pieces to a puzzle. There are entrepreneurial opportunities with Amazon, a loss of jobs at General Mills, seasonal opportunities at Kohl's, and last, but certainly not least, the Supreme Court handed public unions a pretty major loss.

Jobs do seem to be increasingly less stable — not so much because of a lack of jobs, but rather a different definition of job. Despite my attempts to be foreboding, I'm not entirely convinced yet that this has to be a bad thing for employees. Although, I do think that we have to be ever vigilant and make every effort to not be used and abused in the process.

Let's start with Kohl's. Last year, a friend of mine worked for Kohl's as a seasonal employee and she really enjoyed it. The family was growing due to a need to take in younger siblings left without parents, and my friend's husband had recently had to change employers, as his original employer was "selling off" his division. The seasonal work gave my friend and her family the additional income they needed at just the time they needed it.  

Further, knowing that the job was of a short duration, allowed everyone to pitch in and babysit or take on extra chores while my friend was working. My friend wasn't looking for a career at Kohl's, she was merely looking for some extra income. And, she wanted to pursue that income with a full understanding that no one expected her to make a long term commitment. Thus, leaving after a few months would be expected, and my friend was not at risk of "burning bridges.”

As to the work that Amazon is offering, it is clearly an opportunity for entrepreneurs. At least one person pointed out in the comments to the Rundown that this opportunity won't provide insurance or other benefits of employment. This is true. But, FedEx Ground has used this model for years and I still see a myriad of FedEx Ground delivery trucks. Obviously the business model works, at least for some. Working for yourself is not for everyone, but for some it is a perfect fit for their needs and skills.

For those who like employment, it does seem that we continue to lose jobs, like at General Mills. But, I think that overall, the flexibility, as well as the variety, that we stand to gain with different models of working (temporary/self-directed) is beneficial. Now, that's not to say that I don't sympathize with those at General Mills that are now out of work. I absolutely do. I know the frustration and worry that sudden job loss creates. But, if we accept this new reality of work, and condition ourselves to be ready to pivot to something new, then when an employer decides to unexpectedly cut us loose, we're prepared to move on to something different -- perhaps even better.   

I will fully acknowledge that less permanent work has the potential for pitfalls. And, this is where I see the news about the public sector unions fitting into the equation.

There are a lot of opinions about unions -- both good and bad. But, overall, I think that many will acknowledge that throughout their existence unions have served as powerful advocates for employees -- particularly with highly hazardous jobs, where simply being at work could be catastrophic.  

So, I've been thinking that maybe there is a role for unions in this new world of work. As work evolves to something more like free agency, there will still be a need for advocacy and organization for basic things like safety or continued education. Maybe the Supreme Court's decision is a loss for the union in its current form. But, through this loss maybe something new can be created -- something that allows for advocacy and education and protects workers from unscrupulous businesses. Something that allows us to pool our resources and let our voices be heard.

At the end of the day, though, whether I maintain my optimism or become more pessimistic doesn’t really seem to matter. I think the world of work is evolving into something very different then what we’ve known for the past quarter to half century. This evolution is not going to stop. And, truly, I think it might be time to cut the 9-5 cord, stop commuting to places if they make us unhappy, and start looking for ways that we can enjoy life — really enjoy life — by having work that we find fulfilling, not jobs that we tolerate.

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