I write about the things that matter to me. All opinions are my own.

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Feds: Destroy Your Job & Save Your Career


"Creative destruction," a term coined by the economist Joseph Schumpeter, is a shorthand way of describing the innovation process in economic terms. 

Today we get movies via Apple and Amazon on our computers. We don't need Redbox, Blockbuster, or movie theaters at all. (Saturday Night Live did a really funny "eulogy" for Blockbuster featuring Lady Gaga.)

Innovation routinely costs people their jobs - that's the tough side. Yet as unfortunate as that is, progress will continue to happen. It just does - it's like a rule of nature.

So no matter where you work, it makes sense to destroy your job, yourself, first - so that you can move on to the next realm of opportunity before someone pulls the rug out from under you.

Yes, even if you are a Fed.

This advice may seem counterintuitive. Federal jobs are known for their relative stability and security, and many feds begin and end their lives in the government.

And yet - we constantly seem to hear talk of cutting the federal workforce, reducing benefits, freezing pay, and so on.

You may say that a wave of retirements is coming. That opens up opportunity within agencies, certainly.

In addition, there is a lack of reliable predictive data regarding how many times people change careers. Maybe the worries about job and career stability are overblown, especially in the public sector.

I would say that it can never hurt to be prepared. Especially when job dislocation is so frequent and stressful in the private sector.

Not to mention that agencies are moving inexorably toward consolidation, reorganization, and a model where government resources are extended through public-private partnerships. 

* The U.S. National Archives (where I work; shameless plug) is one of many partners in the Digital Public Library of America, contributing content to create a massive searchable database of historical archives.

* The British Library just dumped a million images into Flickr with Microsoft's help. The public is going to help crowdsource identifying what they are. And they're looking for partners.

* Google Books and the Internet Archive are doing mass digitization of books.

* USAID literally sets no limits on who can apply to work with them on ending world poverty. 

The hard truth is, we in the government can't do it alone, and we don't have the money to do whatever we want anymore - if we ever did.

So employees have to adapt. The best way I can think of to do this, is read career columnists (off the top of my head, Penelope Trunk and Ilya Pozin on LinkedIn) and take some form of technical training if you can. (If you do web work, many people have recommended Lynda.com to me, although I've never tried it.)

Good luck.

* All opinions my own. No endorsement expressed or implied.