Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Sloppers, Supersloppers, Slimers, & Sponges": Get Creative Now - Or Technology Will Eliminate Your Job

If you are doing anything repetitive, it is susceptible to automation.

Automation means the machine does it, not you, and you can find a job somewhere else - involuntarily.

The divide between employees who add value ("creators") and those who don't ("servers") was highlighted in this week's Wall Street Journal in an op-ed by Andy Kessler, author of Eat People: Unapologetic Rules for Entrepreneurial Success, where he breaks down "servers" into four categories.

(Lest anyone think that I am standing on a soapbox, I read this and winced because branding professionals are one of them.)

1. Sloppers - people who move information or things from one place to another without adding any value - e.g. I send the form to you, you send it to someone else, it gets approved. Not brain surgery, that.

2. Supersloppers - people who add an illusion of value to products through branding.

3. Slimers - people who earn their living in finance - because it's getting easier and easier to eliminate the middleman.

4. Sponges - people who rely on certifications to establish their worthiness for a job - because computers can do so much of the work nowadays (e.g. paralegal research, computer-aided diagnostics) that "sponges" aren't needed to do everything associated with their specialization.

I personally don't agree that branding inherently adds no value - it's the practice of providing an illusion of value that is going to be useless.

Nevertheless, whatever you do, it's time to ask yourself whether you are a "server" who adds no value. If so, get out of denial (if you're in it) and face facts about the state of the economy. There is no refuge from the budget axe, whether you work in government or the private sector.

Are there parts of your job that are mundane and repetitive? Automate them yourself - and find something else to do where you are a source of unique, creative value that cannot easily be duplicated by a machine. Even if you have to pursue training in subjects you're not familiar with. Do what you have to do.

In this process, don't let the fear of change stop you. We're all going through the same thing, and most of the time these kinds of challenges make us stronger down the road.

Don't be afraid to share your situation with others. Get support! And practice self-compassion as you make the transition to the new economy. Maybe even help someone else, too.

Americans are strong and we will get through this time - but the first step to take is to face reality.

Good luck!