Felix Writes: The Power Of You And Me

DigitalThoughts / The Power Of You And Me

I was reading through this write-up with little interest, when a certain paragraph made me jump:

Hershey looked Scrooge-like and clueless in August when 400 college students hired through a State Department-sponsored foreign-exchange program revolted, walking off their jobs. They didn’t like their stressful work in a candy-packing factory, sometimes on all-night shifts. These kids from China, Nigeria, Turkey and Ukraine are facile digital communicators and used YouTube, Facebook and other tools to bring attention to their plight.

Years ago, when I was advocating just such a reaction to abusive treatment by an employer, people merely shook their heads and said, "But they'll only hire more people tomorrow." And while such pessimism has some merit nowadays, that was before the crisis, when it was companies fighting over potential employees, not the other way around.

What changed is that nowadays Millenials are starting to dominate the workforce, and they aren't taking it anymore. And why should they? After all, a job is not a purpose onto itself; it's just a way to earn a living (no, you can't do anything with money itself, except perhaps brag about your fortune). And there are many ways to earn a living. More than ever, in fact. Not that jobs were ever the only option, or even the default one. Who do you think founded all those companies many (still) work for? That's right, people who wouldn't settle for what amounts to paid servitude.

The same article goes on to point out how technology is erasing the separation lines between managers, employees and customers, and generally any kind of hierarchy. Which is a good thing: you see, hierarchies were only needed in the pre-digital era because communication was slow and difficult, so you wanted to both keep nodes close together and minimize the number of channels. Except, like with many other things, people have forgotten this original purpose and started thinking hierarchy was the point. How convenient for all the control freaks out there.

Luckily, that era has ended. Currently, when people complain to me about losing their jobs, I advise them to try anything else first. And just like years ago, they generally just shake their heads and say, "It's not that easy." D'oh. I know. "I have bills to pay." Guess what, me too. "That will never work." Because all the people for whom it's already working are imaginary? Or maybe superhuman?

Look, I'm not saying everybody can be a successful self-published author, indie musician, game developer or whatever. I'm neither (yet). But thinking in terms of pre-existing options is a trap anyway. What you want is to find something that works for you. And not just one magical solution; share, save, swap, do a thousand little things. Most importantly, build your reputation. A smile and a good word cost nothing, yet they can turn out to be extremely valuable. So dare try.

P.S. Another voice joins the chorus...

2011-09-11