Thursday, October 15, 2009

This Ain't IBM

It used to be you could find a job soon after college and work there the rest of your life. After years of faithful service you could cash in on your retirement and receive a nice party and a gold watch on the way out.

But things are changing. Pontiac got the axe, Saturn is being discontinued within the next 12 months and companies like Microsoft, IBM and just about every airline are laying workers off at an astonishing rate.

Here’s the thing ... change is happening right now. You don’t have to like it, but you must learn to accept and deal with it. Change isn’t a recent phenomenon caused by a bad economy.

We can look back 150 years to find very few people working for corporations. Most worked for themselves and provided a product or service that other people needed. Imagine the surprise experienced by some when the assembly line was perfected by Henry Ford. People left their ‘jobs’ in droves to work in factories.

When the cotton gin was perfected by Eli Whitney in 1793 you might have expected many people to suddenly find themselves out of work. Instead, the cotton gin revolutionized an industry and created jobs.

Thomas Edison perfected the light bulb filament in 1880 and I’m guessing many candle makers thought they’d be out of work forever. Today seven out of ten households use candles (even though they have electricity as well) and in the U.S. alone sales topped more than $2 billion last year.

During the first half of the nineteenth century ice harvesting was big business until refrigeration standards were perfected. We still find ice for sale in nearly every grocery store and gas station in America and recent yearly sales have come close to $6 million.

Change is clearly all around us. The challenge is to stop viewing it as a negative event and instead welcoming it as an opportunity for growth.

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