January 4, 2011
Prediction: The biggest workplace stories for 2011
Although it was no 2009, this past year was another doozy for the U.S. workforce. So rather than reminisce about the many ways 2010 whooped the collective hide of the working public, let's look forward to the new year. Following are my picks for the top workplace stories Americans can expect to hear about ad nauseum in 2011:
Death of the career path. With job stability now a thing of the past, many career experts warn against banking on one lifelong career. "Career paths are now dead ends," says employment strategist J.T. O'Donnell, who blogs at the website Careerealism. "In the last two years, thousands of people lost jobs in industries that will never revive. More than 50 percent of the jobs today's college grads will have in their lifetimes don't exist yet." The solution to staying employed, O'Donnell says, is to fine-tune a set of transferrable skills you can apply to more than one career or industry. (More on this in an upcoming post.)
Continued debate over appropriate use of technology at work. Can you diss your employer on Facebook and hope to get away with it? How about swearing in a work-related email, or better yet, sexting a coworker on a company-issued mobile device? The questions of the hyper-digital age we find ourselves working in -- and the entertaining stories they result in -- never get old. Fortunately, the technological powers that be continue to churn out apps and hardware faster than our legislative system can update the employment laws already on the books. Meaning we can expect more workplace-related tales of tawdry texting and the like in the months to come.
Collective national freakout over retirement. People don't sock away money like they used to. Those who did invest a significant chunk of their earnings likely lost a mint during the recession. Others spent down their retirement savings or lost their home after getting laid off or saddled with a stack of medical bills for which they had inadequate insurance coverage. With Boomers now turning 65 in droves, some financial experts predict a nationwide retirement crisis -- as in, regardless of whether they currently have a job, countless seniors can't afford to stop working.
Healthcare, healthcare, and more healthcare. By now we all know that employee perks aren't what they used to be. And that COBRA insurance is costly. And that individual insurance is often costly and skimpy. Add to the mix the healthcare act passed by the Obama administration last year -- and the Republicans' upcoming vote to repeal it -- and you have a story we'll be hearing lots more about this year.
Ongoing decline of the full-time job. The nation's temporary workforce increased by 29 percent last year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies 9 million U.S. workers as involuntary part-timers. Project-based work has become so commonplace that organizations like the Freelancers Union now lobby for better employment laws for those without traditional jobs. Depending on whom you ask, the erosion of full-time employment is either a blessing or a curse. Entrepreneurial types and those who favor flexible work are more likely to view such workforce shifts as a plus. However, those who were hoping to stick with one job in one department of one company for the next couple of decades likely will have some adjusting to do.
Readers, what say you? What stories about the workforce do you think will have the biggest impact in 2011?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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