This note to my sons, but assume it might be of some value to others.
I am reminded by articles in yesterday's L.A. Times of both the dangers and opportunities in today's job market. Bottom line is this. Not in your lifetime and barely in mine have we seen anything even approximating what we are seeing today. This is reality check time. The notion that one can have and deserves to have their personal, perfect career, that is no longer part of any reality, if indeed it ever was more than a myth imparted on naive students by mindless and/or irresponsible teachers. In today's world you have to take what you can get and take it quick. Even imperfect jobs are disappearing at an alarming rate. It is going downhill fast, and it is not coming back for a very long time. I have been saying this for months, if not years now, and there is only increasing evidence I am right.
One article points out what I have been saying about government jobs. The scary part is that now everyone who reads the L.A. Times knows what I have said. And the rush for those jobs is surely already on. The subtitle to the article is "L.A. is home to a variety of high-earning --- and often recession-proof --- government jobs." I expect the same is true for San Francisco.
As anyone who has worked in Washington knows, government jobs, especially in the regulatory areas, are the pathway to much more lucrative industrial jobs. Or once were. But now those government jobs are beginning to look like keepers.
I urge you not to develop your careers based on your own necessarily limited experience. You have never seen times like this and surely not times like those ahead. You have to go back a good deal farther for meaningful reference to today's economic dynamics.
One small story, if you will. I was trained to find oil in an era when that was about as fine a job as you could get. It paid well and it took you to exotic places, something that sounded great to me. And geologists were cool. That was up to about the time I was a junior in Penn State's College of Mineral Industries (learning there, by the way, that oil was not a mineral). Then suddenly we were awash in oil, thanks to those cool geologists a few years ahead of me. When I got my degree and licence to go find oil, there were no jobs anywhere. The industry was dead. So I became a soldier and did ice instead. And did pretty well, but never as the petroleum geologist I was trained and intended to be. Ever thereafter I took whatever I could get. And had all the fun and high adventure I could have wanted. But not chasing oil and seldom in the company of the geologists I once so admired.
Never project the future from the past, at least not from any past you know. The future will do its own thing, and you may not like where it goes. But you can survive if you are crafty and agile. That's how how we all came to be, as descendants of crafty and agile critters, right up to our own parents. The rest died.
Plus a bit of vision, which is simply connecting the dots.
Oh, and never think you can fall back on MacDonalds or Walmart. Those jobs are going faster than all the rest. I talked recently to a MacDonald's manager who said they were no longer giving those jobs to kids, only to heads of families, as a matter of conscience. That is where you get the real economic news, off the street, off real streets, not Wall Street. As the truly smart people on Wall Street understand.