Say yes to everything to remain a viable, in-demand worker in a constantly-evolving jobs market.

Is there really just a single economy that controls your employment destiny? The truth shall set you free…and keep you employed.

When you open your favorite news app today, you’re likely to find articles about “the” economy. Back in 2009, we were in a recession and today I read a news story that the economy is “roaring, at least for now.” For workers, these constant economic shifts can create quite a financial rollercoaster.

Language is important. The way we describe things has profound implications on our actions. If we consistently hear that “the” economy is collapsing, how does that impact our outlook on our careers? Do we feel helpless? Do we stop acquiring new skills or looking for new jobs because what’s the point?

What if there are actually many economies and, as workers, you can cross between them to remain employed in boom industries?

I grew up in poverty. While my ancestors sailed to America on the Mayflower and founded cities, grew industries, and became successful business owners; somewhere along the way those I descend from failed to invest in themselves or their children to remain in-demand workers and suffered financially for it. Perhaps they, too, believed there was only a single economy.

That poverty created anxiety. To remain calm, I made myself useful so I could always find work. At 10 years old, I took jobs doing anything to earn money. I babysat, cleaned houses, and mowed lawns. When I turned 16, I became a server in a local restaurant. Over summers, I was a farm hand. I detasseled corn for sometimes 10 hours a day. My high school needed a groundskeeper so I signed up to lay pesticide, trim hedges, and maintain the landscape. A factory walking-distance from my house hired me as a janitor so I cleaned toilets and worked the assembly line when employees called in sick.

These odd jobs helped me pay for the university where I majored in English. During college, I worked in a bookstore and for my school performing data entry at local companies implementing business systems. That data entry work forced me to learn accounting, human resources, inventory control, engineering, and operations. Tutoring students in writing exposed me to papers on finance, history, economics, and the sciences. I said yes to everything. If a door opened, I walked through it – not out of a desire to learn but by a fear of being useless and unemployable.

My first job out of college was a customer service position with a manufacturing company coincidentally implementing a business system. Management knew I had experience in these implementations and made me a project manager. Despite never having done anything like that, I said yes. The management consulting firm leading the project recognized my skills gaps and enrolled me in various corporate courses – on their dime – to learn program management, project management, change management, requirements management, and many other disciplines over four years. I said yes to it all and never worried about not being qualified or enjoying the work.

Mentors I had along the way took me with them as they found jobs in different companies. I said yes to all the new positions. Once, I asked a mentor how people became experts in their fields. He told me, “They’re really faking it. They just know how to fake it with confidence. If you can do that, doors will open for you.” That conversation inspired me to take an improvisational acting class where I learned how to “think fast on my feet.” Showing confidence even if I felt none became my mission.

Over time, I developed a diverse set of skills that kept me employed no matter how “the” economy was performing. People around me complained about the lack of jobs and obsolete industries, but I couldn’t relate to their pessimism. For me, there was always an option to grow, be promoted, and remain viably employed.

In my forties, after years of being responsible for budget management, I enrolled in finance-focused courses so I could improve my skills. Contrary to what I believed about myself, it turns out I have a knack for estimating budgets accurately. Had I known when I was 17 how much I enjoyed playing with numbers, I would have majored in finance instead of English. When I realized this, I enrolled in graduate school and I’m currently double-majoring to acquire an MBA in organizational psychology. Why an MBA, which focuses on business management, with a concentration in organizational psychology?

There is one simple answer: Because there isn’t just “the” economy. There are many economies – each of which is on a rollercoaster of performance and requires certain skillsets. When I’m in an economy taking a downturn, I jump to another stable or growing economy. Using this strategy of constantly evolving my skills and saying yes to everything has kept me employed and consistently promotable.

Our federal and state governments aren’t doing enough to invest in maintaining a viable workforce to meet the demands of an evolving and global job market. But I am. In 2016, I founded 21rw, a company that specializes in employee productivity enhancement, leadership, and training to yield in-demand workers. I call these workers 21st century renaissance workers – thus the name of my company. In 2018, I was able to make 21rw my full-time career and fulfill a long-term goal of running a company.

When you hear reports of “the” economy failing, remind yourself that there is no such thing as a single economy. Then act. Perform some research to find the industries that are stable or growing and do whatever you can to acquire the skills necessary to jump into those economies. And, like me, you might find a career you once thought yourself unqualified for and thriving financially despite what the economists are saying.

Read this article on Thrive Global! Say yes to everything on Thrive Global

Say yes to everything to remain a viable, in-demand worker in a constantly-evolving jobs market.

Using simple economics to balance work demands.

Workers who can translate for their bosses what is required to successfully perform tasks achieve greater results than those who complain about being overworked.

Recently, Harvard Business Review published a case study on balancing work priorities. The case centers around Carla, a television producer who has found herself in high demand and low on capacity to meet the need. Read the case study and I’m sure, if you’re a busy professional, you can relate.

Carla’s situation is one many professionals know all too well.

With companies constantly downsizing, most managers are struggling to balance work demands. This is where economics comes into play. We often don’t view prioritizing work from an economics perspective – but we have to take scarcity of resources into consideration when balancing work demands with qualified, available workers capacity. This is the foundation of the 21rw™ renaissance worker productivity methodology that I’ve used for over two decades to get results.

This is important – I say qualified, available workers because it’s not just throwing “bodies” at the problem, which is the approach to problem-solving many companies take.

To truly achieve goals, those delegated to must be both qualified and available to perform the work to achieve expected quality levels.

And here’s the challenge – getting people to view qualified, available workers as an economic resource to quantify worker capacity against workload demand.

Using simple economics to get what you need to be successful at work

The study of finance and economics is beneficial to developing a compelling business case to justify scaling back on production and/or investing the time in developing staff to empower them. One issue that Carla faces is that she hasn’t properly established for Michael a business case to support scaling back production.

Instead, she complained.

Michael, who only sees the results of “Carla magic,” likely doesn’t understand the level-of-effort (LOE) involved in producing her shows and the impact to quality across all shows if Carla can only dedicate small, rushed attention to each.

And here’s the thing – you simply cannot negotiate complaints with the creators of work demands. Without a business case, data, and clear facts – complaints are easily dismissed. Think about co-workers who have gained reputations as complainers – do you listen to them or tune them out the moment they start whining?

Instead of complaining, present impacts to revenue using solid, documented data that can be used to formulate “what if” scenarios – that’s compelling and offers Carla the opportunity to discuss various options with Michael to ensure they both can achieve their goals.

Building your case – and figuring out how to develop your staff along the way

A question Carla should ask when Michael pressures her to put in more hours to cover new projects:

“Where are we willing to fail so I can dedicate my time to X?”

It sounds like a crazy question at first. But documenting all required projects to ensure critical projects are prioritized is the first step to balancing work demands. Carla then needs to document the LOE required for the high-quality production Michael equates with “magic” and then translate that LOE into:

  • all tasks required to achieve “Carla magic,”
  • estimated hours to complete each task,
  • a project schedule, and
  • the number of workers and the skills and experience required for each to achieve the tasks to meet the expected quality results.

Documenting this LOE into a methodology and project schedule will help her dispel the mystery of “Carla magic” for Michael and explain all work demands in concrete, tangible terms that can be negotiated and prioritized with more realistic deadlines. Additionally, it provides the workers she’s developing with a documented approach to perform the work to achieve the required quality targets. So not only is she helping Michael understand what’s required to be successful – she’s helping her staff understand, which sets expectations and makes it easier for Carla’s team to know how to perform to achieve quality targets on time.

Using this approach, I’ve been able to positively negotiate alternatives that are a win-win for those creating work demands and those responding with qualified, available worker capacity.

Want to learn more? Contact me at cbratcliff@21-rw.com.

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View this story on Thrive Global – a company Arianna Huffington founded to “end the stress and burnout epidemic by offering companies and individuals sustainable, science-based solutions to enhance well-being, performance, and purpose, and create a healthier relationship with technology. Recent science has shown that the pervasive belief that burnout is the price we must pay for success is a delusion. We know, instead, that when we prioritize our well-being, our decision-making, creativity, and productivity improve dramatically. Thrive Global is committed to accelerating the culture shift that allows people to reclaim their lives and move from merely surviving to thriving.”

 

 

Using simple economics to balance work demands.