Do you remember Grocer Cat, Farmer Alfafa or Jason the Mason? You don’t? Shame on you!
Not really. I don’t blame you for not remembering what you may have read when you were very young. But in many ways, we should have adult versions of those wonderful characters from Richard Scarry’s illustrated Busytown.
In writing my recent book, Silicon Collar, I had a chance to profile workers and their machines in over 50 industries — including at accounting firms and banks, the battlefront and digital agencies, the oil patch and restaurants, R&D labs and shop floors, warehouses and wineries.
I thought I had covered wide ground, but then was floored the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies workers into one of 840 detailed occupations, in accordance with the 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. The next list due in the next couple of years will show even greater variety as STEM disciplines create a new generation of jobs. FastCompany’s projection of jobs in the next decade includes Urban Farmers, Neuro-Implant Technicians and Virtual Reality Experience Designers.
CareerPlanners.com does an even more granular listing of job descriptions, and lists 12,000 separate jobs. And they do not even begin to profile countless other jobs TV hosts like Mike Rowe showcase like sewer inspector and shark suit tester.
Why is this important for all of us? I find most of us, in our networks and neighborhoods, only seem to know of 30–40 such jobs and as a result have a narrow world view.
The more we understand of the amazing, modern day job economy, the more pragmatic we can be. We have way too many workers angry at politicians and corporations for layoffs, offshoring, and automation.
We can gain confidence to reskill ourselves every few years, and change occupations several times a career. Our parents enjoyed (or suffered) through a life time career which came with a 25 year plate and a pension. In many ways, they would be envious at the amazing choices we have in what to do all day.
When you see the breadth of jobs, each of which requires multiple skills, you can sit back and realize how alarmist it is for academics and economists to predict machines (AI, robotics, wearables etc) will destroy all jobs. Machines will take over individual tasks and in the process reshape jobs, but not destroy tens of millions of jobs anytime soon.
When you explore the breadth of the job economy, you realize how pessimistic the studies are which say the middle class has been decimated. The middle 2/3 of returns filled with the IRS show adjusted gross income of $ 6 trillion. It’s real money being earned by the hundreds of occupations you did not even know existed.
I could go on. But instead of poring through boring BLS and IRS data like I did, spend some time browsing cable TV and look at workers and entrepreneurs in shows like Cake Boss, Fast N’ Loud, Hell’s Kitchen, Inside Man, Shark Tank, Top Gear and Undercover Boss. Or even better strike up conversations with your neighbors, at the barber shop, on the train or the plane about what people do all day.
It will help you understand we have a wide and a rapidly changing labor economy. Something we can be proud of and be comforted by.
Cross posted at Medium