Thriving in the New American Workforce

From Marc Andreessen’s “don’t follow your passion” career guidance over Twitter to Adm. William H. McRaven’s highly lauded “life lessons from Navy Seal training” delivered recently at the University of Texas, the fountain of advice from the uber successful for young energetic minds entering the workforce is plentiful.
Yet, where is the wisdom for the young professional with a handful of real-world work experience or the recent MBA graduate who just plunked down a massive bet on the future? Expectations are higher, the pressure to deliver is greater, and the window of opportunity is shrinking.

You can’t afford to buy-into the same advice you were given when you just started out.

Your career prognosis is murkier than it used to be and the path to success is certainly not as linear. Long gone are the days that MBA equals corner office; today’s corporate ladder is being replaced with sociocratic practices like holacracy. Agile management techniques are trending. Signals are pointing to a great flattening. Technology and cheap access to information have leveled the playing field, even more so than Thomas Friedman prophesied in his 2005 book, The World is Flat.

You are talented, no doubt. Your degree and experience is meaningful and will get you in the conversation. It’s just that...there are more equally talented people in the conversation than ever before. At the same time, companies and organizations have expanded beyond brick and mortar; work is virtual and work product is increasingly intangible.

So how will you succeed?

Entrepreneurship and teamwork - with the old hierarchies crumbling in favor of a more nimble workforce and Seal Team Six-like efficiency, the ability to self-start and bring others with you have become accelerators for individuals and organizations.

A boom in communication and collaboration technologies has fueled the coup d'etat. Like never before, you are enabled to self-select your own pop-up organizations to accelerate the pace of innovation and manage the increasing demands from the new economy. Established companies and startups alike are offering tools to spur ever more powerful means of collaboration with plans to cash-in on Metcalfe’s Law.

At the hub are platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and enterprise social business players like Yammer and Jive - they have networked the global brain. Opportunities to leverage the network are limitless, but, the value of our interconnectedness is still potential in many cases.

The challenges for you are engagement and focus. The new economy will be won by those who can harness the energy of talented people and efficiently tap into the wealth of knowledge that exists inside their people networks.

Enterprise communication tools are evolving to support you in this endeavor - you can solve the most pressing problems more effectively, make faster decisions, and zap even more time out of collaboration processes and feedback loops.

Imagine the power of capturing the best thinking and sentiment from increasingly larger groups of talented people - clear winners and losers emerge from the intelligent chatter. Insights from the front lines and those in-the-know power your decisions instead of from the anointed few. It’s not that hard to envision. Technologies such as consumer-oriented Jelly and enterprise-focused Waggl have already made strides down this path. More will follow.

So as you swipe the tablet into the next chapter of your career, success is not a forgone conclusion. Your seat at the table is still there, but, the table has gotten bigger - so has the potential feast. It’s just not enough to simply be there. Nowadays, you need to lead the conversation and get people to follow or risk falling behind. The fundamentals of communication haven’t changed, but, the methods have - significantly. Everyone has a megaphone. People want to be heard. Will you add to the cacophony or assemble a diverse network and orchestrate together?