The Power of Community

JPGbIt was captivating to watch the journey of Gayle and Mac on Australian Story. Their enduring love story pulled Gayle through the horrific farm accident that led to the loss of an arm, and use of her other arm, 13 years ago. A community rescue effort saved her life, enabling her to cope and stay on the land. This was such an inspirational story of how love, optimism and hope win out in the end. Sometimes, your worst experiences become your best teachers.

It is a reminder that genuine wisdom is found in simplicity and purpose. Life is not complicated. Most of the time, we just make it that way.

As social media continues its vertical growth trajectory, the need to interact with communities has diminished. I heard a renowned speaker say that social media has created a new “I generation”. The challenge is to turn this around to an “Us Generation”. Technology has a devious way of distracting us from what really matters, which is to feel authentic and connected to our community and purpose.

Purpose is inevitably linked to work. Despite a welcome fall in May’s ABS unemployment figures (down to 6%), under-employment is rife, and these are tough times for job seekers. At the Top, we continue to watch low-skilled jobs disappear, with hundreds of candidates applying for the same job.

The impact of technology across all forms of labour make this era more disruptive than ever before. Process workers are being replaced at a pace never seen before. Almost any “process” can be computerised, regardless of whether it is housed in a robot or embedded somewhere out of sight. Jobs in manufacturing have fallen from one in four in the 70s, to around one in ten today, with a shift in demand to high-level specialists. As an example, driverless trucks have been introduced in West Australian mines to replace expensive employees. Self-serve options are undermining cashier roles (and chats about “how your day’s been”). It is sad to watch local DVD stores shut down en masse, as new technologies replace them. How many times have you visited a bank lately? Paying bills online and ATMs are a new reality we take for granted. Who needs real people?

The digital disruption is alive and well, and the issue right now is a lack of jobs. No ‘tough love’ approach can work if the opportunities don’t exist, and young people are struggling to get a foothold (reflected in 14% youth unemployment). Among the serious long-term consequences of this is skills atrophy, with a generation of workers less skilled than the generation it replaces.

The good news is that there is a bright future ahead. Ultimately, technology doesn’t cost jobs – it just moves them around. Therefore, robotics, automation and cloud computing will raise productivity and generate jobs. A host of cheaper and faster technologies are set to emerge. As technology changes the scope of jobs and creates new ones, many of which are likely to be in industries that haven’t even been invented yet.

We already filter a deluge of data day-in, day-out (oh for the simple life). IT specialists with the digital expertise to filter and manage this, market products on-line or design virtual environments will be in huge demand. These are the minds behind Google, Youtube, Facebook and eBay.

The ageing population will create a myriad of jobs in the healthcare sector. Across other disciplines, finance specialists, engineers, lawyers, financial advisers, project managers, school teachers, business developers and construction workers are all areas of need. Actually, you can‘t go wrong with a trade. I recently heard that plumbers have become the dad’s army of the Australian workforce, with an average age of 55. People will always need water, so there will always be work in this industry.

As for turning an “I generation” into an “Us Generation”, our combined knowledge and skills will always be the essence of what we do, make and sell. Cultivating the right mindset, communication, team skills and curiosity are the first steps to succeed in a globally connected world. Curiosity has always been the way for creative, high-achievers, and always will be.

So, despite the collision of technology and jobs, the real value of business still derives from people. The reasons might be economic, social, nostalgic or a case of robots not being practical.

We have great empathy for candidates struggling to find work. If you find yourself between jobs (or even if you have a job), our advice is to cultivate new skills, via reading, mentoring and targeted training to address any skill mismatches.

Self-renewal is the only way to stay relevant. It’s about not taking the safe route, because what was great before, is stale now. The core competency of the future is an ability to learn and unlearn just as quickly. Your career depends upon it.

Secondly, consider voluntary work and get involved in your community. There are many wonderful ways you can achieve this.

As a supporting partner for the Ipswich Festival, we know what this means for our region. The Festival has the magic to inspire people, and connect them with the community. This generates a great boost for local businesses, and volunteers are always welcome.

Volunteering with a service club, such as Rotary International, is another option. Rotary’s record of humanitarian service can be seen in so many ways (from huge progress in eradicating Polio around the world, to relieving hunger, providing shelterboxes for refugees and displaced families, AND mentoring young people). What matters is that you believe in service above self.

On a grander scale, social enterprises use the power of the market place to benefit the public and community. Many of these doors are open to volunteers.

Any form of community service creates purpose. This is an incredibly empowering way to enhance your career, personal growth and create opportunities from adversity, because we’re all in this together.