I participated in two interesting discussions last week that underscored something I have been thinking about lately.
First, at the UCLA Extension Dean’s Advisory Board meeting, we heard a presentation by Board member Ed Leamer, a faculty member at the UCLA Anderson School of Management and director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast.
Professor Leamer explained that in previous economic downturns, unemployment increased as industries reduced their workforce. But once conditions improved, displaced workers eventually were rehired into their previous industries.
The current economic downturn is quite a bit different. Large numbers of jobs in construction and manufacturing have disappeared and they will not be coming back. Other industries have completely changed as well. Think about print journalism, printing in general, advertising, and the music industry.
My second meeting last week was part of “UCLA Day with Local Government,” an advocacy day spent meeting with various elected officials and staff at Los Angeles City Hall. I met with a group of executive directors and board members from the local unemployment services/workforce system.
One senior human resources director from a large local firm mentioned he has encountered a number of people in his professional and personal life who have lost jobs and who have not faced the reality that those exact jobs will not reemerge. Almost every industry now requires higher level skills and a greater use of technology. Many unemployed individuals are sitting back and waiting for the world to adapt to them. They are not doing anything to adapt themselves for reemployment in today’s environment.
It is extremely difficult and unsettling for many people to think about going back to school when one has been out of school for 30 years or more. This dynamic is even more apparent for those who entered the workforce directly from high school.
This brings me back to the title of this post. Facing reality and next steps.
There are many options for someone to build upon past experience and to upgrade knowledge and skills quickly. For many, I would recommend a serious look at rigorous professional certificate programs. We have seen individuals transition
- from banking to logistics
- from mortgage broker to starting a waste recycling company
- from information technology professionals to the healthcare field
- from sales and marketing people to nonprofit organizations
The key is to get help and advice
- What transferrable skills do you have?
- What industries project employment growth?
- What do you care about?
Then, find a program that can help you connect all the dots and get you from A to B. You can find employment that equals or exceeds your previous position.
Naturally, UCLA Extension offers many options. The most important thing is to face reality and take that important next step.