Your Next Job
Coaches on the make aren't a new species. But the cheekiness of Barnett's move is one small sample of what employers face across the country: a newly emboldened American work force. We're living through the tightest U.S. labor market in three decadesa hiring bonanza that is transforming the nature of work. The current hypergrowth in jobs can't last forever; fast-food restaurants won't be paying signing bonuses during the next recession. But the most remarkable changes in the workplaceand our attitudes toward itwill redefine careers well into the 21st century. Just as the Great Depression produced a generation of frugal worrywarts, those of us benefiting from the long jobs boom of the 1990s sport an often brazen self-confidence about how we connect to our jobs. Former Labor secretary Robert Reich, now writing a book on "The Work of the Future," sees signs of the shift in the exploding number of self-employed workers (up to 20 percent of the labor force, he figures) and in corporate employees' newfound willingness to hopscotch among jobs. "Loyalty is dead," Reich says.
What's behind the shift? Paradoxically, this new self-reliance is partly born of fright. Despite stunning prosperity, companies still face ferocious cost pressuresfrom Wall Street analysts who'll punish them for missing earnings estimates, from overseas rivals using cheaper labor and from a fear of raising prices in an inflation-free economy. Sadly, one thing hasn't changed: employees are usually the first costs that get cut. Despite the boom economy, last year corporations laid off 103,000 workers, the highest level in five years, according to outplacement specialists Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago estimate that in 1995, the most recent year for which they have data, workers faced a small but chilling 3.4 percent chance of being laid off. That risk has increased anxiety and forced workers to constantly re-evaluate options. If you can't count on Coca-Cola to keep providing your paycheck, why not consider that offer from Pepsi? Or just place a big bet on You Inc., selling your services to companies that are increasingly eager to give people work without giving them a job.