On The Future of Success
from The Jobs Letter No.138 / 29, January 2001
Ten years ago, Robert Reich published his analysis of the new economy called The Work of Nations. It gave many people their first look at the implications of an increasingly globalised labour market, a free flow of capital chasing quick returns around the world, and a growing gap between rich and poor.
Reich, who in the interim served as US Secretary of Labour during Bill Clinton's first administration, has now published an update on his views on the new economy. In a new book called The Future of Success, he describes an economy that is a boom for consumers, with the internet and e-commerce giving us an "Age of the Terrific Deal".
But the hitch is that we don't live all our lives as consumers. Reich: "The easier it is for us as buyers to switch to something better, the harder we as sellers have to scramble in order to keep every customer, hold every client, seize every opportunity, get every contract..." In other words, it is great for consumers to hunt on the internet for bargains ... but they also realise that their boss is looking just as hard for ways to replace them with something cheaper. The result is an anxiety amidst plenty that, according to Reich, is reshaping both the workplace and society at large.
How does someone maintain a good livelihood amidst such anxiety? Reich's short answer is self-promotion: employees have to learn to sell or "brand" themselves.
Reich: "Even if you are called a full-time employee, you are becoming less of an employee of an organisation than you are a seller of your services to particular customers and clients, under the organisation's brand name. The incentives today are on the side of investing in one's personal brand rather than devoting time and energy to the organisation..."
In Reich's view of success in the new economy, you go to a brand-name university not to imbibe the wisdom of its professors but to make impressions and connections. You pick a niche that can bring attention to yourself and then develop your personal public relations efforts to let the world know who you are. You don't worry about loyalty to others because they are now all free agents and they are not worried about loyalty to you. And this is a "Terrific Deal" ?
The Future of Success
A REICH (pronounced "raish") READER