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A Multitude of Hope

Today's job market is a cold and indifferent place. It feels as if it is operated by uncaring organizations that are guided by a quest for machine-like productivity rather than by the bonds that join us one to another. I believe that's wrong. I'm certain that America's working men and women deserve better. I'm also certain, however, that they won't get what they deserve unless they put up a fight.

No one likes confrontation, but sometimes it's the only way we can make change happen. That's the central thesis of a book I've written about the post-recession job market in this country. It's not your typical career or job search primer, but is, instead, a novel called A Multitude of Hope.

The book traces the experiences of three out-of-work Baby Boomers as they struggle to find a way through today's dehumanizing job market. Along the way, they meet a secret online group of radical activists practicing "economic disobedience" against the all-for-me-and-none-for-you class of corporate America.

The group's philosophy is both a throwback to the traditional American value of self-reliance and a paean to the power of individual initiative in modern culture. Economic disobedience asks each working man and women to see themselves differently in the workplace and to leverage that new self-image to extend the rights they have as citizens into the experience they have as employees.

Now, I know some will say that's naïve. Work is a four-letter word, so the best we can hope for is to minimize its unpleasantness. When we're in transition, therefore, we take the lesser of two evils or, equally as bad, the only evil we're offered. We let productivity - the quest to find a job as quickly as possible - trump our human right to fulfillment.

Economic disobedience offers a different way. It empowers us to stand up for ourselves. It gives us the fortitude and strength to avoid the evil options and reach for the only good one. Economic disobedience is a declaration of independence for working men and women ... but only if they are willing to do the hard work involved.

The Three Challenges

Economic disobedience involves three challenges. Each and all of them must be accomplished to reap the benefits of workplace independence.

Challenge #1: We must pull ourselves out of the boxes employers put us in. We have to re-imagine who we are in the workplace. We must no longer accept the label of "worker" or "employee" or "labor." We have to see ourselves, instead, as a "person of talent."

Talent is not something reserved for the winner of some made-for-TV dance contest or the NCAA basketball tournament. It is the capacity for excellence. And that access to superior performance is an attribute of our species. Like our opposable thumb, talent is a defining characteristic of being human.

Challenge #2: We must refuse to fit into employer's "normal distribution" of talent. They believe only a few of us are capable of doing great work and that the best the rest of us can accomplish is mediocrity. We have to show them they're wrong by living up to our decision to be a person of talent.

Talent can only be expressed and experienced, however, if it is taught the skills and knowledge for a compatible career field. A person of talent, therefore, sees him or herself as a "work in progress." They are a perpetual student who is forever upgrading their ability to bring their talent to work with them AND use it effectively on-the-job.

Challenge #3: We must deny our talent to those who don't deserve it. We must no longer lend our talent to abusive employers who treat working men and women as disposable widgets with DNA, costs to be offloaded the minute the economy gets tight (and threatens their bonus).

Employers believe they are engaged in a War for Talent. Sadly, they're right. An awful lot of people don't know what their talent is, haven't bothered to give it up-to-date skills and/or don't bring it to work with them. And, ironically it's that reality which makes employers vulnerable to economic disobedience.

The shortage of talent gives a huge competitive advantage to those of us who see ourselves as a person of talent and act that way. In essence, we can cherry pick the best employers - the ones that will respect and support our capacity for excellence. That not only gives us employment security, it enlists us in a new American assembly - the one I call "a multitude of hope."

Thanks for reading,
Peter

Visit my blog at Weddles.com/WorkStrong.

April 2012
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