On becoming obsolete

Published on May 17, 2022 by Matt Bud, The FENG
Evolving Job Market

It is a sad state of affairs when your presumed skills become obsolete, but like the buggy whip manufacturer of old, your only choice unless you want to become extinct is to adapt.

Let’s see, buggy whips are made out of leather, so a good first step would be to define yourself as a leather goods manufacturer. Of course, they didn’t have the Internet back in those days, but my bet is that many of the buggy whip manufacturers knew each other. And, if they didn’t know each other, they probably knew who their competition was and as demand fell, they took note of what steps others were taking to adapt their operations. The carriage makers didn’t have such a good time of it either, but they saw the light and began making automobile frames. Hey, personal transportation is personal transportation, and they knew what wealthy folks wanted in their appointments.

Many of our members over the years have seen their presumed occupation disappear. While it isn’t easy for YOU to see how your skills might be used, others often can see it. The example I would use is when you are trying to fix something, you look through all your spare parts for an appropriate item. I can assure you that the item you find would never advertise itself as a cure for your problem. How would it even know?

The goal in transmogrifying your background is to first do some heavy thinking about what your actual skills are. Don’t do so much thinking as to give yourself a headache, but you do have to start on your own and see where it takes you.

The next step is to call others who are just like you and see what they are up to. My guess is that rather than starve to death and have their families out in the street, they have started down the path of survival. Unlike the buggy whip manufacturers of old, we have the Internet. And, as a member of The FENG, you also have a FULL membership database at your fingertips. Using our Member Directory Search feature, you can search by names of the firms at which you have worked if that defines who you are, or you can search by Special Interest Group for things like Insurance or Asset Management in your local market.

Your goal is to find your “mirrors” – people who have enough similarities to your background that you can have a meaningful conversation with them about career direction.

While I am sure you can find jobs where you would be “starting over,” your objective is to identify your “highest and best use.” This is where the money is. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that two heads are better than one, but I will anyway. Network, network and then network more. The answers are out there somewhere.

If you do enough research among your peers, you will come out with a series of possibilities that will be more targeted than if you tried wandering around by yourself. With a target out there, no matter how vague, you will be better able to ask good networking questions.

Everyone hates change. That said, adapting to the changes around you is your only actual choice. There’s nothing worse than becoming obsolete and staying that way.

Regards, Matt