24/7 Wall St recently ran an article entitled “The Ten American Industries Which Will Never Recover”. Their list is interesting – summarized here:
- Construction: because of the existing inventory of unsold homes – we have whole, recent ghost towns for sale (especially since the lenders kicked everybody out instead of cutting them down to a real interest rate)
- Automotive Manufacturing: because we’re OK now driving last year’s model now, and oil is still going up
- Realtors: because there was already a surplus of agents, and now home prices have dropped, while home sales are in decline
- Pharmaceuticals: because that industry has been in decline for a long time – and they can’t replace drugs going off patent fast enough – we could, of course, be seeing more made-up treatable conditions, though <wink>
- Newspapers: because they were on the way out anyway – the internet, e-readers, automation, and consolidation of news sources into an interchangeable handful of providers
- Airlines: because of more mergers (e.g. Continental and United) and fewer air travelers
- Big Telecom: because we’re using Cell and VOIP over landlines (I haven’t had a land line in years), and because of price wars on cell phones (around here we were predicting Blockbuster and Barnes & Noble floating to the surface for similar reasons – and sure enough…)
- State and Local Govt: because budgets are pickled everywhere (you don’t get something from nothing), and property taxes are diving too (from the housing crash)
- Installation, Maintenance, and Repair: because a lot of those jobs depend on the housing industry, and others are glutted with soldiers coming home and needing civilian work that utilizes their technical training
- Bank Tellers: because of online technology and ATMs – tellers are now the valets of banking – they’re luxury service providers
All of these industries are bleeding people that are perhaps going back to school – retraining, starting their own business, doing contract work, switching careers, or even several of the above (diversifying their income sources – a naturally wise move, and not just a defensive one).
These are, typically, skilled and experienced professionals, used to benefits and steady pay, coming from sectors affected by an economic apparatus that’s not coming back or a technological one that’s not coming back. What Free Agency provides is an entrance into a work market instead of just a gutted job market, the security of the benefits they’re used to, the support of a corporation which they’re generally used to, but a way to escape either competing for dwindling jobs or having to entirely invent a corporation of their own. It’s not really a vocational half way house as much as it is a way to transition, on the one hand, to a new area of work and to revise, on the other, the basis of work that didn’t provide especial security and stability (in hindsight) by actually putting more freedom and control back in their hands.
If it’s true that these industries are not coming back, not really, then maybe the question that those coming out of them need to ask is not just “what specific kind of work will I do now?” but also “what kind of work relationships will I create now?” In other words, what happens when the next industry takes a hit, because of its dependence on the house of straw we’ve built, or else is just made obsolete? Maybe the solution is not to focus only on the content of the work you’ll be doing but also the type of work arrangement. Self-employment, 1099 contract work, or Free Agency, may well afford more security and stability than the illusion of another safe industry can deliver. After all, once someone is capable of adapting to various projects, situations, and assignments in an ongoing way, and if they’re toting their own group health care and corp to corp contract (like the ones Free Agent Source provide), it’s much harder to create an environment in which they can’t be useful. Free Agents just aren’t tied, in a hard and fast way, to only one particular industry or kind of work – they’re more fluid than that. The have some of the ability to adapt and integrate that a temp would, but have the benefits of a regular employee, and some of the freedom of an entrepreneur. This kind of hybrid approach may actually afford the most security and strength to those streaming out of dying or broken industries – it’s a kind of alloy of the best features of all work arrangements – providing at once vocational agility and strength. Leaving the 10 dying or broken images for life as a Free Agent may just be the second lease on work that’s needed to revitalize industries in decline while also bolstering those industries’ former workers.