For the past week or so, your burningpants correspondent has been travelling the country, talking to people, presenting data, meeting members of our high net worth panel and listening to what people have to say.

A lot of this time was spent with people from financial planning businesses and the banking industry, who have either just lost or are just about to lose their jobs.

This isn’t news really for anyone. Around the world, the banks are all busy sending messages to their shareholders that they are preparing for a new future by announcing layoffs in the tens of thousands. Both the Bank Of America and the HSBC are dismissing small towns (40,000 and 20,000 people respectively) and within Australian banks, several hundred are being shown the door.

It’s not just that people are being laid off. The two biggest financial planner networks have merged, so there will be redundancies there; the big trustee companies are reinventing themselves, so there will be redundancies there; the super funds are merging, so there will be redundancies there – all in all, it’s choppy out there, for everyone.

Some of the people who will be shown the door aren’t in a job that suits them, some of them should never have had the job but there are plenty of them who are good at what they do and frankly deserve better.

But like the market at the moment, businesses aren’t perfect and some decisions they make at the moment aren’t perfect either, but what really matters is how you handle yourself in this situation.

Even in tough times there are jobs to be had – but they will be hard to find; the selection criteria will be tough; the salary will be “flexible” and the competition will be steep.

Let’s start with utility. Learn to answer this question: What is it that you do and how much do you charge?

It’s not enough to be nice, it’s not enough to have 20 years experience, it’s not enough that you were paid $400,000 a year in your last job and your new employers don’t care about your Ph.D. Unless you can answer that question, don’t even show up for an interview.

Second – who knows you and what do they think of you? The industry is small and gossipy and unless you have managed that you are going to face some problems.

Third, whatever you do, clean up your act on the internet. In the process of recruiting people, we always Google them and the amount of inappropriate and revealing stuff that’s out there would surprise you.

On the positive side, if you are going for a job somewhere you can now find out a lot about them on the internet. Do the research and find out what they are doing, what their intentions are and where you fit in.

At CoreData we are constantly investing in our people. This is because we need to keep upgrading and building our skills – the business needs to be the intellectual equivalent of an American Seal strike team. The training has to be broad enough that we can deal with any situation.

This isn’t just our idea – in fact, all we have been reading recently about the future of work is that the whole business of information and management and analysis is changing so rapidly that the business needs to be able to flex fast.

It’s not just businesses, it’s people and according to everything we are reading it’s all going to change even faster.

Lynda Gratton of the London Business School in her latest book “The Shift, The Future of Work is Already Here”, says that the pace of change will be so rapid that people may have to acquire a new expertise every few years if they want to stay employed.

This means that a core skill that needs to be developed among employees is the ability to be part of continuous learning and that some people may find this within a single employer – but others will have to jump from employer to employer to make the best of skills shortages.

The other thing that people are going to have to do, according to Gratton, is actively build a tribe. She calls this ‘personal social capital’ – but the reality is you are going to need to find people who in the parlance of the Great TV show Survivor are going to vote you on the island.

Look around you now and identify those people.

The real message of the book Shift is that people are going to have to take responsibility for their own future and that the old idea of work and the employer in a parent-child relationship is gone.

As it turns out, you are going to have to take care of yourself.


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