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Forget Your Industry. How Safe is Your Job from Amazon?

Measures that matterThe other day, I talked about industries getting “Amazon’d,” where technological shifts (largely brought to bear by the AGFAM-ily), disrupt traditional industry players. More importantly, I talked about how your business can adapt in such an environment.

However, a number of you wrote to me saying, “Screw my industry. What about my career?!?” Or something very much to that effect.

Now, I don’t want to offer false platitudes. (Y’know, as opposed to all those true platitudes going around these days.) It’s fairly certain at least some people will be displaced by these changes.

Unfortunately, that’s not new.

Equally unfortunately, many countries don’t have a great process for helping people transition to new opportunities (or, in the worst cases, few new opportunities exist).

As for whether these disruptive shifts signal “the end of work,” as Jeremy Rifkin called it in his 1995 book of the same name, I honestly have no idea.

In my defense, no one does. While Rifkin’s work may have been prescient, remember that the book was written 13 years prior to the current unemployment crisis. It’s possible his thesis foretold the future. It’s also possible it represents the proverbial broken clock, with the last few years representing one of the two times he’ll actually be right.

Even more telling, Rifkin’s not the first to make this claim. Theorists dating back to John Maynard Keynes in the 1930’s predicted an end to work brought about by a machine age (though, in Keynes’ view, massive technological shifts resulted in the “good problem” of what to do with an abundance of leisure time). And the original Luddites of the early 1800’s smashed machines out of fear of losing their jobs permanently.

So, the “end of work” crowd doesn’t exactly have a stellar track record here.

Of course, the fact that none of these folks have been right in the past doesn’t mean that they are automatically wrong now.

Me? I tend to follow a “plan for the worst, hope for the best,” strategy. Or, as put far better by computer scientist Alan Kay, “The only way to predict the future is to build it.”

Labor, yours and others, is a product. As a marketer, I’m all about products. Whether machines can do “all” the work, plenty of opportunities will exist to fill customer (or, if you must, employer) needs going forward.

The means of production and distribution are now, effectively, free. So use them to your advantage.

Sites like Etsy and Freelancer.com and 99designs and DeviantArt and Disc Makers and Threadless and, yes, Amazon, Google, YouTube, and on and on and on offer opportunities to put your work, your creativity, and your passion in front of potential customers.

Sources like Khan Academy and Coursera and MIT Open Courseware and iTunes U and YouTube and loads of others enable you to learn new skills (like, say, programming, network engineering, or training), on which those machines, their operators, and the capital behind them rely.

New customer segments like older, increasingly active adults, Millenials requiring mentoring, Boomers requiring reverse mentoring, and on and on and on will require myriad new products and services and features and benefits that you can provide if you follow my long-standing advice and focus on your customer (even if, in this case, the customer is somebody different than you’re accustomed to serving).

I’ve said many times that marketing is so much more than advertising. It’s creating products, and finding the right place, price, and promotional vehicles necessary to put those products in front of the right customer. At its core, it’s about helping people solve their problems.

And as long as there are people, there’s an opportunity for you to help them. For fun. And for profit. And if that’s not a job worth doing, I don’t know what is.

Interested in learning more about the future of marketing? Register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

And you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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