The way the job market has changed has caused a lot of people pain. Why? Because how they've done things in the past doesn't work so well today. This is a common theme in Seth Godin's new book Linchpin. I consider him somewhat of a seer or prophet of the business world.
Seth is a master at foretelling the demise or shrinking of entire industries – like the newspaper and music industries. In 2008 he talked about an industry I love (it’s why I call myself Newspapergrl) that is radically changing. He’s bold enough to declare it’s the end. He’ll use it as a case study in a speech in about seven years from now.
"Newspapers are going to go out of business in the next ten years all around the world. There are two problems in the United States newspaper industry. One is that you make a living from cutting down lots of trees, making the paper and hiring trucks to deliver the newspapers to stores. That's not how information travels anymore."
"The second problem is that newspapers make their money from classified ads. Now those ads work better and cost less online so I think there's no question that there will be organizations like newspapers, but they're not going to be in paper form. The sooner that people who make newspapers realize that and get into a different business the happier they're going to be. They need to concentrate all their efforts online." ~ Figuring Out The Words: The Seth Godin Interview
In this book Seth talks directly to you. What he says may alternatively scare or empower you. He also walks the walk with his unique ways of scheduling tours and holding internships.
No matter if and when an economic recovery happens, our economy has fundamentally changed. Some jobs won't ever be replaced. What are linchpins? We're not used to using the definition of linchpin he is referring to.
The Free Dictionary describes a linchpin as "a person or thing regarded as an essential or coordinating element the linchpin of the company."
A linchpin cannot be replaced or duplicated. As in Seth's other books he comes at the topic in creative and unique ways. I heard him talk when he came to Salt Lake a few months ago. I always laugh to myself that he publishes so many books – printed books (so old school). The lights were down – so we could experience what he was saying. His slides are elegant, funny and beautiful. He's a master storyteller. It's entertaining and enlightening – no one nodding off. But you still feel like the story is one of doom. That, or opportunity.
Interestingly, he has a tough time selling the audience of almost 700 on what he's teaching. He takes our temperature a few times. There is resistance. The lizard brain is working.
He weaves the history of work into the discussion – which I appreciate because this has been building up over time. Also, a lot of us are guilty of almost wanting to discard the past when we talk about the future.
The message is stark. If you're an employer you can't treat everyone like they work in a factory. If you're an employee or own your own business and you are interchangeable you will be replaced with someone cheaper or a machine. Another part is, this isn't going to be easy.
It’s a message I’ve heard before – in other books I’m reading – the updated New Rules of Marketing & PR, and John Jantsch’s new book, The Referral Engine. The linchpins (and David Meerman Scott and John Jantsch are linchpins) get referrals, and referrals lead to business. Jantsch has more “how to” but still there is no system that fits all – you have to create your own.
After reading about the necessity of being remarkable, I start to wonder to myself if I'm remarkable (almost every day, several times a day). Thanks to social media I'm getting the thoughts and goings on of many remarkable people in my industry. It can be intimidating. What keeps coming back to me is the line from the Incredibles: If everyone is special than no one is.
But what I think Seth is really asking is that you bring creativity and courage to your work. The relief is that you don't have to be perfect, but you do have to commit to continuing to innovate. However it is hard work – although it's not physical work – it's tough emotional and mental work. It’s artistic.
This book is both a challenge and a warning. Read it and start figuring out what you’re going to do next.
* * * * *
About the Author: Janet Meiners Thaeler is an Evangelist for OrangeSoda Inc. and the principal blogger for their corporate blog and Twitter account. She regularly advises clients on blogging and social media strategies. Her own blog is Newspapergrl and Twitter account is @newspapergrl. She is passionate about online marketing and is always looking for new insights, resources and trends to help her clients.