Unemployment of any kind is tough enough, but sometimes industries (or segments of industries) undergo something known as structural unemployment. These are changes so major that the ground feels like it shifts underneath us.
And, no matter what we do or how hard we work, the careers we once had start to disappear. I’m sure you can think of quite a few career fields and industries going through major changes at this moment.
A story of some chickens and lost hope
When I was growing up in upstate New York, I had a girlfriend whose family raised chickens (among other things) and sold eggs to make a living. Little by little, small egg farms began to disappear, gobbled up or simply pushed aside by the major egg producers.
Eventually, my friend’s dad couldn’t make ends meet any more. And he had to give up the business he loved. So he took a forced career change, going to work at a local hardware store. (Can any of you relate?)
Although the good news was he had a job and could support his family, he felt he had lost something important. A part of himself. He was a farmer in his heart, and never quite got over the loss.
Structural unemployment in changing times
A lot of people today are seeing the ground shift under them too. Big time. And there is much more to come, as automation and shifts in technology change the way the world functions.
Once perfectly good careers are fading away — some becoming as rare as (sorry) hen’s teeth. To keep those paychecks coming, many people adapt by taking jobs where they can. And then seeing where that leads.
But many are also seeing this as an opportunity for career transition — a time to explore options and dreams. And to find new skills that can help put you back in the driver’s seat of your career.
We need big solutions for sure. But in the meantime, we need to look out for ourselves and our own needs as best we can.
If you want to suggest changes to this or any other definition in our career dictionary, feel free to add your suggestions in a comment.
[Article updated in 2020]