John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


The Self-Service World

Posted on April 2, 2013

More than 2 million clerical jobs have been wiped out since 2007.

That's according to the Financial Times, and it helps to explain why the median U.S. income has declined 5.6 percent despite the fact that the economy has largely recovered from the crash.

The top ten percent of American earners, according to FT, are doing quite nicely, because their jobs have not gone away.

Think about it.  If you are a bookkeeper, a teller, a data-entry worker, a file clerk or a typist, you have a pretty hard job keeping a job or finding one, for that matter.   Grocery stores are even scaling back on cashiers, as self-check outs and online shopping becomes more of the norm.

When my father was an executive at a big company, he had Maddie.  Maddie did his scheduling, typed up his memos (although my dad, as a former journalist, could type well and fast), answered his phone calls, and generally ran his life. When my Dad went to the gas station, an attendant filled up his gas tank and wiped his windows.  He had to go to the bank every week to cash a check there, because there wasn't cash machines to get cash any time you needed it.

In iPhone era, I do my own scheduling, my own typing.  I fill up my own gas tank.  I have cash anytime I want to.  I often go to the self-service check out line.

What mechanization did for manufacturing, the information age has done to the clerical world.

When executives are more self-sufficient, they don't need to pay anybody to do jobs they can themselves.

Not everybody can be an executive.  Not everybody can be a salesman.  Not everybody can be an engineer to fix the things that get broken.

But we have to be creative in finding work for the workers who don't have any work to do.

I am not sure if job re-training necessarily works for everybody.  My guess is that the best place for a lot of these people to work is in the health care industry.  You can never have too many nurses and as our population ages, we will need more people to care of the old people.

Not everybody can afford college or is necessarily college material.  And I wouldn't recommend law school for anybody these days, given the dismal state of the law profession these days.  But in this self-service world, potential clerks beware.  Those jobs are disappearing.