Career Assessment Information:
Cerebral Palsy Career Builder for Job Seekers

By Jim Hasse, ABC, GCDF, Disability Employment Expert

Continually updating career assessment information is crucial today for the job seeker with cerebral palsy (CP) you’re guiding as a parent, coach or mentor.

Under the “new economy,” old occupational categories and traditional notions about what skills are in highest demand (the essentials of career information) don't quite ring true anymore, says Robert B. Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, in "The Future of Success" (2001, Alfred A. Knopf, New York).

I was curious about how Reich’s vision back in 2001 stacks up with today’s reality and what that means to those of us with CP who are trying to navigate the job market. So, I revisited Reich’s “new economy,” and here’s what I have found. I hope some of this career assessment information is helpful to you and your job seeker.

For decades, according to Reich, U.S. government and industry leaders have classified jobs according to these familiar categories:

  • Managers
  • Professionals
  • Sales
  • Administrative support
  • Service workers
  • Production workers

Back in 2001, Reich believed these job classifications were becoming increasingly outdated as the U.S. moved into the “new economy.”

Arrows in a circle, illustrating career assessment information.

Defining the new economy

In his 2001 book, Reich says the new, then-still-emerging economy is marked by these two basic principles:

  1. Choices for products and services are widening for consumers, who are finding it increasingly easier to "get a better deal" in a highly competitive marketplace. Technological advances, such as the Internet (and iPhones and iPads), have created a commercial atmosphere in which there are "no-secrets" about a competitor's products, making it easy to compare prices, quality, features and consumer satisfaction ratings.

  2. Sellers of products and services, as a result, are less secure, and that insecurity is spurring an unprecedented era of innovation. But that innovation also means there is very little job security and company loyalty. And the traditional lines for remuneration and paths to promotion within a company are breaking down.

Reich concludes that these two forces (more choices and more innovation) increasingly place a premium on two types of workers:

  • "Geeks" (computer programmers, software developers, network administrators etc.) who can help companies innovate by using "outside the box" information technology to produce and market products cheaper, better and faster.

  • "Shrinks" (consumer researchers, product design specialists, marketing experts etc.) who can also think "outside the box" to turn what the "geeks" develop into products and services consumers need and want and then market them effectively.

Most individuals are not both a "geek" and a "shrink." But those in either group who are team builders -- who can help the "geeks" and "shrinks" to work together, share knowledge each group possesses and produce innovative products and services -- will be particularly in high demand in the future, Reich predicted in 2001.

Almost two decades later, I find that Reich’s career assessment information is still mostly on target.

These four quotes from Reich's "The Future of Success" are particularly interesting to me because I believe they give us a feel for how the “new economy” is affecting us as individuals:

  • "The real value of a college education to one's job prospects has less to do with what is learned than with who is met."

  • "The 'old boy' network is being replaced by an 'attest for' network in which the best jobs go to people whom others already in the network know and can vouch for."

  • "Individuals now blaze their own career paths by making their reputations in their fields, not in their organizations."

  • "In the new economy, you get ahead not by being well liked but by being well marketed."

The rise of social media, personal branding and the “creativity” attribute among today’s job seekers during the last decade has certainly put more stress on “traditional” organizations, which reward employees for loyalty and longevity and thrive on predictability instead of innovation.

More relevant occupational categories

According to Reich, both the "geeks" and "shrinks" of the new economy are "creative" workers. They will continue to be the highest paid (within the top 25 percent of U.S. income categories) for their services, even though knowledge of information technology is becoming only a secondary, indirect requirement (behind creativity) for the work they do, he predicted in 2001.

In the new “economy,” Reich says, more relevant occupational categories are emerging. In 2001, his career assessment information identified these four main groups within the emerging U.S. economy:

  • Symbolic analysts ("creative" workers) - about 25 percent of the workforce.

  • Routine production workers - about 20 percent of the workforce.

  • In-person service workers - about 30 percent of the workforce.

  • Government, farmers, miners and extractors of natural resources - about 25 percent of the workforce.

A decade after Reich wrote “The Future of Success,” it’s important to note his career assessment information and his vision of the U.S. are probably now somewhat more complicated than these four classifications suggest.

In 2009, after all, financial services accounted for about 40 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the U.S. (Department of Commerce, Bureau of Labor Statistics).

And, in the last decade, the U.S. has closed more than 42,000 factories, putting at least five million out of work, according to The American Prospect.

Those two trends (the growth in financial services and the decline in factory work) are examples of the type of career assessment information that your job seeker needs to track on a routine basis.

Future Job Growth

Under the emerging new economy, Reich foresaw jobs multiplying in:

  • Health sciences and health care.

  • Entertainment and the arts.

  • Services which increase our attractiveness to others.

  • Intellectual stimulation and intentional learning.

  • Contact, networking and clearinghouse services.

  • Family well-being for all members from child care to senior services.

  • Financial security.

Even in the light of the rise of financial services and decline in manufacturing during the last decade, these seven job-growth areas still seem to be on target with U.S. Labor projections.

It's important to note that "creative" workers -- information technology and marketing specialists -- will likely to continue to find a strong job market within each of these seven job sectors.

That's also an example of how complex career assessment information can become because major and minor trends often overlap each other.

What this means for your job seeker

How does your job seeker with CP take advantage of the American (and, eventually, global) transition into the new economy? Here are six important steps he or she can begin to take right now:

  • Continue to work with you because, as a job coach, a career counselor, a mentor, or a career-coaching parent, you understand and keep up to date with transitions within the U.S. economy.

  • Reaffirm who he or she is in terms of skills, temperament, communication style and learning needs.

  • Take workshops and volunteer for experiences which help develop interpersonal communication, teamwork and team-building skills -- skills needed no matter where he or she finds the best fit (in the traditional or in the “new economy”).

  • Make the best use of time, effort and money by creatively choosing a career niche in a job sector which is growing in demand.

  • Get to know which companies and organizations are successfully operating in the old economy and which are successfully operating in the “new economy,” learn about their corporate cultures and then intentionally target those which fit his or her career niche and temperament.

  • Use networking skills to monitor big, small and subtle changes in the paradigms for both traditional and “new economy” companies and use that career assessment information to adjust career management plans accordingly.

Actually, these six steps are the framework for making the best use of the career assessment information you and your young job seeker collect through networking with others, by pursuing lifelong learning and as frequent visitors to the U.S Department of Labor website.

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Originally written and illustrated by Jim Hasse, ABC, GCDF, owner of Hasse Communication Counseling, LLC, who, as a person with cerebral palsy, served for 10 years as a vice president in a Fortune 500 company during his 29-year career in corporate communication. He’s an Accredited Business Communicator, certified as a Global Career Development Facilitator and author of 14 Amazon books about disability awareness and disability employment issues.