Thursday, December 23, 2004

2004's Penultimate Friday [views]

by mvs

You know your prima’s youngest son, the dull one who dropped out of high school, and then even the pinche Army didn’t want him? Once upon a time, the vato would have found an assembly line job somewhere and settled down to a decent lower-middle class life. Pero sabes qué, unless your prima’s boy is Chinese, he ain’t gonna find that manufacturing job. Not here in the EUA.

And don’t look for help anytime soon.

It’s only slightly hyperbolic to say the US doesn’t manufacture anything any more. Remember sewing machines? Ball point pens? Television sets? Typewriters? Nix, nix, nay, no longer Made in the EUA. How about steel? Hecho en China. The shirt on your back? China. Your dining room table? China. Heck, even the leather jackets sold on Revolución in Tijuana? Hechos en China.

The US has become what futurist Fritz Machlup–forty years ago–called a “Post-Industrial Economy”. Machlup wasn’t too worried then. Only problem is, the US hasn’t kept up with the demands of the “knowledge economy” that has taken the place of domestic manufacturing.

Consider the demands and jobs a post-industrial economy produces when goods move from factory to end user through distribution channels. Your prima’s boy can go find work in a warehouse. Scut work at minimum wage.

Not that there isn’t money to be made, careers to be developed in a knowledge economy. Think sales and customer service. These are knowledge jobs.

Sales. Selling has always been the most important job in the economy. Trouble is, sales is one of those careers too many people hold in low esteem. Ever hear a farmer’s daughter joke? “This traveling salesman knocks on the farmer’s door and...” How about that wonderfully corny musical,"The Music Man", where fast-talking salesman Harold Hill romances the local librarian while ripping off the bumpkins. Among the great tragedies of US literature happens to Willy Loman when an eager young boss puts Willy on commission only. Ever seen “Glengarry Glen Ross,” about a horrible telemarketing room? "Tin Men", two crooked, aluminum siding salesmen?

Sales sucks and salesmen oughta be ashamed, there’s the message. Too darn bad. Sales drives the economic engine. Nothing happens in a factory until somewhere out in the field, someone writes the order.

Selling successfully requires special talent few people care to exercise. That’s why, for everyone who cannot or will not sell, there’s Customer Service, C/S.

C/S is knowledge work par excellence. “Where’s my order when am I going to get it?” “This thing doesn’t work and I want my money back!” “How much does it cost?” “Is that in stock?” All the answers are in the computer. And it takes a knowledge worker-- Customer Services– to satisfy the need. Or not. Who doesn’t have a dozen or a hundred horror stories about incompetent customer service?

So here’s the Friday bottom line. A post-industrial nation needs a college degree in Customer Service as a way of professionalizing C/S and creating a career path for the 21st century. You autodidacts out there, learn note-taking–I call it listening through your fingers; public speaking; keyboarding–I call that thinking through your fingers. Improve your reading ability. Practice thinking about details, speaking about specifics----use nouns and avoid pronouns--to become a better problem-solver. Oh, and the next telemarketer who calls with a great offer, be kind. That could be your prima’s youngest boy, working his first knowledge worker job.

Michael V. Sedano, Ph.D.

No comments: