Interviews with Neil Patrick, owner of 40PlusCareerGuru.

PART 2: Where is the safest place for future employment?

Technology is driving the world towards a globally interconnected, multi-national economy. For better or worse, this change is happening quickly and will dramatically impact employment opportunities. Personal financial security will rest, in large part, on the ability of individuals to prepare and adapt as these changes take place.


This is the second part of an interview with Neil Patrick who gives excellent tips for jobseekers as the employment landscapes causes some industries to disappear and others flourish. Neal is founder and owner of 40PlusCareerGuru an online job and career website for mature jobseekers that focuses on surviving and thriving the global jobs crisis. This is a “must-visit-often” website.

Q: What do you see as the future for large corporations, especially from a global commerce perspective?

We all know that globalisation has had a huge impact on businesses and their people. If you are Indian, Chinese or Brazilian, it’s generally positive. If you are American or European, it’s not.

It’s tempting to think that the successful overseas expansion of US multinationals must be a good thing for the US economy and US workers.

Think again. From 1999 to 2008, employment at the foreign affiliates of US parent companies rose 30 percent to 10.1 million. At the same time, US employees of American multinational corporations decreased 8 percent to 21.1 million.

Over that time, US multinationals created 522,000 jobs in China,
251,000 jobs in India, 137,000 in Brazil and
121,000 in Mexico.

Because of American trade policy, which opens up foreign markets full of cheap labor for US multinationals, companies have flocked to those areas where labor is cheap and plentiful and labor and environmental standards are nearly non-existent.

So here we see simple market economics
eroding jobs for US workers within US multinationals.

What can western workers do about this?
Here’s a quote from Jonathan Berr at the 24/7 Wall Street Blog:

“The sad thing is that the outsourcing trend hurts everyone. Companies in China and India are facing stiff competition from even lower-cost countries. Unfortunately, the world economy is now on a roller-coaster ride that no one can figure out how to stop.”

As businesses can now expand into global markets faster and more easily than ever before, there’s a temptation to think that people can simply adapt to do the same.

This is naive. Even if I spoke fluent standard Chinese and Cantonese, I think I’d need at least 5 years working in China to start to be able to work effectively in that country. Even for native Chinese people, very few can conduct effective business throughout the whole country. Most westerners do not know that China actually has nearly 300 languages spoken within its boundaries…

But the trend to globalisation is not just driven by cost aspects, it’s also a market imperative. Take a look here to see how McDonald’s takes its products and adapts their marketing to better suit local markets:

MaDonald's Logo

  • China, complete with authentic superslow Chinese internet link (!)
  • And here in Brazil.

Regardless of what we think about McDonald’s as a business, we can see here how the product and marketing is owned and adapted at a local level, it’s not simply a translated version of the US consumer proposition rolled out across the globe. I am sure that all this marketing was created in the country of sale, not in the US.

So as companies expand globally, whether they are US firms or not, they have cost and market imperatives to expand their human resource at a local level. And this means that the lowest cost labor source will always win.

All this suggests to me that even with steady economic recovery in the US, we will continue to see low wage jobs growth in the US over the coming decade, but very little, if any growth in higher paid managerial and professional jobs.

Q: What are the impacts of globalisation for US workers within multinationals?

At a personal career level, I think the biggest impacts of globalisation for western workers within US multinationals have been:

  • The increased complexity of organisational structures and growth of matrix structures, meaning that people have to be able to perform effectively within a less rigid and hierarchical framework
  • The increased need for teams to operate internationally and cross-culturally.
  • The need for people to face the personal challenge of relocation, nationally or internationally in order to develop their careers with the same organisation.

When times are good and the rewards are high, many people are willing to accept these challenges. But at a time when wages are growing little if at all, job insecurity and workloads are rising, this is a big ask. From my conversations with professionals in large corporations around the world, I know many are beginning to question if the sacrifices and frustrations are really worth it.

From a corporate perspective, I think we are in an interesting time. The need to serve global markets places a premium on people who can operate across cultural boundaries. But as I said above, it takes years to acquire an adequate level of cultural empathy for anyone to perform at their best in non-domestic markets. And in the meantime, if people are struggling to cross these boundaries, it’s not going to help the business and may even hinder it.

This challenge is being amplified by the fact that the Internet and digital communications cross international boundaries almost effortlessly.

Q: Many jobseekers see their ideal job in a large corporation, believing there is greater safety in that environment. Do you think this is true? Is it a safer place for workers?

Change Adapt Evolve 3D Words on White Background

Good question. For most people no, I don’t believe it one bit. I think this belief is founded in the nostalgia for a long-extinct world that our parents inhabited. In that world, if you did a half-decent job, you could expect to remain employed for almost as long as you wished with the same employer.

Big, famous company names on your resume were seen as badges of achievement and surrogates for personal excellence. It was a world with far less globalisation and it was perfectly usual for people to progress their career over 10, 15 or even 20 years with the same employer in the same place.

Today, no matter how good you are or how hard you work, the next restructure could easily see you out of work and desperately seeking a job just a few weeks from now.

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That said, I think that another answer lies in each individual’s life stage and mindset. If you see yourself as a global citizen, have multiple language and cultural skills, an in- demand skillset and you’re happy to locate yourself anywhere in the world, then for such people, the opportunities are immense.

Right now, some of the very best young UK business talent is learning Chinese and relocating to China…and reportedly having great success there.

But this is the exception not the rule. The more important question is what about the majority of professionals who don’t match that very specific profile?

Next week Neil will give us his top tips for surviving and thriving in the global economy.

If you want to read Part 1 of this series, click here.

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