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The engineering students I used to work with seemed pretty impressed by one of the books they had to read in a technology, globalization, and culture course: Thomas L. Friedman’s “The World is Flat.” I finally got around to reading it, and found one particular section of the book that resonated for me, with my varied job history. To paraphrase: the world’s changing, bub; you’d better get with the program and work that brain!

Swiss Army Brain

Swiss Army Brain

People are losing their jobs because technology has made their work obsolete, because their company is relocating operations overseas, because their company is downsizing, because they are (like me) relocating to follow a spouse’s job. All this change is reflected in employment statistics: the average person will likely hold more than ten different jobs over their lives. A critical skill in moving from one job to another is the ability to learn.

Friedman describes a modern business culture that meshes with my own personal experience job-hopping: an attitude of lifelong learning is required to stay afloat.

. . . people need to become less like specialty tools and more like Swiss Army knives. Those ‘Swiss Army knives’ are the versatilists.

Versatilists are capable not only of constantly adapting but also of constantly learning and growing. (p.294)

Twice thus far my world has changed because I’ve followed my spouse to new cities for his doctoral and postdoctoral pursuits. My ability to learn has sustained my employability through these relocations.

We are uprooting a third time. The “late 2000s recession” job picture is still dim. I am not fond of the upheaval and uncertainty I’m facing, but I am confident that my ability to learn will carry me through to a new job. I’m excited about the new subjects get to take a stab at!

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