10 Years Later, As Much As Work Changed, It Stayed The Same

BlogHer Original Post

One of my daughter's friends opened a time capsule on Whidbey Island around midnight on New Years Eve to highlight what was,and what has, changed in the first 10 years of this millennium. With no time capsule to review, I have to rely on my memory to think about what has changed in my life over the past ten years.

What surprises me the most, as I reflect back on the last decade, is that the changes in my work life are not as dramatic as I would have imagined.

On New Year's Eve 1999, I was glued to the television, needlepointing a pillow that has yet to be completed, eager to see how the new millennium would be celebrated around the world. While I had not stocked up on water and canned foods, I do think I shut down and unplugged my computer, holding my breath and hoping that all those consultants were successful in their efforts to stave off the technological nightmare known as Y2K.

As Tom Brokaw would say, "It was a heady time." The economy was on a growth spurt, and the unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level in 30 years. It was a boom time - we had just experienced nine years of consecutive growth. The biggest business story of 1999 was one that has now bitten us in the butt - the deregulation of the financial services industry.

Besides the concerns about Y2K, it was a time of great optimism. Like many others, my business was booming. I was having fun, and feeling very fortunate that I was able to make a living, support my family, and do the kind of work I loved doing. That optimism would last for another 18 months. I look back on those days with great fondness.

While I have a lot more technology than I had 10 years ago, the reality is my work-life has not changed radically in the past decade. In 1999/2000, I had internet access via DSL, and I thought life couldn't possibly get any better compared to the dial-up many people were still using. Okay, so now I have broadband and instead of thinking my service is fast, I am always amazed at how slow my connection is.

In 1999/2000, I had email. I believe I had an AOL email account. Email was still a new enough technology that I checked my in-box with eager anticipation. Friends regularly sent "water cooler jokes" and I forwarded them on to my network of friends. Now I have four email accounts, and I don't think I forwarded any messages of the joking variety to anyone this past year.

In 1999/2000, I used an AT&T calling card when I was on business travel, which meant I regularly used the hotel's telephone system. It's been a while since I've used hotel telephones for anything other than calling in for room service.

In 1999/2000, I had a Macintosh computer and used a Newton for note-taking in meetings. My Newton died sometime in 2000, and since the product was discontinued, I had to switch to a Palm pilot. In 2002, I had to give up my Mac and join the PC world because of client demands. Today, I bring my HP netbook to meetings. It feels very much the same as when I brought that Newton to meetings. Many people still would rather I take notes with pen and paper.

The brands that I am using have changed, but the basic computer technology is pretty much the same.

While it is true that I can access information faster, it really doesn't feel like my work is getting done faster. There's just more information to consider before I finish my research. With so much available, I feel delinquent if I don't drill down to find everything I possibly can on a subject. I don't want to miss out on something important or obvious.

In the past decade, I've gone through probably six computers, 10 cell phones, four Blackberries, and a handful of modems. What hasn't changed in the past 10 years is the essential thing that I do. I help my clients figure out what they need to say to get the results they want.

The tools may have changed, the distribution channels may be different, but the relationship and the thinking that must occur is all the same. That realization is incredibly comforting. You can take away all the technology, and I could still do what I do. It would be different. It would be at a different pace, but my relationship to my clients and what I bring to the table is essentially the same product I brought to the table in 2000. Me.

Kevin Wheeler, writing about the recruiting industry came to the same conclusion,

As it turned out, neither the average cost per hire nor the average time to present a qualified candidate has changed much despite the introduction of all the tools that the Internet made possible.

Not everyone shares the opinion that the fundamentals of work are mundanely consistent. Freelance Folder has a post highlighting the 10 Ways Freelancing Has Changed in the Decade.

Writing for NewsLab, Deborah Potter looks back on the decade for journalism and basically says, "good riddance."

Besides the technology and the gadgets, has your work changed dramatically in the past decade or has technology simply changed the tools you use?


BlogHer Contributing Editor: Business & Career


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