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What Happened I

(February 28, 2007)
It got easier for people to become their own factories. The cost of applying for a job fell to $0. Layoffs became a way of managing growth. PC Ownership became universal in the upper middle class.

The change was gradual and took nearly 30 years. People who worked in large companies were able to have secretaries create a résumé for them when Wang Word Processing machines became common place in 1978. Slowly, through a combination of printer decentralization and copying machine multiplication, it became easier for workers to generate mass copies of their résumés without having to venture into a print shop. In other words, the print shop was the first point of disintermediation.

By early 1981, desktop computers were relatively commonplace in the offices of Fortune 500 firms. As the PC wedged its way deeper into the bureaucracies, workers became more and more savvy about using a word processor to develop their own résumé. People stopped having secretaries by the end of the 1980s.

For a significant period of time, the way that people learned how to use their PC was by starting the job hunting project. Still today, Microsoft Word always ships with Résumé templates. As downsizing became the fashion (led by the Defense Industry downturn), people began switching jobs with more regularity. Many Americans purchased their first computer as a part of the experience of being downsized. Step 1 in many job hunts is "buy a new computer".

There is a remarkable freedom in being the author and publisher of your own résumé. Tailoring it to the needs of a specific opportunity becomes much easier when you own the file and the computer. Producing a crisp copy on demand is a simple task. One of the key barriers to mobility is overcome once you can generate your own resume.

Layoffs, downsizing and advances in personal publishing and computer mediated communications generated a very quiet but transformative revolution in the American workforce. No longer bound to a job by information deficits and communications overheads, workers were freed from any sense of obligation by the behavior of their employers.

In economics, the velocity of money is a critical factor. Velocity is the rate at which money changes hands. In many fundamental equations an increase in velocity is the same as an increase in the supply of money. The early 1990s saw the first increase in employment velocity.

By the time that the job boards opened for business, Resumes were routinely produced on a computer and then shifted into a paper form. In a few short years, the job boards all but eliminated the paper from the transaction.

So, the first thing that happened was a decade in which the ground was laid for a friction free employment application process. Employees, a class of people who had been tied to their jobs by geography and information deficits, were beginning their journey towards freedom. Though it is fair to say that the prize of freedom has not yet been used very well, it is eaually reasonable to say that today's American worker enjoys an unheard of level of economic freedom from his or her employer.

John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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