‘Drop That GPS and See Where Life Takes You!’

How we respond to the unexpected can make for interesting journeys rich in opportunity.

August 27, 2012
Lora Kloth is a research librarian at CUNA.
Lora Bray is research librarian at CUNA.

I enjoyed baked ziti for lunch today, but the best part of my mid-day outing was reconnecting with an old CUNA friend and colleague, now working at a credit union.

We chatted about old times and mutual friends. Then the conversation shifted to discussion of change—in our careers, our families, thoughts about our respective futures, and to musings about the credit union movement itself.  We wondered how might things evolve in our unique work environments as our institutions respond to shifting demands of the financial services industry.

It was an invigorating talk. We left on a high note, optimistic about whatever lies ahead.

As we careened out of the parking lot, the navigational system flew off the dashboard. My friend was about to make a pithy comment; hastily amended with the interruption. “What I was going to say, Lora, is drop that GPS and see where life takes you!” We laughed.

In our jobs, are we enslaved to road maps directing us to carefully planned destinations, when perhaps a free-wheeling openness might ultimately lead us to better places? Or, perhaps our destination might be the same, but interesting detours or varied routes are advantageous as we learn and grow.

Appearance of the unexpected and our responses to it can make for interesting journeys rich in opportunity, if we allow.

Employment news in the fast lane

Lots of news on the employment scene this week. Let’s begin with, “Number of jobs held, labor market activity, and earnings growth among the youngest baby boomers: Results from a longitudinal survey summary.” 

Here, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) outlines trends of worker boomers: “Individuals held an average of 11.3 jobs from ages 18 to 46,” and, “The inflation adjusted earnings of these workers increased most rapidly while they were young…For men and women…growth rates in inflation-adjusted hourly earnings generally were higher for workers with more education.”

Motoring along to a world view, Gallup tells us the world is pessimistic about job prospects. Surveys conducted in 146 countries reveal, “Fifty-seven percent of adults worldwide…said it was a bad time to find a job in their local communities…Europeans were most pessimistic…Optimism was highest in the Americas, where a still dismal 38% said it was a good time.”

Public sentiment on employment is an indicator of economic confidence, so this is important news.

For more on American employment realities, see “An Overview of U.S. Occupational Employment and Wages in 2011,” also by BLS. “Most of the 10 largest occupations in May 2011 were relatively low-paying…occupations associated with manufacturing, construction, retail trade, and transportation were among those with the greatest job losses.”

Further, “the largest public sector occupations were in education and found mainly in local government.”

Where are your members working? What are their incomes? What are their thoughts on future employment prospects?

The Industry-Occupation Mix of U.S. Job Openings and Hires” by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco constructs “estimates of job openings by industry and occupation…” yielding “an estimate of the number of job openings” and “the average number of hires per job opening.”

This data-rich study constructs time series between 2005 and 2011.

Can we apply some of these lessons and practices as we look forward to member employment opportunities?

Let’s put things in reverse with a glimpse at unemployment issues. In “Racial and Ethnic Differences in Receipt of Unemployment Insurance Benefits During the Great Recession”  by the Urban Institute, we learn that even after accounting for variances in education, employment history, and reasons for unemployment, “The Great Recession hit black workers harder; the unemployment rate was higher for non-Hispanic blacks than for non-Hispanic white or Hispanic workers, and black unemployed workers had the lowest receipt of unemployment insurance benefits; 23.8 percent compared to whites’ 33.2 percent.”

Retirement exit ramp

New Report Finds Public Sector Employees Uncertain about Retirement,” notes the TIAA-CREF Institute. “Only 19 percent of full-time public sector workers are very confident in their retirement income prospects, with many expressing concern about the impact of rising health care costs.”

What interesting conclusions can we draw based on the earlier data revealing public sector employment realities?

Along the same side of the street, there’s “Little Thought Put into Retirement Date,” surmises Boston College. Apparently, most of us give more thought to the acquisition of car or mattress than retirement date implications.

“Individual decisions about the timing of an application to start up Social Security benefits depend simply on the order in which the person thinks about the benefits of his actions: those who first think about the advantages of claiming early, and vice versa. That’s it!”

Would members benefit from information on making prudent retirement decisions?

Before we screech to a halt, look at “Fraud Insights Derived from Stories of Auditors at Financial Institutions.”

Here, “The analysis of fraud risk factors is a proactive audit tool in today’s environment. The current study used hindsight to analyze fraud risk factors from a convenience sample of one audit partner’s recollections of the financial institutional environment of credit unions… (It) used content analysis to uncover emerging themes in a sort of ethnographic study of five fraud and five non-fraud stories pertaining to credit unions. The result is a published fraud risk assessment checklist that was applied to the fraud stories.”

It seems we can ensure that we don’t run out of gas on our journeys with the incorporation of a simple attitude.

The secret, I think, is to remain nimble. Flexibility is essential in not only living daily life but in meeting the needs of our jobs and members.

Of course, planning is essential—we need to know what we want to achieve. But an open attitude and mind will allow us to successfully navigate detours and bumps in the road along the way.

Hop in the driver’s seat!

LORA BRAY is a research librarian in CUNA's business-to-business publishing department.