Henry Ford once said,
The only real security that a man can have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience and ability.
What’s interesting about this quote is that my paternal grandfather worked for Henry Ford, inventing things such as the one piece metal roofs on cars. Why did he invent it? Because my father, being where a small child wasn’t supposed to be, put his foot through the tarred canvas roof that cars had once upon a time.
My grandfather was going to school in Germany when the hyperinflation happened in the 1920’s. He had not yet converted his Swiss francs to German Marks and survived. His friend was not so fortunate and lost everything.
For years, my grandfather told us to have job skills and keep them current. Even if we lost all our money, the ability to earn money could not be taken away. It was our security for tough times. You have to imagine his thick accent as he would repeatedly give us this counsel.
That advice was true then and it is true still today. I have friends who are unemployed and underemployed. Our receptionist at work lost her job as an accountant and is working as a temp, greeting visitors and issuing badges. It’s not a great use of her talents, but she has remain employed. She hasn’t been in a hurry though to find another job – she’s really enjoyed doing this and is very good at it.
Other unemployed friends are working for the government as auditors, starting their own consulting firms, or working as contract labor. It’s not great either, but it’s better than being unemployed and they’re grateful to have the work.
My favorite boy toy and I have invested heavily in my career. We’ve moved around the country for better jobs or in some cases, to be employed. I keep my networks strong and intact, and my job skills as well. I enjoy technology, but more importantly make it a point to be current in its techniques and applications.
I hope to not be unemployed again – I’ve had my turn thank you – and am fortunate to both be employed and challenged in my current position. Grandpa’s advice has stood me well all these years, as it has my daughter as she establishes her career and job skill set. She tried the dog business for a year, closed it, and was able to re-enter the job market without a hitch (two interviews – two job offers – how good was that!).
My father-in-law established himself a new career when he was over 60 years old and worked ten more years. He was a master machinist, working in the plants that printed magazines until they were closed and the work went overseas. The union found him a contract job at the research facilities of Amoco Oil, where to his surprise he became quite the prize with the scientists seeking him out for his knowledge.
He didn’t understand for a long time that they valued him because he could deliver their ideas, knew how to construct the physical whatever-was-needed, and do it a very tight specification. They sought him out to try out their ideas while in the conceptual stage, knowing that he had the expertise to judge if the idea would work or not. I was proud of him for taking his skill set and making a new career from it.
This post became much longer than I intended. The point is that our job skills are important, whether we work with our hands or our brains. The ability to think, learn, and bring experience to the workplace will help many of us in the days ahead, whether staying where we are at or being forced into unwanted change. Keep learning, keep growing and nurture your talents.
Here is my grandfather, next to the machine that he invented for Henry Ford. I imagine he worked directly with Henry Ford on occasion. Henry Ford was known for being blunt, aggressive, and temper prone; my grandfather was the same way. I often wonder how they got along without coming to blows – I would think the arguments could be heard all over the building.
Word for tomorrow – IDENTICAL. If you prefer to work ahead, see the list for the week under “A Word A Day”.
I am a backyard adventurer, philosopher and observer, recording my life in journals and photographs. Visit my blog at www.livingtheseasons.com.