Unretirement and Returnships

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

I first wrote about the concept of "unretirement" on this blog in 2016 and I have written about aspects of it on another blog. But the term came up recently in several articles and podcasts I encountered in a new way.

While my definition of unretirement back in 2016 was returning to part-time work after having formally retired from full-time work. I also defined my version of unretirement as working at something you really wanted to do regardless of whether you would be paid to do it. For me, this meant both doing some web design for people I knew and organizations I was involved in (for pay and pro bono), some minor consulting in higher education and also volunteering.

Some volunteering work I did eventually offered me the chance to do some teaching again for a small stipend. It is very part-time work but it is teaching I really enjoy. Another volunteer position with a foundation lead to an offer to create and maintain their website for pay. My goal in volunteering was never to get paid but it is nice to be compensated for your time even if it is not at the level I was once paid as a full-time employee. Unretirement, for me, is not about making money.

But two new reasons for unretirement emerged in the past two years largely because of the COVID pandemic. The first is the need for trained workers after what has been labeled the “Great Resignation” of 2020 and 2021. These are the people leaving the working world for good. The number is estimated to be more than 3 million.

The second reason is that people who retired with no plans to work again found that what they had saved and planned as their money for retirement was inadequate. Rising prices and inflation this year haven’t helped that situation.

A third reason that is not pandemic related is that many people who retire without a plan for what they will do in retirement find themselves bored and actually missing work in some ways.

We have all heard the news stories about the shortage of workers willing to take on certain jobs that had disappeared temporarily during the pandemic. There were also workers whose jobs became so different and difficult during the pandemic (healthcare, education, service industries, for example) that people decided it was time to either retire or change careers.

Companies want to lure back recently retired employees. They may need these workers back into the office or remotely, either full- or part-time.

Another new term I have seen is “returnships.” This blend of unretirement and an internship is a paid, three-to-six-month position that offers on-the-job training. This is something that might have been offered in the past to mid-career employees. For a retiree or someone who has decided to change careers, this is a chance to pick up new skills and maybe lead to a more regular work situation. Suddenly, it seems, that some companies want to keep a connection with their older employees and use their expertise.

An opinion piece in The Washington Post headlined “The Great Resignation is also the Great Retirement of the baby boomers. That’s a problem.” In that article, Helaine Olen points to a Goldman Sachs estimate that more than half of those who had left the workforce during the covid era’s “Great Resignation” were over 55. The pandemic motivated many people to retire earlier than they had planned. She points out that “In the years leading up to the pandemic, many Americans said they wanted to work well past the traditional retirement age. In 2013, a solid 10 percent told Gallup they would ‘never’ exit the workforce.”

So, why return to work, possibly full-time work? Many Americans do not have enough money set aside for their senior years and inflation in 2022 and rising prices let them know that they were going to run out of whatever nest egg or retirement plans they had made. The article also points to a kind of “obsession with work as a way of finding meaning in life.”

This article first appeared at RonkowitzLLC.com

A More Musky Twitter

Elon Musk
Does Musk want to set Twitter free?
                               Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

On April 14, 2022, business magnate Elon Musk proposed to purchase social media company Twitter, Inc. for $43 billion. He had previously acquired 9.1 percent of the company's stock for $2.64 billion and thereby became its largest shareholder. Twitter invited Musk to join its board of directors and he accepted and then changed his mind. Musk is certainly one of the most unorthodox business leaders of our time. The general opinion seems to be that he would likely make changes to the platform that go well beyond revamping its content policies.

Twitter was generally not in favor of Musk taking control and so used what is known as a "poison pill" strategy. They would allow shareholders to purchase additional stock in the event a buyout should occur. But on April 25, Twitter's board of directors unanimously accepted Musk's buyout offer of $44 billion. There was also talk that Musk would make the company private.

Besides the business aspects of all this, many users were apprehensive about a Musk takeover and really about anyone taking over. The fear was not about stock prices or advertising. It is about how the platform would change.

Elon Musk published his first tweet on his personal Twitter account in June 2010. He had 80 million followers at the time of the purchase. Musk's most vocal comment about the purchase was that he wanted to protect "freedom of speech." Of course, that is something protected by the government and doesn't really apply to most private companies.

Elizabeth Lopatto of The Verge made some predictions about what a Musk takeover might mean. She thought that a mass employee exodus might occur. She also saw the reinstatement of some accounts, such as Donald Trump's account.

The New York Times wrote that Musk's acquisition was "about controlling a megaphone" rather than free speech. Kate Klonick, a law professor at St. John's University, went as far as to say that allowing "all free speech" would open the door to the spread of pornography and hate speech on Twitter.

A number of commenters have said that Musk's purchase just adds fuel to the controversy about the power that wealthy people have in influencing the democratic process.

Musk has said that he thought that Twitter should make the algorithm that determines what users see open-source and more transparent.

READ MORE
https://www.wsj.com/articles/twitter-under-elon-musk-what-an-open-source-and-free-speech-oriented-platform-could-look-like-11651091515

The Disconnected 2022 Edition

brain connectIt's 2022 and I am reading an article in The Chronicle by Beth McMurtrie about how the pandemic forced disconnections in early 2020. On the other hand, we also became more connected to friends, offices, campuses, and stores through technology and media.

The article took me back to a keynote presentation I did back in January 2016. I titled that talk "The Disconnected." The talk grew out of the many references I had been seeing to people who seemed disconnected from many aspects of society.

There was the observation that there was a re-emergence of people who wanted to learn on their own rather than in schools. These autodidacts were a new group of learners that I felt might be reshaping school, especially in higher education which is a choice rather than a requirement.

In 2015, the sharing economy, the maker movement, the DIY do-it-yourself movement, and open-source coding were all topics of interest.

These trends were not limited to young people or students. Many people were “cord cutting” from traditional media. But the trend was especially evident in young adults. Even broader was a “rent rather than buy” mindset that was affecting purchases of media (music, movies, books, magazines), cars (lease or use a car service rather than own a car), rent an apartment or home and avoid the self-maintenance, mortgage and taxes.

In 2015, the “disconnected” comprised about 25 percent of Americans, according to Forrester Research. They estimated that number would double by 2025. Has it?

That new article is about students who seem to have disconnected during the pandemic and are not reconnecting now. Maybe they will never reconnect. 

According to McMurtie's article, fewer students are going to classes. Her interviews with faculty show that those who do attend avoid speaking if possible. They are disconnected from the professor and their classmates. They don't do the assigned reading or homework and so they have trouble with tests. They are disconnected from the course content.

The Chronicle had more than 100 people tell them about their disconnected students. Some called them “exhausted,” “defeated,” or “overwhelmed.” This came from faculty at a range of institutions.

usb connect

Why are they disconnected?

Reasons given by professors include pandemic-related items. Many students lost their connection with their college or their purpose in attending. Hours of online learning that they had not chosen and which may have been sub-par added to those things.

The students who seemed to have the most trouble with learning were the freshmen who seemed unprepared. But the observations that these new students seemed underprepared, both academically and in their sense of responsibility. One example was that students don’t fully grasp the consequence of missing classes. I was teaching long before the pandemic and all of those things were true of students back then too. 

So my question is whether or not those disconnected students of 2015 have become even more disconnected in the subsequent seven years, and if they have is it because of the pandemic or just a trend that started well before the pandemic.

McMurtrie also gives some things from the perspective of students. One student said that when she returned to the classroom after virtual learning many professors relied more on technology than they had before the pandemic. Ironically, that was something that many schools had hoped would happen; that faculty would be greater tech users when they returned to their in-person classes. Professors who never used virtual conferencing or flipped the classroom using a learning management system. That student may have seen her college experience as "fake" but the professors (and possibly their department chairs and deans) saw the experience as "enhanced."

I don't explain the disconnecting as only the result of social anxiety and stress or what psychologists describe as “allostatic load.”  I don't think this problem is temporary. I agree with some of the faculty whose responses are in the article who think the entire structure of college needs to change and that this is not a new problem.

None of us know what the solution might be.

The Great Resignation and The Great Deflate

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2021 was the year of the “Great Resignation.” We have been told that it was a year when workers quit their jobs at historic rates. This is an economic trend meaning that employees voluntarily resign from their jobs. Blame has been aimed at the American government for failing to provide necessary worker protections in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This led to wage stagnation. There was also a rising cost of living. The term was coined in May 2021 by Anthony Klotz, a professor of management at Texas A&M University.

It's now 2022 and unemployment rates have fallen sharply from their pandemic highs. The labor force participation rate - which is the percentage of people in the workforce, or looking for a job - has increased, though not to its pre-pandemic level.

It was thought in 2020 that 2021 with a vaccine would mark the renormalization of the economy, schools, and life in general. But Covid variants wiped out that vision.

It seems counterintuitive, but to economists quitting is usually an expression of optimism. You don't quit a job unless you have the prospect of another, probably better one, or you don't need to work because of a good financial situation. But the quits happened when inflation is looming, and the Omicron variant is dominating.

Some industries are seeing higher rates of quitting. It isn't surprising that leisure, hospitality, and retail are at the top. Those were hit hard by the pandemic. Healthcare is another and certainly many of those workers were just burned out by the pandemic. But the reasons given for quitting include a lack of adequate childcare and personal and family health concerns about Covid. If the pandemic overwhelmed you at your job, you might have decided to quit even without a new prospect in search of better work opportunities, self-employment, or, simply, higher pay.

Derek Thompson wrote in The Atlantic that there are 3 myths about this Great Resignation. One is that it is a new 2021 phenomenon. Is it really more of a cycle we have seen before or that has been moving into place for years and simply accelerated by the pandemic?

For colleges, it wasn't so much a Great Quit as it was a Great No-Show. The newest report I found from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC) shows that postsecondary enrollment has now fallen 2.6% below last year’s level. Undergraduate enrollment has dropped 3.5% so far this fall, resulting in a total two-year decline of 7.8% since 2019. As with jobs, not all of that decline is because of the pandemic and it too is a trend that was evident before the pandemic. But Covid didn't help the decline.

Add to these one more "Great" that I see talked about - The Great Deflate. This is the idea that rather than our economy being a bubble that will burst, it's a balloon that is deflating. In "The Great Deflate" by M.G. Siegler, he talks about a more gradual trend. Picture that helium balloon floating at the ceiling on your birthday that day by day has been slowly moving down as it deflates. No burst, just a slow, steady fall.

Is there a connection among all these trends? Certainly, the connection is the economy. Perhaps, there won't be a stock market crash or something like the Dot Com bubble burst, but we see stock market drops of 1, 2 or 3% pretty regularly. Those are significant drops.

Since May 2021 when Anthony Klotz coined "The Great Resignation," other terms have emerged including “The Great Reimagination,” “The Great Reset” and “The Great Realization” terms that express the re-examining of work in our lives. But the quitting wave hasn't broken yet and so Klotz has more recently made three not-so-surprising predictions.
The Great Resignation will slow down
Flexible work arrangements will be the norm, not the exception
Remote jobs will become more competitive


Economists say rapid quitting and hiring will continue in 2022 despite omicron wave

Who Will Build the Metaverse?

VR
Image by Okan Caliskan from Pixabay

I wrote elsewhere about how the metaverse is not the multiverse. For one thing, the metaverse is not here yet, and we're not sure if the multiverse is here. Also, you can turn off the metaverse, but not the multiverse. Okay, you might need some definitions first.

Metaverse is a computing term meaning a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users. It may contain some copies of the real world and it might combine VR and AR. It might turn out to be an evolved Internet along with shared, 3D virtual spaces that create a virtual universe.

The multiverse is not online. It is cosmology and, at least right now, it is a hypothetical group of multiple universes. Combined, these universes encompass all of space, time, matter, energy, information, and the physical laws and constants that describe them. That's quite overwhelming and far beyond the scope of this article.

The metaverse is being built and it is also a bit overwhelming. One person who wants to help build it is Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. He recently said, “In the coming years, I expect people will transition from seeing us primarily as a social media company to seeing us as a metaverse company… In many ways, the metaverse is the ultimate expression of social technology.”

You might have encountered the word “metaverse” if you read Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science-fiction novel, Snow Crash. In that book, people move back and forth from their lives in the 3D virtual living space to their "ordinary" real-time lives.

Matthew Ball has written an interesting "Metaverse Primer" containing nine articles. Ball asks "Who will build the metaverse?" It certainly won't just be Facebook. Google, Apple, and other big tech companies, but they have all been working (and investing) in augmented reality (AR) which layers tech on top of the real world and VR (virtual reality) which creates a kind of "otherverse." (Remember Google Glass back in 2013?) Epic Games, best known as the creator of Fortnite, announced in April 2021 a $1 billion round of funding to build a “long-term vision of the Metaverse” which will help the company further develop connected social experiences.

But Facebook seems to be moving on its own. It has a platform, almost 3 billion users and they own Oculus which already has a metaverse feel though it is a virtual reality (VR) device. It allows you to move between the two worlds. Facebook's platform also includes WhatsApp and Instagram which may end up playing a part in the metaverse.

I recall working and exploring inside Second Life around 2004 which was seen as a virtual world. It seemed more similar to a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, Linden Lab always maintained that it was not a game. A friend who was an architect/designer in Second Life kept reminding me that "this is not The Sims." Second Life is still here but I haven't been there in a decade.

Are you ready for the metaverse? Whose metaverse entry point will you trust?

 

Cut the Cord, Narrow the Stream, Reconnect

data streams
Image by Yan Wong

A few years ago I was writing about how a lot of people were looking to save money on their TV entertainment by what was known as "cutting the cord" since it meant disconnecting from a cable service. Those services had boomed in the 1970s and 80s and had brought clear channels from local and distant services and led to the rise of services like HBO and Showtime. People are still cord-cutting, but things have changed.

We tired of $100+ per month channel bundles that included lots of channels we never watched. People wanted a cafeteria-style choice. Just pick the things you wanted. But cable companies didn't want to offer that. So, people began to drop their cable contract and replace it with streaming TV services and perhaps a TV antenna or device that offered local channels, news, and a kind of all-in-one bundle.

In 2015, I wrote about a group of people that I called "The Disconnected" and I did a presentation on how we might connect to the disconnected. The disconnections ranged from cord-cutting to ownership of things (home, cars, physical media) and possibly from education and the world. Since then, I have added other disconnected aspects of our lives.

The pandemic that forced disconnections in early 2020 has accelerated some of that. Ironically, as disconnected as we became to friends, offices, campuses and stores, most of us became more connected to media.

Cord-cutters still needed an Internet service and that connection became quite critical in these pandemic times. We needed it to continue working, learning and staying in touch with other people. Those connections are very important, but I also have been thinking about how connected we have become to those streaming services on our screens for entertainment.

The tech divide either got wider the past year or minimally became more obvious. Home Internet speeds should be at least 15Mbps (megabits per second) for each device you plan to have running at the same time. That means that those two TVs, the laptop and three smartphones and one tablet all playing at once would ideally have a connection of at least 105Mbps. That’s a lot to ask of a DSL or satellite service and from most cable company broadband services. Those people with access to fiber broadband or some other fast connection had a big advantage.

It is now almost a decade from dropping your cable connection and moving to streaming and now I am hearing more people complain about the cost of buying all the services needed to keep up with the content that all your friends are telling are essential viewing. 

What is the cost of having Netflix, HBO Max, Disney Plus, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Peacock, and others and also a bundle of live TV channels such as YouTube TV or Sling TV?

Yes, there are a bunch of free (ad-based) sources of streaming video too (Crackle, IMDb, Kanopy, Peacock, Hoopla, Pluto TV, the Roku Channel, Tubi TV, Vudu, etc.). 

You might also want a streaming device that connects to the Internet and allows you to show things on devices on bigger screens (Chromecast, Roku’s Streaming Stick, or Amazon’s Fire TV Stick. 

At one time, I could watch Disney films on Netflix, but Disney and most of the other content providers have now decided that they are better off offering their content on their own services. YouTube TV recently was removed from Roku. Battles will continue.

If you cut the cord, will you soon need to cut or narrow the streams flowing into your home?