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Many thousands of jobs have been lost throughout North America in recent years and the trend will likely accelerate in the years ahead. Some blue and white collar jobs are being lost to cheaper labour in China and/or Mexico. But something far more pervasive is happening in many parts of the world that is a much bigger threat to jobs, namely automation and robotics.

Online banking and self-serve kiosks are replacing bank tellers. Robots are replacing people in the preparation of pizzas. 3D printing or additive manufacturing, the process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file, is a growing trend. Each year an increasing number of people are shopping online, reducing the need for brick and mortar operations and retail sales clerks. While some jobs are being replaced by others (i.e. retail sales clerks by customer service clerks), many are not.

Even in professions requiring higher education, many routine or specialized tasks are being automated. Computers can now assemble previous legal cases on particular issues and prepare draft contracts and briefs. Robo-accounting is in its infancy, but it is very effective at dealing with accounts payables and receivables, inventory control, auditing and several other accounting functions that humans used to be needed to do. Ultra-precise robo-surgeons are currently being used for everything from knee replacement surgery to vision correction. For more information on the impact of Robots on jobs, click on this link.

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Last week, while on a brief vacation, I had the privilege of reading the book, Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance. The book tells the story of how the author, a self-described Hillbilly, rises from a life of poverty and instability to graduate from Yale Law School and join the ranks of the “elite.” It is a remarkably honest story in which Mr. Vance shares some very intimate, personal observations on the very significant challenges he had to overcome to achieve success in both his personal life and career.

Hillbilly Elegy has received a lot of attention from the media since the life it depicts is thought to be representative of many blue-collar Trump supporters. Mr. Vance was recently interviewed on several leading Sunday morning news shows.

I am not qualified to assess whether the Kentucky Hillbillies that Mr. Vance depicts in his book are typical Trump supporters. What I can say is that this is an extremely well written book that is well worth reading for its observations about life. I would encourage anyone seeking to advance their careers in the Transportation industry to read and reflect on the experiences of Mr. Vance. The following are a few thoughts.

J.D. Vance describes the Hillbilly culture in detail. He explains how the decline in manufacturing in Ohio, where Mr. Vance lived for much of his early life, had a major impact on the community. A quirky culture characterized by a low work ethic, a low priority on education, particularly for males, and poverty, led to problems with alcohol, drug addiction and human relationships. Mr. Vance had a very challenging family life.

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One of the business trends over the past couple of decades has been the employment of personal coaches to help key leaders and executives enhance their skill sets. These coaches can be engaged to tutor an executive in such areas as leadership, decision-making and team-building; others may be hired to coach an individual in media relations, in certain “technical” job functions or in speaking another language (i.e. French or English).

When used wisely and effectively, these resources can be very helpful in expediting the career growth of a potential high achiever within an organization. For some organizations, they can help “weed out” those business leaders who don’t possess the ability to learn and adapt in a timely manner.

Some businesses and government functions are willing to spend significant dollars to fast track their top executive talent. In fact, in some companies, we encounter business leaders who have multiple coaches with each one having a specific area of expertise. The question is, what can individuals do, who wish to progress rapidly in their careers, if their organizations aren’t willing or don’t have the budget to provide this additional level of mentoring and education? Here are a few suggestions.

Take stock of your strengths and weaknesses and construct your own Career Development Plan

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Finding your “Lane” in Life

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This is a follow up to the blog on “Passion” ( ) that was posted here a few weeks ago and is published in the current issue of Canadian Shipper. While the blog on Passion was inspired by Bernie Sanders, this blog was inspired by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the author and star of the hit Broadway play “Hamilton.”

On Sunday night, during an interview on Sixty Minutes, Lin-Manuel and his parents were asked by Charlie Rose about their son’s early school experience. Mr. Miranda mentioned that he was sent to a school for gifted children. At first he felt intimidated by the school and the intelligence of his fellow class mates. Mr. Miranda then mentioned that once he found “his lane,” or calling at the school, Music, he felt totally comfortable with the institution and his career path.

Hamilton, based on the life of former U.S. treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, is the hottest play on Broadway. On Sunday night it earned 11 Tony awards, the second best performance ever for a new play. Mr. Miranda created a brilliant hip-hop musical to tell this story. Some critics are calling Hamilton a trans-formative play that will have lasting effects on the future of Broadway.

Lin-Manuel Miranda was very fortunate to find his “lane” as he described it. Not everyone does. It is interesting that by finding his lane, Mr. Miranda was able to reach extraordinary heights in his career. Here are some thoughts on the key steps in finding a successful career lane.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_dreamstime_xl_32338321V2.jpgThree years ago I posted a blog entitled Tips for the New Transportation Sales Rep ( ).  In that blog I consolidated a number of ideas generated in a LinkedIn Sales Management group and added a few thoughts of my own.  To my amazement, it has received over 38,000 hits since it was posted. 

A few weeks ago I received a very interesting inquiry from a self-described “newbie” sales rep.  As a follow up to my February 2013 blog, I was asked about what a new account manager should do if his or her company does not provide either formal sales training or coaching in the basics of the freight transportation industry.  The following is how I responded to this question.

Ultimately, one gets out of a career what one puts into it.  Every individual must take responsibility for the array of skills and expertise that he or she acquires during a lifetime.  It is up to each individual to seek out and acquire the skills they need, not to wait for a particular company to supply them.  As a young sales representative or person in any entry level job in Freight Transportation, here is a pathway to success.

1. Speak with your colleagues in other departments 

Take some time to meet with people in each of the core departments of your company such as Pricing, Operations, Line Haul and Billing to learn as much as you can about what they do.  With respect to Pricing, find out about your company’s costing model.  Find out how it works so you are looking for the right type of freight on the right lanes at rates that work for your company.  Be inquisitive and learn as much as you can from each department.

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