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When I was in college, my fraternity brother noticed I walked with my head down staring at the pavement. He said it showed a lack of confidence as well as it was unappealing to women. It took a long time to break that habit, but today I feel much better about myself with my head held high smiling at people who walked by. I truly believe this small piece of advice helped in both my professional and personal development.

While I’m walking around town with my head up, I see more and more people (mostly young, but also middle agers like myself) with their heads down looking at their phones. A recent article in Fortune magazine details the increasing pace in which robots are replacing workers doing what was originally considered complex tasks, such as driving, flying a plane, and surgery. The main question posed in the article was, “How will we humans add value?”

Enlightened companies, according to the article, have recognized the ability of employees to engage their customer base with humor, energy, and generosity is crucial to creating value in an experience that causes anxiety, like banking. Employees who spend their day answering and forwarding e-mail are not creating value to their companies nor to their careers. Employees uninterested in human interaction are quickly being replaced by technology.

Many of the open positions, other than the very technical computer jobs, are sales-oriented. The large corporations are hiring hundreds of sales people and then quickly fire them when they don’t hit their unreasonable sales goals. Companies need to keep their heads up and look for talent beyond whether or not their employees can sell. Employees need to keep their heads up and do their best to excel at something that probably won’t be their life work but could result in a more rewarding career later.

Career building and management have become akin to finances. Too many people and companies concentrate on the short-term quick fix instead of the long-term big picture. The Fortune article concludes that being a great performer is becoming less about what we know and more about what we’re like. We humans need to keep our head up and look to find empathy in our inner selves. I’m hoping this sea-change will result in better run companies, better employees, better products and services for consumers, and a better life for all of us.

David M. Green
(925) 335-3802