The jobs just aren’t coming back.

They left on what was supposed to be a round-the-world cruise and the ship sank somewhere off the coast off China. Recession is supposed to be a cyclical phenomenon where what is lost comes back to us in spades.

One part innovation, one part government intervention. And sometimes one part war for good measure. Hard times are temporary.

Not this time, it seems. Things just refuse to go back to “normal.”

It seems this led Scott Timberg of to announce yesterday that the creative class is a lie. Timberg would like you to believe that this “utopian” society where you can get a job with a master’s-degree-in-just-about-anything is too good to be true. Salon would also like to sponsor your prescription for Zoloft and help you settle your credit card debt.

Okay, I made that last part up.

Timberg paints a dismal picture of what is happening now, economically speaking, without providing any sort of recommendation bringing about a brighter future for the world’s brightest minds.

I’ll grant him one part of the thesis: the transition from old economy to New Economy is not an easy one. And it doesn’t involve the return of the jobs.

The rest of their thesis is myopic. While Timberg was quick to point out that “the Creative Class” was hard hit in the economic downturn, they failed to consider how Richard Florida (the sociologist who made the phrase popular) described the great reset occurring in today’s reality:

The Great Reset … [is] the result of the multitude of tiny resets that individuals are making all over the world.

The root of the problem is not that college grads and highly trained professionals are out of traditional work. It’s that they’re being told to look for “jobs” at all.

We need to forget trying to jump start the economy in all the old ways and start educating individuals on how to make their own tiny resets.

These tiny resets are fueled, not by economic policy, but by the spirit of innovation and a willingness to think beyond the status quo. Why mourn a system that kept so many imprisoned by their own paychecks?

Daniel Pink – curiously missing from the list of visionaries Timberg quotes – describes the greater shift as such:

We are moving from an economy and a society build on the logical, linear, computerlike capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and a society built on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities of what’s rising in its place, the Conceptual Age.

This isn’t a top-down shift. This is bottom-up. That’s why the rest of his book, A Whole New Mind, is dedicated to teaching people how to survive in age that was taking shape. This book was written at least 2 years pre-recession. And yet, it describes in detail the skills need to hoist oneself out of the mire of what would come.

Pink never claims these skills are easily acquired. But he does lay out a framework for adding them to the palette of colors one has to paint their own picture of fulfilling work.

Just last week, Seth Godin also described the difficult work that was required of the creative class:

The future is about gigs and assets and art and an ever-shifting series of partnerships and projects. It will change the fabric of our society along the way. No one is demanding that we like the change, but the sooner we see it and set out to become an irreplaceable linchpin, the faster the pain will fade, as we get down to the work that needs to be (and now can be) done.

Both government and the media get it so very wrong. The focus cannot be on the return of jobs. It must be on the cultivation of skills and the realization of a new mindset for creating work that produces value for others.

We can no longer rely on the old ways of paying bills and putting food on the table.

Creating our own work – and a new landscape for prosperity – is the ultimate task of the Creative Class.

And it’s one we’ve only begun to pursue.


Edited to add:

Creating your own work doesn’t necessarily mean self-employment. Creating your own work is more about self-awareness.

What are you truly good at? When do you have the answer that no one else has? What problems are you uniquely gifted to solve?

This is not about creating a go-it-alone economy. It’s about understanding how we work best together.


Hat tip to Nicole for putting me to the article.