Just recently, I've been having more and more in-depth conversations with a wide-ranging and diverse group of people, about what they want to do in 2008.
Often this starts with a conversation about their job, their resume, their career prospects, the whole process of job applications, interviews and the business of recruitment as a whole. However, within a very short space of time, I start asking questions about what constitutes their working day.
This is a topic which many people seem to find exceedingly uncomfortable. Perhaps this is because they've become so used to talking about anything but what they do; or perhaps because they've forgotten what they were employed to do in the first place; or maybe because they've just stopped doing what they were employed to do a long time ago.
The result is that normal, bright, intelligent and articulate people default into a nondescript, non-threatening behavioural mode, where the conversation revolves around the amorphous world of job titles, job roles and job descriptions. Consequently, I find myself more and more intrigued to investigate and analyse the roots of this behaviour.
These roots are founded in the age old principle of packaging and presentation. We all rely on someone else, or something else, to define our working lives; what jobs we do and how our employers, colleagues, customers and the World at large, sees us.
As children, it is our parents, immediate family and schooling. As adults, it is our family, our friends, our colleagues, our employers, our religions and our wealth, to name but a few. A new job or a change of career is determined by another person's assessment of a curriculum vitae or resume, which may bear little, if any, reflection of an individual's working day.
I might speculate that the tasks we do each day are, on the whole, pretty straightforward and uncomplicated. Yet most of us are determined to make them seem as complicated as possible. In defining our work, we totally abandon the concept of KISS (keep it simple, stupid), choosing instead to describe what we do in the most complicated and confusing manner.
But have we really become so gullible as to believe that the more complex our jobs sound, the higher our value and the greater our net worth?
How did the extraordinary convention that moves people into like-for-like jobs in different organisations become the quid pro quo for the recruitment industry; and how many times have we experienced the frustration of seeing managers delegate tasks to us or others that we or they may be wholly unsuited to? Too often to make it coincidental, I suspect.
One explanation might be that the whole process of worker productivity and optimisation in the workplace is still steeped in the job conventions of the middle ages. I hear the term 'sweating the assets' applied as much to people inside organisations as applied to the organisations themselves these days, although I'd concede that referring to the workforce as assets, might be considered a small step in the right direction.
But the future's not all doom and gloom. Hope springs eternal in the embryonic form of Personal Branding as personified in the workforce of tomorrow. This generation understands the power and value of social networking sites such as My Space and Facebook, where packaging and presentation is as important as experience.
As a consequence, some of the more archaic processes of recruitment and employment will gradually become supplanted. Employers and employees will focus more on the cost/benefit analysis of a relationship and negotiate terms and tenures to suit both parties in the healthy climate of a traded transaction.
Trading has always been a root instinct of the human race and I can see no reason why this shouldn't be the case for employment. The next generation recognises that a resume has limitations and that they will have to take direct responsibility for their future careers. They understand that success in the workplace is as much dependent on doing what's right for them as it is for those who employ them.
Is it any wonder therefore, that organisations now find them such a challenge to the status quo and such a threat to the comfortable conventions that have benefited employers and recruiters for so long?