Mark Penn: We're Unprepared for Layoffs of Professionals

The political strategist says we have no safety nets for laid off ad execs or newspaper editors.

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Mark Penn, the political strategist and microtrend columnist for the WSJ, writes today about the newest microtrend--mass layoffs of workers who identify themselves as professionals. Lawyers, engineers, newspaper editors, and so forth. 

Penn writes:

We are totally unprepared for this new phenomenon. We have safety nets for the chronically unemployed, for the fast-food workers let go (oddly they may be the only ones keeping their jobs in this recession), and for the manufacturing plants that have been shuttered. The stimulus will create construction jobs galore. But we have nothing for the tens of thousands of displaced advertising creatives and newspaper writers and editors that are among the newly unemployed. They can't build roads -- all they learned how to do was to write ads and draft editorials.

It's a strangely reductive description of the skills of an ad creative or newspaper editor: "all they learned how to do was ...." An editor, for one, learns management, pr, and communication skills. These days most editors are necessarily learning business skills. They're called transferable skills. While machines need to be retooled to perform new tasks--human beings often just need to be given new jobs, or new directions.

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