A professional individual contributor is the personification of the middle class. Initially PIC’s were not Individual contributors.. they were management. Professionals got their start in complex jobs and middle management, entry level white collar. You had laborers and you had people above them (organizationally) who had advanced problem solving training vis a vis a college, typically a bachelor’s degree who did the complex problem solving. That has since gone away…
We have labor, we have management.. and the class in the middle has devolved to become professional laborers. There was a time when a junior manager had a secretary to manage correspondence and communications. Now we have emails and voice mails. They managed schedules.. now we have Outlook and google calendars. To be this entry level manager you had to have that 4 year degree. It’s why parents encouraged their children to go to college and get a ‘good job’ meaning a non-dirty office type job.
Now it’s being reflected in the numbers.. education has caught up with the corporate culture of today.
I was recently at a career pathways presentation for the state of North Carolina. The event was an all-day affair but the most important component, the most salient presentation was one little innocuous slide by the labor and economic analysis team from the state of North Carolina (hope they don’t mind that I’m using their image, but props to LEAD). In the slide and during the presentation they talked about how the growth for education was highest in two areas.. Associates and Masters with the growth projected to be lower in Bachelor’s and Doctoral Levels.
In this one little slide the story of our modern corporate world is laid out. You are a skilled laborer (Associates, certificate), or you are management (Masters). If you are in between (Bachelors) there is less and less need for you. The Bachelor’s degree has become a black hole. It’s not really needed by the vast majority of employers but it’s still promoted and culturally as the defacto ‘college education’ standard. Middle management as a job class has gone away. Employers want the Associates class to have both technical and problem solving skills. So what happens to the people trained in problem solving?
They earn less, they get more responsibilities to justify the sometimes slightly higher wage, they have a hard time finding work.. in short they struggle, and just like a black hole, when you have kids, a house, student loan payments and other responsibilities, it’s very hard to escape the gravity of life to realign into a category that’s truly in-demand.