Article originally appeared at Bloomberg via Robert Wenzel
Once, while I was climbing the corporate ladder at Goldman Sachs I was deeply alarmed by a restructuring in our team. We were hiring more people, some with bigger titles than me and my boss was being relocated to London. Everything was changing and I feared being left behind. I felt unprepared, even unequipped to deal with the changes that the restructuring would bring. Would I be replaced? Would my skills be irrelevant?
That’s when one my mentors, a VP on my team, gave me a book that completely altered my perspective about the restructuring. The book, “Who Moved My Cheese?” narrates a simple tale of two mice and two “littlepeople.” The four worked hard to find cheese and eventually they found a plethora of cheese in a corner of the maze where they lived. The group separated and the littlepeople got stuck in a rut, going to the same corner every day expecting their cheese to always be there. The two mice continue to hunt for newer sources of cheese. When the cheese ultimately disappeared, the littlepeople began to complain: “Why me?” “What’s going on?” As the two littlepeople sat there sulking and complaining, the mice had already moved on and found a new, even better sources of cheese.
That was me — I was one of the “littlepeople.” I hadn’t been paying attention. I had assumed that I would always be the rising star analyst. The reality was that no one was out to get me. The restructuring was a long time coming and I had failed to stay on my toes. After reading the book, I quickly modified my attitude toward the changes that were happening. I enrolled in a program that would give me new skills to take advantage of the opportunities the restructuring would bring.
In some ways, I understand Trump supporters who feel alarmed by the changes our country has undergone in the last 50 years — demographic changes, technological changes, and jobs changing. I see the appeal of Donald Trump‘s promises for those voters who fear the restructuring in our country. They have worked hard to find their cheese, and now the cheese is gone. Like me during the restructuring, they are having a tough time with change.
Trump has told his supporters that immigrants from Mexico, China and other countries have stolen their jobs. That rhetoric is wrong. He has promised to bring back those jobs, but the truth is that industries in our country have changed, and some jobs no longer exist. Technology has brought about progress and change, but in the process it has left some people displaced and others unequipped to take advantage of the “new cheese.”
Take the metal industry. Roles held by people to set casting machines and operate core-making machinery have declined by 25 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics. Instead of a metal worker being paid an average of $30,000 a year, companies have adopted machines that use computer numerically controlled technology (CNC) to lower production costs and improve product quality. Another example is postal workers, where jobs are projected to decline by 34 percent by 2024. These jobs are being pushed out by the nation’s reliance on email and online bill-paying services.
Some industries, of course, do face foreign competition, but instead of looking into the past to find our future, we need to look ahead. We need to stop blaming immigrants for stealing our jobs. Times are changing. Instead of focusing on finding a scapegoat and building a wall, we should focus on finding solutions and giving people the skills necessary to succeed in the new industries.
The longer we stay stuck waiting for a savior to bring back our jobs, the longer we are denying ourselves the opportunity to move forward towards progress.
Commentary by Julissa Arce, the author of the forthcoming book, “My (Underground) American Dream” (Sept. 13, 2016). Arce made national and international headlines when she revealed that she had achieved the American Dream of wealth and status working her way up to vice president at Goldman Sachs by age 27 while being an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. She currently works with the Ascend Educational Fund, a scholarship program for immigrant students in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @julissaarce.
She’s also the subject of the article How an Undocumented Immigrant from Mexico Became a Star at Goldman Sachs by Bloomberg’s Max Abelson on February 25, 2015.