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What Special Skills Do You Have?

Searching for SkillsThe Paul Krugman at NY Times had an analysis about the debt situation in Puerto Rico which left me thinking it’s a lot similar to what individuals face. Puerto Rico has a debt situation because it can’t get an economy going. He asks a question: what should Puerto Rico be doing?

He says Puerto Rico has warm winters and beautiful beaches but so do a lot of other places. It doesn’t have any outstanding distinction for a tourism economy and a lot of people face a similar dilemma. They have skills that are probably not very distinguishable from everyone else. If people doing the hiring are looking for only purple unicorns, then solid skills are not enough. They want the “best”, the “A players”. (But I have to wonder, do they really want purple unicorns? The unicorns are not going to be marching to everybody else’s drums; therefore, they are not going to easily fit into the standard corporate mold.)

And if they happen to be in a type of job that will be easily automated…

Now Puerto Rico does have a manufacturing base but Puerto Rico must have some advantage in order to have a thriving manufacturing base: 1) special, complex skills like Germany, 2) low wages like the Asian countries, or 3) logistical advantage of being close to major markets. Puerto Rico has none of those. And they can’t make wages go as low as the Asian countries because then they would lose the labor force to the main land. A single individual may face the same issue: 1) he doesn’t have any complex skill (it takes money and time to develop them, provided you have a natural aptitude); 2) he can’t willingly go as low as the Asian because cost of living prevents him and that’s not living; 3) and even if he has the money, move where?

Okay this individual to country analysis doesn’t fit one to one, but there is a similarity of question of: what does one do when a lot is stacked against you and it appears you have nothing to offer? What can Puerto Rico do? No one has an answer. Same goes for an individual. It would be different if we had a world where the rewards were sprinkled more broadly throughout the population instead of the winner takes all that we have today. Today, everybody is looking for the best, they all want the best, and only the best will do. But there can only be one best so what happens to everybody else?

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