Why you should care
It’s what you do every day. OZY tells you how the world is doing it.
Sometimes work is about the fight for basic rights. A small, marginalized group of tomato pickers has changed the way corporate behemoths do business, and their strategy could well take off. Lost in the frenzy of hipster foodie-ism are the 1.4 million people who pick and pack produce in America’s fields. They’re vulnerable to all kinds of abuse, including outright slavery, and typically earn a pittance. But happily, if slowly, this is changing, mostly because of a tomato-picker organization in a tiny town in southwest Florida. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has about 4,500 members, many of whom don’t speak English. But in recent years, the coalition has forced corporate megaliths like McDonald’s, Burger King and Whole Foods to change how they do business. So far, some 11 companies have joined its Fair Food Program. It provides basic protections that Florida tomato pickers have never had, including a minimum wage and mechanisms to report and investigate abuse.
And from farm workers to engineers to plumbers — everyone needs a network. In the social media–hungry world, it’s never long after someone identifies a gap in the market that an entrepreneur comes up with a whiz-bang way to fill it. Consider social networking, for example. One group in particular has historically been left out in the digital cold: blue-collar workers. There’s a gap worth filling, and the answer is taking shape in the form of WorkHands, a kind of LinkedIn for skilled-trade workers.
There are far too many stereotypes out there about Gen Y and what they want. One of those could be misinforming employers — badly. While millennials, or Gen Y, may be known as the tech-infused generation, a recent study found that the majority of them crave more in-person collaboration with colleagues and less of what the current workplace paradigm serves up: a culture of emailing, texting and telecommuting. Organizations think millennials want to do everything remotely, but the truth is they’re more relational and use technology to enhance their connection with family, friends and colleagues.
In order to get anywhere, you need someone on the lookout for you. For OZY’s CEO, that’s not a mentor — that’s an angel in the workplace. Everyone will give you the usual good advice: do things you love, have a plan, invest in talent, find a mentor. But if you really want to move forward, you need something better than a mentor. Mentors help you when you ask for it. But an angel is someone who is always thinking of you and is super-proactive, always going above and beyond. Angels offer critiques, and are honest in a way that friends and family aren’t. Probably most important, they make critical introductions. And they’re always thinking about you and your future — even when you may not realize it.