Podcast: David Blustein on Working in America

Boston College professor David Blustein (@BlusteinDavid) wrote the book on the Psychology of Working.

His new book, The Importance of Work in an Age of Uncertainty, discusses the eroding work experience in Americans and how to prepare young people to thrive in a complex world.

Blustein thinks the information age fundamentally changed the nature of work as radically as the industrial revolution did 250 years ago–it changed how we communicate and relate to each other and it increased the amount of precarious (freelance and contingent) work. It resulted in less support for workers and wage compression that accelerated income inequality.

The roadmap forward to more people working with dignity and opportunity, suggests Blustein, is a new mutuality that begins with each of us being more caring, kind and generous. It requires good schools for everyone and dignified jobs for all who want to work.

When Tom mentioned Studs Terkel’s 1974 classic Working, Blustein agreed that it (despite being journalistic rather than scientific) was a foundational piece of modern vocational psychology.

Dr. Blustein is joined by Ed Hidalgo from the Cajon Valley Union School District, a leading example of early immersive career education. They both think career education should start early (middle school or sooner) to help young people develop a positive sense of identity and learn to love who they are.

“Automation will reduce the amount of tedious work,” said Blustein. “But it will take a thoughtful approach to the labor market to create opportunity and dignity for all workers. Right now there are two Americas at work.”

Tom spoke with them right before a keynote session at the LearnLaunch conference in Boston in a session sponsored by nonprofit ASA, provider of middle school career education resources.

Key Takeaways:
[1:38] David speaks about his background and why he decided to study psychology.
[3:05] David shares what spurred his interest in counseling.
[4:39] What drew David to studying the psychology of working.
[6:20] Has David read Studs Terkel’s work? And would he consider him one of the first vocational psychologists?
[6:55] Has Ed read any of Studs Terkel’s work?
[7:02] When did Ed first run into David’s work?
[7:16] David shares a bit about his first book, The Psychology of Working, and what the goal of it was.
[7:47] Ed speaks about how The Psychology of Working aided his own work at Cajon Valley.
[8:26] Was the Industrial Revolution and the conception of the modern corporation the major shift in work?
[10:08] David speaks about how work has changed in the last 40 years in the Information Age.
[11:44] Is this recent shift from long-term employment to freelancing a good or bad thing?
[14:15] Why does David think the nature of work is eroding in America?
[15:48] Is it realistic in this age to think that most people could be engaged in work that they care about?
[17:20] The paradox of the current nature of work.
[18:38] How and when should we introduce young people to the world of work?
[21:27] How Cajon Valley is bringing vocational psychology into the classroom.
[22:50] David responds to the idea that it is too early to educate children as young as eight about work.
[24:43] Is there any danger in typecasting children early (based on these personality types developed by John Holland)?
[25:47] Is this idea that your capabilities as a human can grow with effort compatible with a growth mindset?
[27:05] Ed elaborates on Cajon Valley’s framework and the typecasting/personality types they use.
[28:18] David elaborates on the last chapter which talks about helping more people work with dignity and opportunity.
[32:11] Tom thanks Dr. Blustein for joining the podcast.
[32:27] About next week’s episode with Ed Hidalgo!

Mentioned in This Episode:
Dr. David L. Blustein
The Psychology of Working: A New Perspective for Career Development, Counseling, and Public Policy, by David L. Blustein
The Importance of Work in an Age of Uncertainty: The Eroding Work Experience in America, by Dr. David L. Blustein
Ed Hidalgo
Cajon Valley Union School District
American Student Assistance (ASA)
Studs Terkel
The Other America: Poverty in the United States, by Michael Harrington
John Holland

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The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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