In 1964, I saw the need to change careers. The current one--full charge bookkeeper--was fast being wiped out by the advent of computers. Few courses were available in computer programming. I paid to take one where the computer had 2,048 bits. When we spoke of 2K in those days, we were referring to that number of binary digits. Luckily, after burning old bridges, I was able to become a programmer trainee. Viet Nam was heating up and so was computerization. Add to that, the flowering of a robust civil rights movement and job changes were sure to come. In my world, something else was happening--competition with Baby Boomers who had put the word out not to trust anyone over 30.
The big 50 hit me the same day as I took tests for a certificate as a computer professional. Already I had been teaching in an experimental Institute owned by Honeywell. Just as I had found it difficult to proceed in commercial accounting without knowing computers, so now recent Liberal Arts graduates were finding it difficult to find good paying jobs without practical training. Our courses filled the need. It was a sad day when Honeywell was hit with super fines because of not obeying federal rules involving the oil embargo. OPEC had declared itself potent and Americans suffered gas lines.
I moved on to a commercial school owned and operated by a family who had been in business since the days of electro-mechanical data processing. In all, from 1970 until I retired in 1977, I had a job teaching anyone who could pass an aptitude test. The work was very rewarding to see recent graduates (able to attend because of grants and loans) pursue a curriculum we devised, They were able to get jobs in a field which needed more people.
During the years I spent at my last place of work, I gained a Masters in Vocational Guidance. Night classes and enough money to pay tuition without worries was my way of remaining employable.
Now, when unemployment is breaking records, 2009 is competing with 1974. I was one semester away from the Masters when I took time out the last weekend of July to watch the House hearings on Richard Nixon.
The economy was changing very quickly and my way of keeping my job was to become indispensable. In fact, my school was being pressed to have better counseling, and I decided I could fill that bill. Truth to tell, the cost of the degree was not exorbitant. My husband and I had a tax bracket to scream about. Inflation was ratcheting up to make it more evident. Without 401Ks--IRAs had barely begun--being able to write off tuition and books made my annual raises a little less "taxing."
War winding down, impeachment chatter, economic changes, generational shifts--what happened to me in the early 70s is something which I see happening to my younger friends these days as they hope to be on the last full time job they'll ever need. Instead of technological shifts, this time we are faced with global shifts, not least of which have occurred because of the very computers which upset life 45 years ago.