The Internet has affected and altered the world of work as we once knew it. Seven important trends have both resulted from and fueled the penetration of the Internet into every corner of the world.
To understand these trends will significantly increase your awareness of what new kinds of online and telecommuting work have come into existence as a result. These trends have produced whole new work categories-jobs that did not exist ten, or even two, years ago-some of which were not even possible before.
Trend Number 1: The Changing Economy Has Caused Increased Outsourcing
Given the challenges of the current economy, many companies have determined that online outsourcing some portion of their work leads to significant savings and better performance, while allowing them to focus on their "core business." Through online outsourcing, businesses can gain access to skills, knowledge and expertise that would be expensive or time-consuming to develop in-house.
Additionally, companies have found that by taking advantage of the added capabilities of online talent that are available to them through online outsourcing, they are able to increase their innovation and reduce their time-to-market. This can significantly accelerate their market responsiveness through the design, development and production of new products.
The movement towards ever-increasing outsourcing by businesses has created a flood of new online work opportunities. There are many types of online outsourcing services-call centers, customer support providers, customer relation management firms, data processing services, virtual assistant agencies, and telesales specialists, to list a few. This trend has resulted in the need for and the proliferation of increasingly large contractor databases offering online outsourcing services.
Trend Number 2: Glo bal ization of Business Has Created New Online Work
Now that the world is the marketplace, many new jobs have been created based on increased needs for people to bridge the previous cultural, monetary and language divisions, and the limitations this dividedness formerly imposed. If you are bilingual or multicultural, your employment possibilities abound.
Companies like abGlobal hire bilingual translators to serve hundreds of clients, from large government agencies and law firms to nonprofit organizations and private individuals. There are many other agencies that enlist expert freelance translators to handle the deluge of translation needs the Internet has generated.
Without a doubt, the ability to speak English is also a significant asset for finding work in this global world of business. Because the Internet is primarily an English-speaking medium, small businesses, as well as mega-corporations, realize that they need to acquire or improve their English writing and speaking ability. In order to compete, they need to be able to communicate clearly and precisely in English. Moreover, their Webpages, emails, articles, sales materials and customer support documents must reflect mastery of standard English.
Companies like ISpeakUSpeak hire native English speakers to work one-on-one as English language trainers with students worldwide through a series of English conversations with their trainers, and then receive immediate feedback in order to improve. This language-related example is just one of the many job functions that have emerged because the Web has globalized business.
Trend Number 3: Glo cal ization of Business also Has Created New Online Work
To understand the term "glocalization," think about the two words it combines... global and local. Glocalization describes a product or service that is developed globally, but adapted locally in order to accommodate the consumers particular to each local market. The products or services of an online business are tailored to conform to local laws, customs, culture, and consumer preferences. Services that are effectively "glocalized" are of much greater interest and utility to local customers, and as such, are significantly more marketable.
Yahoo! is an example of a company that practices glocalization. It markets a portal that is viewed worldwide. But it offers multiple distinct versions of its website and services, customizing content and language to appeal to individuals who live in some 25 different countries, including China, Russia and Canada.
An ever-increasing number of businesses are developing their own version of glocalization in an effort to build their customer bases and increase sales. VIPdesk.com is an example. They describe the "glocalization" of their services as "international coverage and presence combined with local expertise." For example, VIP Desk hires a local home-based professionals to perform web-based Concierge Services for clients visiting the area. The local expert responds to requests for information, guidance, and assistance with localized tasks such as restaurant reservations, transportation services or tickets to shows or events.
VIP Desk currently offers a customized local version of global services in 20 market areas: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis and Toronto, Canada.
Trend Number 4: The Internet has Significantly Expanded Shopper Expectations
Shoppers now expect knowledge along with their products-condensed and useful information through which they can become fully educated and savvy before they make a buying decision. They are not so much looking for recommendations as they are seeking a basis for making their own intelligent choices.
Consumers also want more options-a fuller selection of choices than they generally can find in a brick-and-mortar store. And they expect convenience while making their purchases, with full support afterwards.
This trend of expanded customer expectations and demands has generated new categories of jobs that are designed to address these needs. Increased customer requirements have changed the landscape for all businesses - traditional as well as online - if they want to thrive, or even if they just want to survive.
As an example of the types of jobs this trend has generated, VIP Desk hires at-home "Brand Ambassadors" to help companies differentiate their company "from the crowd" in order to build customer loyalty. Brand Ambassador services help companies to:
• attract and retain their best customers,
• increase customer engagement,
• extend their brand into the daily lives of their customers,
• capture lifestyle and behavior data of their customers,
• differentiate their brand from competitors, and
• increase customer satisfaction scores and lifetime customer value.
Trend Number 5: Social Media Has Changed the Needs & Challenges of Business
Companies know that social media is now a critical component of their customers' decision-making processes. Consumers are more likely to make buying decisions based on what they read from people they trust on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, forums, blogs, Wikipedia, and Yahoo!Answers.
Here are some market statistics:
• 72% of customers use social media to research customer care reputation before making a purchase.
• 92% expect companies to have a social media presence for customer service.
• 66% want companies to increase the use of social media for customer service.
• This new phenomenon creates online jobs that were never even contemplated before-jobs that involve interesting tasks, such as:
• capturing data from across the social media landscape,
• analyzing and identifying trends,
• actively listening to social media conversations,
• responding to customers through social media channels,
• participating in and understanding global conversations,
• merging social media data with other data sources, and
• integrating social media when generating contact lists.
One category of work that has been generated by this trend is "social media intelligence and analytics." What new tasks and services are needed to maintain and maximize a company's brand presence in the world of tweets, blog posts, and hashtags? What talents, skills, and strategies you need to put into play to be successful, to find employment, and to establish a career in the world of social media?
Trend Number 6: Ubiquitous Access to Online Education Has Removed Former Barriers to Learning
What degrees and⁄or credentials do you already have? What additional certifications, degrees or credentials do you need? The Internet has significantly shifted the playing field for those who need or want to know and learn more.
The goalpost for what you need to know and be able to do is advancing constantly. On the other hand, you now have ready access to whatever degrees, credentials, certifications or training you need or want, simply by locating a school or program online.
Where once an education was an event, it is now an ongoing and continuing process. And where once you may have been forced to choose between going to school and taking a job, now you can have a job and go to school at the same time.
This ubiquitous access we now have to learn what we need to learn, when and where we want to learn it, means that it is now possible for you to enter areas of work you may once have thought to be beyond your reach. By attending school, you can prepare yourself to acquire that better job you always wished you could acquire.
As well as opening up opportunities to learn anything, anytime, from anywhere, the online education movement has generated many new types of jobs in its own right. There are positions for online college faculty, online high school teachers, online tutors, online trainers, and online training materials producers, including online training videos.
Now that access to learning has, thanks to the Web, become ubiquitous, the hunger for learning - learning throughout life - has created its own ever-escalating set of demands.
Trend Number 7: Access to Information Has Made Us Want to Control Our Own Physical and Mental Welfare
The Internet has made us advocates for our own health, and active participants in everything related to it. Where we once may have been completely dependent and reliant on local health facilities and personnel, we now want to assume more responsibility for our own physical and mental wellbeing. Instead of feeling helpless about a symptom or diagnosis, we actively seek and have access to quality information on that topic, including alternative treatments, health maintenance practices that could make a difference, and even possible alternative diagnoses.
This trend to want to take control of our minds and bodies has been fed by the increase in available accurate information, and, in turn, has created an online market demand for information, consulting, and interaction with professionals.
Ask Yourself "What Does This Mean to Me?"
Considering these seven trends, where would you fit in the cyber world of work? What new kinds of online and telecommuting work that now has come into existence would be a perfect match for your talents and abilities, and would engage you and fulfill you while also providing you the considerable benefit of working from your own home office, taking back your commuting time, and adapting to your own work rhythm? Given the whole new work categories these seven trends have produced, there are many potential possibilities for your own productive and successful shift to the cyber workplace.
Dr. Carolee Duckworth is an online work expert and designer of College-Online.com, earning her own living online for the past 18 years. She has coauthored two books (with Marie Langworthy): Shifting Gears To Your Life & Work After Retirement and Shifting Gears To Your Career Working Online avigate your way to your own online career, making the crossover from vague ideas to a clear direction.