An economist once told me that a nation’s unemployment rate doesn’t really matter to most people.  “The point,” he stated, “is that you’re either employed or unemployed.  To a great extent we behave accordingly, despite what’s happening to others.”

For many people, 2011 has been a challenging year.  As it closes there are a lot of reasons to say good riddance.  But trying to get a solid “read” on 2012 is even tougher now than it was last December when we looked ahead to 2011.

Despite the fact that it’s only three weeks away; many things that will affect people and organizations remain up in the air: one week we see positive elements (like the recent massive gains in the U.S. stock indexes) but then the next we can hear deeply concerning information that affects the world’s outlook – such as the direction of the European community.

Whether it’s for professional or personal reasons, most individuals, in most countries, do the best they can in the situation they find themselves: We try to move ahead. Barring that, we try not to fall back, too much. Here are five waves that I believe will impact your life in 2012:

1. The western economy will continue to drag on the global situation. This will affect most industries in most (not all, see below) countries. Most citizens in western countries will notice their standard of living ebbing downward, with the gap between the haves and have nots increasing almost everywhere. Middle class people will become more resentful which will result in more protests and calls for change.
2. Chinese travelers will become more welcome, and more active, worldwide. Chinese citizens and politicians are being wined and dined wherever they touch down.  Like the Japanese in the 80s and the Americans before them, they are on a roll with more discretionary money per person and more government interest beyond its own borders.  Let’s hope they behave better than some of the members of the former big spenders when touring about the world.
3. Ecology continues to move forward in importance.  Regardless of one’s beliefs concerning what is behind global warning, there’s a broad acceptance that we are in a period of unexpected weather patterns and at the same time that we are being too cavalier with many of the resources we have.  Many companies at the forefront are behaving well and some key brands are now offering to help consumers recycle.  Be it the air in Beijing or plastic bags in Santa Monica, the average citizen is more aware of the need to be better with reuse.
4. Consumerism continues driving many economies and new businesses – Western consumers will become even more deal savvy led by organizations like GroupOn. As importantly, the average person’s mindset is now “all about the deal.”  Whether you need to save or not, there’s actually STATUS in getting a deal now.  This has already affected clothes, dining out, and services of course, but I think in 2012 we’ll see it in every transaction we do. On that point…
5. Transactions will be less about cash and more about connection – Many readers understand the value of connection and most of us have heard about the trend toward online activities for years.  But it really has come to a head as:

  • Purchases made using smartphones clearly start to replace coins and bills for many citizens (sooner than most bureaucrats estimate) with Google and MasterCard leading the way
  • People in impoverished countries are taking advantage of micro loans of less than $100 from westerners online, becoming successful entrepreneurs
  • Solo-preneurs in the west are now taking credit cards for services or good they sell using gizmos like Square. This levels the playing field making it harder for large organizations to own their markets

6. The US Elections will be impacted by a real 3rd choice.  It is very likely that Americans Elect will field candidates for federal office, including the President, across every state of the union.  This organization is led by individuals of both colors (Republicans and Democrats) who believe that most Americans are fed up with the divisiveness of the party leaders.  Polls say they are right.

Here’s to the future!


Career Coach