Are you a “symbolic analyst”? If you are a CPA, you are. Also, engineers, lawyers or anyone who processes information or primarily manipulates words or symbols qualifies. That includes writers, like myself.

I discovered that I was a symbolic analyst about 16 years ago. I attended a luncheon for instructors of a university for which I teach part time. (Guess what, teachers are symbolic analysts—so I’m twice one!). The guest speaker was Robert Reich, former secretary of labor under President Clinton. Although my fellow instructors and I were dining in Woodland Hills, California, Reich addressed us from the East Coast over a large television screen. Reich described what a symbolic analyst is (he apparently invented the term in his book The Work of Nations) and why those who are, should congratulate themselves. The reason for such self-adulation: symbolic analysts probably will earn more money and be more employable than the two other job categories he delineated—routine producers (manufacturers of goods and low-level supervisors) and service workers (waiters, janitors, plumbers, etc.).

Reich posited that about 20 percent of the labor force in the then emerging global economy would be symbolic analysts and that these symbolic analysts would be able to easily work anywhere. The producers and service workers, on the other hand, would be mostly restricted to where they live. Furthermore, because of their education, mobility and ability to solve problems, symbolic analysts likely will earn more money than workers in the other two categories. They also likely will be more employable, as robots eventually could take over many of the production and service jobs. (Where do medical professionals fit? Are they service workers whose jobs will be taken over by robots?)

I hope it doesn’t sound like hubris, but I take comfort in knowing that I’m a symbolic analyst. Yet I do admit that John W. Gardner (another former Cabinet member) may have been on to something when he said, “The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.”

Incidentally, I just figured out that I’m thrice a symbolic analyst, as Reich lists consultants among the elect.

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