Like it or not, we are living in very dangerous times. Corporate America continues to quietly shed jobs, world economies are fragile and signs of meaningful improvement are hard to find. Industries that used to be up are down and the employment stability you feel right now is probably far less reality-based then you care to believe. Am I out to scare you? No, but I do want to get you thinking as I have some points for you to consider.
First things first. If nothing else, please accept this one simple fact; you and you alone are the one in charge of where your career is going. If you do not acknowledge this as a fundamental truth, your career is on a wild ride to be buffeted by the winds of change, whimsy and collective wisdom of those who lead your organization. This is not a good thing because I have been around leaders for a very long time and suffice to say, your career is not top of mind on their list of priorities.
Things to consider and reflect upon in this most important endeavor include, but are not limited to the following:
- Feeling the Fit. A career does not gain flight because of how good you are in terms of performing the functions required of your job. Being good at what you do is wonderful, but to really excel, you need to be (good at the functional aspects, as well as be the right type of person for the job.)
- You need to fit into the organization. You need to work as they work and play as they play while sharing the core values of the team. If you feel out of place, alienated or left out of the loop (with) communications, something is wrong.
- The State of the Numbers. Not long ago, corporate America discovered that every job that you eliminate within an organization drops that person’s overall compensation to the bottom line. As such, if you can lay-off employees and not replace them, you will save a lot of money. If your organization is in trouble in terms of revenue, you are at risk. If you think you are not at risk, then feel free to double the risk because your eyes and mind are closed. If your organization is struggling, I urge you to look out for new opportunities before you become a statistic.
- Contentment Is Not Good. Eugene O’Neil said “contentment is a warm sty, for the eaters and the sleepers.” I will protect my good friend’s privacy here, but as a C-level person within a rapidly growing industry and in possession of a stellar reputation, he came into work one fine day to find that his job was eliminated in a re-organization. To this day he is confused and angry, as he simply does not understand what happened to his job, or why. This happens to people every single day so do not let it happen to you.
- Read, Write and Speak. These habits will lead to good things. Reading each day is mandatory because you were not only hired for what you are, but for what you will be over time in terms of creating value. Writing is an absolute necessity in the event that you have anything of importance to convey. Writing has opened up my career and it can do the same for you. Speak publically and do not let fear get in your way. Find a local Toastmasters club and jump in with both feet. Your reward will be the development of talents that no one who aspires to do great things should live without.
- Keep your Boss’s Boss… Can you finish this saying? “Keep your boss’s boss off your boss’s back.” Misery flows downhill so let me assure you that if your boss is unhappy, sooner or later, some of this misery is going to land right square on your head. Bottom line is that you need to be aware of the politics and pressures your boss is experiencing and be there to help mitigate the slings and arrows. Do this and you will be fulfilling one of the cardinal rules of survival and you will garner quite a bit of loyalty along the way.
- Think Strategically. Career movement, either internal or external, is often like chess. It requires thought and planning and a number of what-if scenarios. Sadly, none of this is easy but success seldom is. Regardless of your current position, it is important to think of not just the tactical aspects of your position but the strategic overlay of your role and how it fits into your organization’s overall strategy. The World in which you live, five years down the road, will be the one that you design today.
- Take Risks. Intelligent risks can change your life. Personally, if I had my life to live over again, I would have taken more risks and focused less on being safe. Great things happen to those of us who take risks, speak out and dare to assume responsibility for our futures. It has been said that fate favors the fearless. I agree.
- Avoid love. Tina Turner said it best; “What’s love got to do with it?” I agree. Do not fall in love with the company, because the company will never love you back. Sad but ultimately true. If you sense that it is time to look around for your next opportunity, do not wait until it is too late. Put out your feelers, begin to network and undertake the tedious task of building the bridge to your next role because it is better to leave your organization on your terms then on theirs.
In my last role, I specialized in working with CFO’s who most often, no longer had jobs. They used to earn upwards of five hundred thousand dollars annually but those days are gone. Now they have lunches, are on boards and they play golf but the bottom line bears repeating. They have no jobs. They used to be important and people used to jump when they walked into a room. Now many of them can’t get their phone calls retuned. If this can happen to them, it can happen to you. My suggestion is that you avoid this most unpleasant predicament.
A consultant, writer and public speaker, Howard Adamsky, works with organizations to support their efforts to build great companies and coaches others on how to do the same. He has over 20 years’ experience in identifying, developing, and implementing effective solutions for organizations struggling to recruit and retain top talent.
An internationally published author, he has written Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals/The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike (Osborne McGraw-Hill) and Employment Rage (Norlights Press.) He is a regular contributor to ERE.net.