This is an unpredictable world. Duh – no kidding – you say. I begin this blog with a statement of the painfully obvious. We all know and experience the unpredictability of these times everyday single day in the news and as change manifests in our own lives.
I have a friend who has worked for a global systems integrator for over twenty years. He has survived numerous changes in CEO regimes, previous economic slowdowns, and a slew of lay-offs in this company over these past two decades. He now finds himself receiving pay cuts, benefits being skimmed away, ( the days of 401K matching, for example, are disappearing in the wind for many people) and now sensing this may be “his big one” – the time he is told his job is over.
He resides in a specific segment of our working population in this country; this is the working population that has remained at one company primarily through their whole career and very much intended to retire from that company – essentially cross over the finish line. This segment of our U.S. working population has experienced, so far, the straight line run – starting their career and then running the whole way through their career at the same place. These are the “Company Careerists” who orbited in and around their company for years – and in the face of the good, bad, and ugly – the company was essentially – home. These are the people that comprise of what I term as the “inside culture” people who have for all purposes nested at a company and learned to survive inside the company’s cultural norms and unwritten rules. For this population, the current turbulence is especially difficult. I hear it in my friend’s voice over the phone. He’s scared. He says of his previous ability to move around into new areas of the company to survive, “There’s nowhere to go now –it’s like the whole house is falling down.”
Today’s Financial Times, “Survival in an age of turbulence” article (Financial Times Survival in an age of turbulence), says, “According to one study, the volatility of revenues, profitability and employment of public companies in the U.S more than doubled between 1960 and 2000…. (and the next paragraph) Greater turbulence puts an individual company’s survival at risk.” This translates clearly to our survival – the thousands of faces, minds, and hands & feet that walk in the doors or boot up a PC every morning to get something done somewhere. The long standing assumptions and rules of engagement for Company Careerists have been shattered. The rules no longer apply. There are no more straight lines in our career path and therefore in life.
I think some of us live in a state of denial. I still meet good hard working folks that are clinging to the notion that somehow they can go to a company, find stability in life, and then embark on a logical climb up the corporate ladder. But at the same time, we’ve all witnessed the fall (or demise by acquisition) of many of the world’s largest global companies and anchor names in their industry through recent history – Anderson, Bear Sterns, GM , EDS– and I missed probably so many more that would make this list at least a dozen.
No more straight lines. It’s time we do away with the rendition of considering one solid foot on the corporate ladder (with hard work and inside politicking) automatically leads the next foot up the ladder. Times have changed.
Now more than ever you have to know yourself, know your talents, be able to get “out of the box” on your thinking about your life, career, and how you apply yourself to any working team or what “working” means to you – what “making a living” means to you.
We are now entering the survival of the fittest – but it’s not about climbing the ladder. It’s about agility of the curious who can own problems and get incredible ideas footed for smart companies ( or even a not so smart company but it still matters to you to help them) and stay ahead of the game.
It’s about honing our own brand and with it – our own signature talent. Making this brand known through great thought leadership and building as Seth Godin would articulate, a Tribe. Seth Godin\’s blog and thinking on Tribes
To all those how find themselves in the exact same position as my friend I described - the wonderful but scared Company Careerists that have just been given their pink slip or feel they are on the edge of the precipice – you need to do more than hunt down your next job – you need a Transition Sabbatical Strategy to help you intertwine these new rules of engagement of the volatile world into your life – for real.
Here are three steps to stage a Transition Sabbatical Strategy:
1. Take time to Figure Yourself out. In Bob McDonald and Don Hutcheson’s book, “Don’t Waste Your Talent – the 8 Critical Steps to Discovering what you do Best” Don’t Waste Your Talent on Amazon they talk very specifically about the idea that we fall into our “system self”. That we’ve allowed the demands of the company to begin to define who we are – but in many cases – we created a gap between who we really are (what we’re really good at ) and what we’ve been expected to do in the course of our career. This book gives you a chance to break free of this.
2. Explore paths that are drastically different from your traditional career path. So you might be under enormous pressure to replace your income. Got it. But still – even in the face of your fear – put time towards a true interest that could translate into a new way of making a living. Don’t be afraid to explore. Get aggressive about meeting people and becoming a student of occupations around your interests, hobbies, and loves – The internet makes this easy. Become an investigative reporter in areas of interest and see what happens.
3. Be able to Give Things Up to Create Bandwidth: This is the hardest thing. In a leadership speech given by Madeleine Homan, a leadership coach and international speaker of the Ken Blanchard Company, she said the greatest fear isn’t the fear of failure but the fear of what we will lose – the fear of what we might have to give up. A Transition means – transition of some of our trappings we’ve become accustomed to as well. To recreate our lives also implies we must recreate our footprint of how we live.
A Transition Sabbatical Strategy to navigate the new world without straight lines – more on this in my next blog…