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Practical Career Advice for a Turbulent Working World
By Craig A. Edlin
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Craig A. Edlin
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWhat's Behind All of This Career Turbulence?
"We must drop the idea that change comes slowly. It does ordinarily – in part because we think it does. Today changes must come fast; and we must adjust our mental habits, so that we can accept comfortably the idea of stopping one thing and beginning another overnight. We must discard the idea that past routine, past ways of doing things are probably the best ways. On the contrary, we must assume that there is probably a better way to do almost everything. We must stop assuming that a thing which has never been done before probably cannot be done at all." – Donald M. Nelson
No doubt about it, careers are under tremendous stress. Countless professionals are either dissatisfied in their present position, or have been subject to downsizing and are seeking a new position, perhaps in a new field of work. Unemployment is at a twenty five year high in this country, and the commentary from the business press, as of this writing, portends more.
Welcome to the working world of 2010 and beyond! Whether you attribute it to globalization, bad policy, or normal economic cycles, we are in the midst of extreme change and we must learn how to manage our careers through it.
Recently I had the pleasure of meeting with a fine gentleman that had unfortunately been downsized from a prominent local non-profit organization. He was in senior management and the board decided that they no longer needed his services.
What a bright and capable guy he is, and with a fabulous resume! He has extensive experience, great skills, and a wonderful ability to communicate. He had been downsized from a differing employer years ago, so he knows the drill. I am therefore sure he will find a suitable and prominent position elsewhere.
Now, in all fairness, I certainly am not privy to the whole situation and perhaps there were things going on unique to this situation that forced the company's hand in taking this action.
Nonetheless, I wondered how on earth anybody would let someone of his caliber go. There seemed to be no logic or justice to it. Companies appear to do things that make us scratch our heads in amazement. Many companies seem to be in a perpetual downsizing, repeating the process on an annual basis with no end in sight. How do we explain this, particularly to youngsters that someday will enter the business world?
Obviously, the current global economic recession is forcing companies to dramatically reduce operating expenses in order to remain profitable. However, downsizings, rightsizings and other forms of corporate re-engineering have been underway since the 1980's. Something else has been happening in the business environment to cause all this job turbulence.
Business Professor and Author John Coyle describes this phenomenon in his book Supply Chain Management as follows; "all businesses operate in a very dynamic environment in which change is the only constant. Characteristics of consumer and industrial-buyer demand, technology, competition, markets and suppliers are constantly changing. As a result, businesses must redeploy their resources in response to, and in anticipation of, this ever-changing environment."
And what's the cause of all this constant change? It may sound a little cynical, but its progress. Change, in the form of innovation, has always been an element of business and it is a driver of progress. Industrialist Charles Kettering said; "Research is an organized method of trying to find out what you are going to do after you cannot do what you are doing now. It may also be said to be the method of keeping a customer reasonably dissatisfied with what he has. That means constant improvement and change so that the customer will be stimulated to desire the new product enough to replace the one he has."
But the scope and magnitude of business change in recent times has accelerated far beyond just product innovation. Intercontinental jet travel, instantaneous global communications, free trade agreements, and advanced intercontinental and intermodal shipping have served to create a global trading economy. Progress has also driven explosive growth in the consumer economies of China and India, causing a dramatic spike change and shift in global demand for raw materials and finished goods. We are now trading with, partnering with, and yet also competing against, people around the world to an unprecedented degree. This progress, particularly in technological innovation, is actually accelerating and businesses will be in a perpetual chase to redeploy, restructure and re-engineer to meet these demands and challenges.
What it all boils down to is that advanced technology, free trade and economic growth are driving global competition. Global competition forces continuous improvement and perpetual cost reduction. Cost reduction drives mergers and acquisitions, joint agreements, partnerships, and resource redeployments. And, resource redeployments drive organizational realignments, rightsizings and downsizings. The process is perpetual, because the business environment is in perpetual change.
And all this change is amplified by the current recession. Per the February 11, 2010 Wall Street Journal, "While the job market is constantly shifting as some sectors fade and others expand, this recession threw that process into overdrive. Thousands of workers lost jobs as companies automated more tasks or moved whole assembly lines to places like China. As growth returns, so will job creation – just with a different emphasis in the mix of jobs being created."
Years ago, I called on a customer that was an automotive components supplier. I assisted them in specifying new manufacturing machinery to produce a new line of components. All the machines they purchased were mounted on wheels, or casters, which had not normally been done for machines that were installed in a factory. Finding this intriguing, I asked why. Their response what that although the equipment was to be installed and operated in the US, they wanted the flexibility of being able to unplug and ship the machines to Mexico or another low cost labor market on short notice to proactively respond to fluctuating labor costs. Here's an instance where the factory itself was designed to be a re-deployable resource.
Author Ralph L. Woods observed, many years ago; "There are not permanent changes because change itself is permanent." We had all better get used to an ever-changing business environment, because it is now systemic to global commerce. We had better be cognizant of our transferable skills, and be able to demonstrate and translate them to new employers should we be subject to resource redeployment, better known as downsizing. And we had better realize that we are in a world where lifelong learning is essential for career survival, to facilitate adaptation to emerging sectors of the economy. In the very wise words of Lauren Bacall, "Standing still is the fastest way of moving backwards in a rapidly changing world".
Chapter TwoThe Myth of Permanence
"Impermanence is the very essence of joy – the drop of bitterness that enables one to perceive the sweet." – Myrtle Reed
You have given years of devoted effort to the company, only to be caught in the wrong cell on a spreadsheet and subsequently "downsized" to facilitate the firm's need to re-size their business to adapt to prevailing economic conditions.
You are counseled to not take this action personally but to see it as a business decision. You are told to keep things in perspective. People may counsel you to find the good in all this. You have your faith, your health, your family, your talents and abilities. You'll find something new – it's just a matter of time.
It has been said that the only absolutes of life are death and taxes. Pastor John Piper counsels that many of us worship a false God of security. There is no such thing as complete security, at least not in the world as we know it, and certainly not in the business world today. No segment of business is immune. Think about the changes going on right now in government, finance, and the medical profession, just to name a few.
George Washington once said, "There are no permanent alliances, just permanent interests." At least something is permanent!
Vivid examples of the absence of permanence are all around us. The NFL's Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984 (terminating their Baltimore alliance) to play in the Hoosier Dome, which was later renamed the RCA dome and is now ... gone. One wonders how "permanent" its replacement will be.
Just south of my town, a retail store of a prominent pharmacy chain was closed up and a new replacement store was constructed about one mile north of the old location. The whims of the consumer and the sensitivity of location to retail success are so acute, and variable, that a move of a mile obviously makes a significant difference.
This brings to mind one of Shakespeare's most famous lines, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts ..."
In the world of performing arts, when the performance has run its course, the props are put away and the players disband. They find other venues, other scripts, other opportunities. They audition, get on board a troupe, and do the next performance. The only permanent thing is change.
How can an actor or actress do it? How can they thrive in the throes of the critics, the feisty audiences, and the threat of the next performance being their last?
For the love of it. It is the reward of being in the moment and giving all one has to the performance. Yes, it's about the adulation and accolades too!
If Shakespeare is saying that the entire world is a stage, then through analogy we can indeed say that the workplace is a stage as well. The engagement may run a little longer (years) than a typical musical or theatrical production (months), but many of the dynamics are the same.
In many respects, we in the working world are performers, with roles assigned to us. Our industry and the markets we serve are the stage, and our attire and equipment are the costumes and props, respectively. We rehearse, and then perform for the client, the patient or the customer. If the production is good, and popular, it has a long run. Not good, then a short run. We build our repertoire. The better we get the better roles we land. The performers come and go, because the industries and markets are dynamic.
It's not a perfect analogy. It is rare for us to have a job where we perform artistically in front of a live audience. But if we can find work that we want to do because we love to do it, then the work itself, done to the best of our ability, is the reward. Then if the end of the run comes to our performance, we can hold our heads high in knowing that we gave it our very best, and will do so again when the next opportunity comes along.
So good luck finding that next gig ... and I wish you all the best for a long running show, and rave reviews!!!
Chapter ThreeThe World of Work Is Change
"Have no fear of change as such and, on the other hand, no liking for it merely for its own sake." – Robert Moses
Many years ago, singer and songwriter Bob Dylan wrote a song titled, "The Times, they are a 'Changin'". His commentary was on the changing of social mores in society during the turbulent war years of the 1960's.
Well, the times today are certainly a'changin', in the world of work. Work as we know it is changing before our eyes.
Change itself is not new to the workplace. Broad movements of change to work have occurred as we have moved from an agrarian society to an industrial society, and in recent times, to a knowledge-worker society. But the acceleration of change today is unprecedented, and its uncertainty is of deep concern to many. Benjamin Disraeli struck a chord on this feeling of vulnerability when he said, "What we anticipate seldom occurs, what we least expected generally happens."
We are at a point in our history where change is a constant. This is particularly true in the turbulent working world of the global economy. Author Ralph L. Woods made this statement many years ago and it is particularly poignant today; "There are no permanent changes because change itself is permanent. It behooves the industrialist to research and the investor to be vigilant."
A vivid contemporary example of this comes from Dennis Recker of Intel, who said the following; "At Intel, we have a saying that change is our ally. If you are not changing things or helping people change things, then somebody else is going to change it for you. If you're not the lead dog, the scenery never changes."
We all have a tendency to resist change. We feel a certain level of competence in our job, and to change is to become less competent. Change can be disconcerting and sad because it is accompanied by the loss of the old tried and true way of doing things.
We reconcile ourselves to the fact that change is inevitable since the world we live in is dynamic, and by some perspectives, accelerating in its change. People want control when change is made. Control is the ability to regulate, direct or influence the outcome of a process or event. The fear of loss from change is generally greater than the desire for gain from what a change can bring. Change always has an element of risk, and people generally are risk-averse.
For many of us, change is thrust upon us, forced by an organizational realignment or downsizing.
We can characterize such a situation as being in a "transition" in our career. The term "transition" connotes a beginning point, an end point, and a strategy in between. "Change" is a colder and spookier term. But the reality is that a career transition will include change; in tasks, in industries, and in some cases, the geographic location of a residence.
But consider that change is a core principle of human existence. Pioneering American Psychologist William James said; "The fundamental fact about our experience is that it is a process of change." We live in a dynamic world, where survival of the fittest is the rule. As a living being, we must continually pay attention to the changes taking place around us. Our primary directive is to adapt and change to survive. This is particularly true as we navigate through our careers in turbulent times!
We are wired at a very deep level – geared toward change and adaptation. Change is at the heart of every relationship. Throughout life, people want you to change – your parents, teachers, your spouse, your boss. In business, change is the purpose of every job! That is interesting, isn't it? When you are hired to work somewhere, your purpose is to make changes, hopefully positive ones.
Yet, there is a downside to the current environment of change, and that is the decline in loyalty between worker and employer. I have a good friend that signed on with an electronics manufacturing company year ago as a manufacturer's representative. His charter was to grow the market share of the firm's products through their distributors in his assigned territory. He did so in dramatic fashion (per the numbers) and was summarily dismissed from his representative agreement during the current recession. He had achieved the goal and was apparently of no further use to the electronics firm. Corporate hard ball? Yes. Stark change? Absolutely!
To work successfully in the world today and in the future, we must increasingly be prepared to be used in a temporary assignment, and prepared for the possibility of change to a new project or new employer when the job is done. By many accounts, this change to a "contingent" work force is on the rise!
Chapter FourThe Positives of Career Transition
"Life's greatest achievement is the continual re-making of yourself so that at last you know how to live." - Winfred Rhodes
It can be a challenge to have a good attitude in the workplace today. You know the situation; unemployment has recently reached historic highs, many folks have been downsized, and the workers that remain are in some cases doing the job of two or three workers. Many people are seeking a transition to a new or better position, and the pickings are slim in this economy. In all fairness, there are many folks that are contented with their careers and that is a blessing. But there is no doubt that we are in an era of significant career turbulence.
Excerpted from Practical Career Advice for a Turbulent Working World by Craig A. Edlin Copyright © 2010 by Craig A. Edlin. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. What's Behind All of This Career Turbulence?....................3
2. The Myth of Permanence....................7
3. The World of Work Is Change....................11
4. The Positives of Career Transition....................15
5. Work the System....................19
6. The Need for Life Long Learning....................23
7. First Things First, When Downsized....................29
8. Start with What You Know....................33
9. Marketing and Selling Basics in Career Transitions....................37
10. An Alternate View of Networking....................43
11. What Hiring Managers Want....................49
12. Congratulations! – You Got the Interview....................53
13. The Art and Science of Good Decision-Making....................57
14. How to Change Industries....................61
15. Service Businesses Differ from Product Businesses....................65
16. Moving from a Large to a Small Company....................69
17. Dealing with the Age Issue....................73
18. Can Optimism Be Learned?....................79
19. Finding Peace through Career Turbulence....................83
20. Dignity through Career Turbulence....................87
21. Career Search Is a Team Endeavor....................91
22. Get Out There!....................95
23. We All Need To Be Inspired....................99
24. The Goal or the Process?....................103
25. Staying Positive among the Naysayers....................107
26. Big Questions and Tough Answers....................109
27. How to Support a Job Searcher....................113
28. When at Wit's End, Return to Fundamentals....................117
29. Getting a Good Start in the Workforce....................123
30. Communications and Handshaking....................127
31. Let's Not Lose the Art of Conversation....................131
32. Advice to Those Embarking upon Their Chosen Career....................135
33. Proverbs for Business and Career....................139
34. Words and Phrases to Avoid in Business....................143
35. Counter-Intuitive Lessons in Life and Business....................147
36. The Harder Right....................151
37. Following a Great Leader....................155
38. Constructive Criticism Techniques....................159
39. Winning and Losing....................163
43. Managing Oneself – And One's Professional Life....................181
44. Elements of Strategy....................185
45. Strategies and Tactics of Career Management....................189
46. The Art of Career Management....................193
47. The Art of Career Wisdom....................197
48. Career Planning by Serendipity....................201
49. Adjusting Dreams to Reality....................205
50. Contemplating a Management Position?....................209
51. Considering a Job in Sales?....................213
52. Does Intelligence Guarantee Career Success?....................217
53. Using Your Aptitudes Provides Career Satisfaction....................221
54. Be Practical, or Pursue Your Passion?....................225
55. Career Lessons from My Friend Al....................229
56. It's Never Too Late!....................233
A Romance and Festival....................239