This post deals with strategies you should consider while your career curve is still going up. All of the advice that follows assumes that you are giving your job every thing you have got.
If you read my last post, you might be thinking, "Why is David cheerily laying about with such bleak news? Don’t we have enough trouble coping with waffling managers and impossible deadlines? Why should we be looking forward to old age and reduced circumstances?"
Because you can do something to ensure a more satisfying future.
Gravity does not let up because you ignore it. Neither does the law of supply and demand. You will stay employed as long as you have skills that are in demand AND IF you are still attuned to the rhythms of the group you work with. No matter how well off you are today, either one of these can go wrong in a relatively short time.
Your hard-earned skills can become expendable in several common scenarios: a takeover occurs, new operating procedures are introduced, the technology you know is replaced, etc., etc.
Your affinity with your group can go down the chute when any of the
following occur: a new manager arrives and brings in her own people,
you are transferred because of a reorganization, successful actions are
discarded in order to reduce costs. You feel increasingly out of step
and everyone realizes it.
Staying employed is becoming much more like whitewater rafting with
Captain Ahab than working as a galley slave. You spend most of your
time watching for submerged rocks and you are often forced to move at a
pace you cannot control. When something goes wrong, you will catch hell
for it even if your group leader chose the route. You rarely get worked
to death because the company goes down and you all go with it. The
pressure is so intense that you don’t realize how miserable you are
until after it is over.
The analogy breaks down because in whitewater rafting, you feel you
have accomplished something as a team. In today’s employment, you may
be the only one who knows what you have accomplished.
When you are at the beginning of your career curve, you must be
willing to look for another job as soon as you feel that your career
progress is being blocked. Just as your company considers you
expendable, you must treat your employer as expendable. If you are not
being given assignments that challenge you and not being rewarded for
your efforts – get out of there and get a job that does both.
Yes, you might make a few missteps, but you will learn quickly what
kind of employers need and want your services and will pay well for
them. You have a relatively short time to learn technical and
management skills that will allow you to earn good money. You cannot
waste your working life waiting for your boss to become an enlightened
Yes, you will probably keep your job if you don’t make waves, but
you will slip further and further behind until you end up working for
someone who has no business managing you. If this doesn’t make sense to
you, ask one of your coworkers to explain it.
Work is like that rock, paper, scissors game. There is no long-term
winning play. You need to stay alert and look for the strategy that
will allow you to produce results for your company and get
well-rewarded for it. It will change over time, so you must be ready
for the next shift if you are to continue successfully.
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