Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Should I stay or should I go? 9: thinking through careers per se and understanding where we are now and where we would go from there 2

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on February 12, 2016

This is my ninth installment to a series on intentionally entered into, fundamental job and career path change, and on best practices for deciding both when and how to carry through on it (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 416 and following for Parts 1-8.)

I focused in Part 8 of this, on what the term “career” is increasingly coming to mean in this period of change and uncertainty. And that is what we all face as the concepts of employment and employability are undergoing profound, fundamental change as we move deeper into this 21st century.

The key message that I would share in response to that observation is simple. We need to think through, plan out and perform a lot more systematically, and both in our here-and-now job performance and in our longer-term career development efforts. In that, both short-term job performance and effective long-term career planning and follow-through call for a level of adaptive flexibility and work life agility that has to be systematically, intentionally developed and carefully maintained as part of our being effective professionals. We cannot take our jobs or our long-term employability for granted – ever. And we always have to be prepared for change, and both for its challenges and for its potential opportunities.

At the end of Part 8, I said that I would take its discussion at least somewhat out of the abstract by considering some specific jobs and careers scenarios. And I begin that by noting:

• That even with the best, most through planning and
• Even when you actively stay as up to date and as knowledgably informed as possible,
• And in what you do and can do professionally,
• And on what is happening where you work and for your employer as a business,
• And in what is happening in your industry and in your company’s markets,
• You can still find yourself blindsided by the unexpected.

Disruptive change can and does happen, and even to businesses that seek to be as prepared as possible for the unanticipated – and even to their most prepared employees who work there.

I begin looking at real-world scenarios where these points become inescapably important by considering a situation that way too many of us have faced at least once in our work lives, and that an increasing number of us will personally face several times: downsizing. Think of this as going to work one day – most often on a Friday as the commonest day of the week for this to happen, and finding that you have seemingly just been thrown professionally over the edge of a cliff.

• You work for a small manufacturing company that sells specialty parts, business-to-business to other manufacturers for use in their products. And suddenly and unexpectedly one of your employer’s larger clients ends their supply chain relationship with it and announces that they will no longer purchase their products. And your employer has to shut down or retask and rebuild one or more of their manufacturing lines and they find themselves over-staffed in the work area that you have been successfully performing in. Or the overall economy stalls and suddenly your employer and I add a wide range of other businesses find themselves having to retrench and cut back. Or you face this because of the occurrence of any of a seemingly open-ended number of other possible initial driving events, but where the defining consequential reasons for taking this type of personnel decision are all in one way or another driven by at least suddenly acknowledged pressing fiscal need.
• This basic scenario applies in both product and service oriented businesses and in for-profits, not for profits and nonprofits, and in numerous ways. The possible root causes that I could cite here are numerous and varied, but whatever the specific one in play in any given here and now, your employer finds that for stark and unavoidable financial reasons they have to carry through on a downsizing and they have to let go a number of their employees who they have wanted to retain, and who they would have kept on if that were fiscally possible. And you have just been caught up in this.
• You arrive at work and find that your computer login does not work anymore, and that there is a note on your desk telling you to report to one of the small conference rooms to meet with … it turns out that this is not going to be a meeting with your usual supervisor. You are met at the door by someone you do not know from Human Resources, or perhaps by a member of an outside consultant service that specializes in this sort of event and in administering severance packages that are being offered, and in securing now-laid-off employee signatures on all of the relevant paperwork that getting downsized involves. And by noon you are out the door with your personal possessions in a cardboard box, and on your way home.

This is obviously a situation where you will have to make a job change, unless of course your severance package was in fact an early retirement package and you have decided to both accept it and actually retire. For most of us, and most of the time this jolting event means looking for a new job and both suddenly and unexpectedly. But does it also call for a more fundamental career change too?

People do leave current employers voluntarily and according to their own schedules and timing. But it is more common that they find themselves facing the end of a current job for reasons not of their choice and not under their control and at a time that arrives regardless of their then current needs or opportunities. I have cited downsizing as a reason for leaving a job before, and do so again here because this type of termination happens and because there is little if any room for negotiation in it – at least as to whether it is going to take place or not.

I will discuss negotiation options that are available to you, as to the terms of your leaving and the terms of the severance package you receive, later in this series. But for now, and to finish this posting, I focus on next steps that would be important for you – and whether you chose to leave a current position as a matter of your choice or whether this is a change that is more forced upon you as in this scenario.

• When you leave a current job, and particularly when this is forced upon you and you have not had opportunity to plan for this specific termination and your next steps after it, you need to be prepared to move quickly.
• This is very important; we all develop an ongoing momentum in our work lives and as professionals when we are employed, and that dissipates quickly if we suddenly find ourselves out of work – unless we actively and intentionally set out to maintain that momentum.
• This, as much as any other reason, is why we need to shift into job search mode as quickly as possible. And it is why, as much as any other reason, an effective job search effort has to be carried out as if it were a job in and of itself and with the same ongoing discipline and the same level of activity and performance as would be called upon in any paid job. Think of job search here as paid work, but where compensation is deferred until the successful completion of the work assignment at hand.

And this brings me to the core issues that I would end this series installment with that I will pick up on and discuss in my next installment here:

• From day one of your next-job search, consider the possibilities and necessities of both same-career job changes, and more fundamental career path changes. And do so with an awareness that if you in fact have to make a more fundamental career path change and you only pursue what you hope would be same-career job opportunities, you are setting yourself up for avoidable delays and for all of the problems that they would create for you.
• And plan and execute your job search campaigns accordingly.

I am going to delve into at least some of the issues that arise there in those two bullet points in my next series installment. And I will in fact discuss issues such as severance package negotiations in that context, as one of your goals in securing a best possible severance package is going to be your maintaining financial balance as much as possible and for as long as possible as you look and as you get established in a next job. But just as importantly, you need to arrive at terms of severance with your now former employer that will give you the greatest flexibility and opportunity moving forward into a next job too.

I stated at the end of Part 8 that after discussing job and career changes per se, and knowing when you face the later of them, I will consider some special case issues. I will start that with a discussion of founding a startup, and I add of going in early to help build one. And then after that I will discuss retirement as a stay or go scenario, where this increasingly means tapering off employment and making career changes rather than simply moving from being fully employed to no longer working.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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