It's important for me to get out of the office on a regular basis and talk with groups of people who, in the neat language of business jargon, are part of a statistic called "job churn," the movement of people in and out of the labor market. Right now, churn—which suggests violent splashing—is making us all feel like we're traveling on very rough seas and producing a lot of queasiness.
Although I regularly see individual clients in career transition who often feel as if they are in a small boat in an ocean of uncertainty, I find being in the company of a group of people who have given up an evening or Saturday morning to attend one of my presentations a very different experience.
It is more like riding the subway or a bus rather than driving my own car. When I use mass transit, I'm just another passenger sharing a journey with others from one stop to another. It's no longer the other drivers and me in our separate vehicles en route to different destinations. We're all in it together, which is exactly how it feels when I step into a library meeting room, community center or church hall and start to talk informally with people who have come to hear me speak. And, just like the subway, I never know who will sit down next to me or how my world will expand as a result.
Such was the case a few weeks ago when I met an attractive middle-aged woman at one of my seminars who claimed she already knew me.
"The rest of your life is an eight o'clock class," a colleague of mine likes to say to the new graduates he counsels. It's a delightful metaphor, but I think that makes it sound too easy. It suggests that, in your professional future, just signing up and showing up will be enough.
As you've no doubt learned during the last four years, it's possible to take a course, pass it, even get a good grade in it, without being fully engaged. This behavior will not work for you in today's workplace. Anyone who takes a passive stance puts their job status at risk.
Back in the days when recruitment out of college led to a progressive career track with the same company (IBM, GE, AT&T, etc.) it was valid, but in the competitive, global marketplace you are entering today, it is not.
Small business owners and managers may not have the six-figure incomes, paneled offices and private jets of corporate executives but they have the same responsibility—leadership.
Top managers do not spring into existence out of nowhere.They are selected because they are suited for the job, and they are carefully groomed through extensive training and a highly structured career path. They don't just wake up one morning and find themselves in charge.
Small business owners, on the other hand, often do, and many of them are ill-equipped for it.
It is critical that a person who is thinking about starting a business find out how well she fits the leadership role she will have to assume. Corporations use tools to evaluate candidates for management, and small business owners should do the same.
Ask small business owners why some of them fail and they'll tell you it's because they don't make enough money. This makes about as much sense as saying that Enron went under because the price of its stock fell.
It begs the question, why don't they make enough money, and misses the opportunity to seek out fundamental causes like:
I was catching up with a dear friend, talking about all that had happened in her life since she was laid off from a company where she’d worked for many years. Although she had been restless long before the layoff, she had postponed taking action (despite my urging), hoping that seniority, a track record of glowing reviews, and being well-liked in the company would allow her to hang on for a few more years, long enough to cross the retirement “finish line.”
Today, as we all know, work comes in two basic varieties. It may be a conventional employment arrangement, traditionally known as a “job”.
Or it may take the form of a contracted service, consulting assignment, preferred vendor status, etc., traditionally known as freelancing.
When I started out as a career counselor, the job was the coin of the realm, and the complicated rituals associated with getting and keeping one took place on a strictly person-to-business level.
On the other hand, consultants, subcontractors, and other types of freelancers have always built business-to-business relationships by providing services directly connected to the needs and goals of the clients they serve. By virtue of the value added by these services, they are granted “temporary” admission to the organization.
Like any other professional, as a career counselor, it's important for me to keep up with what's happening in my field. I do this by reading and studying and talking with thought leaders I respect.
I also periodically take a look at what the general public is reading by perusing the career shelves of bookstores.
I rarely buy these books because they tend to repeat things I already know and because, in the vast majority of cases, they present an approach I consider to be ineffective and outdated.