Although the dream of finding and holding on the right job with the right company and never having to look for work again is still alive, there’s an increasing number of people who need look no farther than the contrast between their own and their parents’ employment histories to see that it is more myth than reality.
They have learned the hard way that security is no longer tied to a single company, no matter how impressive its corporate headquarters, stock price, or benefit package.
So what replaces the imposing corporate edifice with its neat hierarchies, structured career paths, and illusions of security? The answer is, you do—not as a dependent hired hand, but as an independent, self-actuated business resource, a vendor who adds value to the organization.
For sixty years, the right-job-plus-right-company-equals-security-for-life model has dominated, so it’s not surprising that there is a lingering desire to cling to it rather than stepping off into what looks like a huge void.
However, from my own experience, and my experience working with clients, I know that it is possible to pass through this void to a promised land of greater professional freedom and fulfillment. Instead of linking career security to some external entity, there exists the possibility, the very real choice, of connecting it to yourself and your own unique abilities to contribute. Yet I also know that shifting the responsibly from “them” to “you” is not a simple change, but a transition requiring lots of work, learning, and patience, and it’s hard to feel adequate to the task.
In the early days of my consulting practice, I worked with a business which was headquartered in a corporate complex of majestic proportions. After navigating a complex color-coded route to find the appropriate underground garage, I arrived at the reception area a little frazzled. I was instantly made even more uncomfortable by my surroundings, a cold, cavernous architectural wonder of glass and steel.
A security guard directed me to a corridor where I stood waiting and waiting in front of what I thought were the elevator doors. As I stood there looking at my reflection in the polished black marble, I grew more and more anxious about being late, about my presentation, about my professional abilities, about my existence on the face of the earth! I was so caught up in my feelings of insecurity that I jumped when the security guard tapped me on the shoulder to tell me that I was facing the wrong way, that the elevators were behind me. I was totally mortified!
Later on I realized that I had allowed myself to be intimidated by an environment that was expressly designed to make me feel small.
Traditional ways of looking for work are also designed to make you feel small. Being one of thousands applying for a position, making telephone calls that aren’t returned, sending emails that aren’t answered, and later, if you’re lucky, being just one of many candidates being interviewed, can also generate all the “little me” feelings I felt standing in front of what I thought were elevators. These person-to-business interactions place you in competition with an “architecture” that is intended to make you all too painfully aware of your insignificance.
So what replaces the imposing corporate edifice with its neat hierarchies, structured career paths, and illusions of security?
The answer is, you do—not as a dependent hired hand, but as an independent, self-actuated business resource, a vendor who adds value to the organization.
Yet for many it seems easier to rest on the laurels of past performance or keep a low profile than to create and execute a business plan based on a thorough knowledge of yourself and the marketplace. It’s not easy to take on the work of becoming what Bill Bridges calls “You & Company”, and it’s even harder to believe that doing so will be enough to assure lifelong career security.
Only those who consciously cultivate self-leadership skills will be equipped to take confident strides down new hallways to meet as representatives of a business (their company) with the representatives of other businesses (their potential customers).
When work is viewed as one business offering its services to another, the playing field changes dramatically. The personal dynamic is removed, and it’s no longer a question of having to measure up as a human being, but as a business entity.
Yes, the competition is still there, and yes, being in business requires more of you, but it’s also a lot like turning around and seeing a row of elevators, each with an open door symbolizing a new possibility.
Three Benefits of a Business-To-Business Approach
- It establishes a “buffer zone” between you and rejection. You’re not selling yourself, but the product or service of your company. There is an emotional cost to selling yourself which many people naturally resist paying, which means they stop doing the very activities they need to do to achieve success.
- There has never been a time in the history of business when you could be a “business of one” and be taken as seriously and compete as effectively as you can today. Technology has leveled the playing field. Being small allows you to maneuver more quickly and gives you the competitive advantage of being able to respond faster to change.
- A business-to-business mindset forces you to be more strategic in your planning and preparation. In a B2B meeting, you can’t get away with reporting on past accomplishments. You join the conversation as an active partner. You position yourself as a peer, not an underling.