The New Career Normal
It was a gray day in the fall of 2003. I looked around the room at all the other walking wounded, the outplaced, downsized, reorganized and laid off professionals I had come to know during the past several weeks. As we were heading into the Christmas season, I would say in jest that we were just stuck in the land of misfit toys. It was funny for a few seconds, until the stark reality of the situation struck our hearts.
There may be times in your career when you find yourself stuck in the land of misfit toys.
We were participants in outplacement with the firm of Lee Hecht Harris, tucked neatly into the suburbs of Detroit, where thousands would need their services over the next decade. The firm would, of course, enjoy prosperity; however, it was unfortunately at the expense of others. James Craft, the leader of the misfit toys or, better stated, Career Coach, would lead us through this difficult time. Some folks would come and go fairly quickly, but, for the most part, many came but few left.
One key takeaway from my weeks of time with the group and James was something that James harped over again and again: Don’t put your eggs in one basket — diversify your career and time into different areas. Although he made the importance clear to start a side hobby business, invest in a franchise outside your daily job, create a plan to have multiple streams of income, etc., I really did not get it until almost 10 years later. James, I believe, was a visionary; he knew what was coming to the workplace years in advance. But I, like many others, still had an eye toward the past, and yearned for a long-term relationship with a company, just like my father had had.
I guess it was because, in my heart, in my core, my own desire would be to do just that, devote 30 years to a company and then retire. I was still thinking how people should be able to give their time and years of service to the company and have the company return the favor with security. Today’s reality is that only a very small portion of people in the workplace will realize this rare relationship. It is no longer the norm, and definitely scarcer than it was back in 2003.
It is highly unlikely that you will work for one company for the rest of your life.
It won’t happen. Even people who went into the military and government service are now finding no long-term commitment there. Layoffs have started and will continue in these sectors. As a result, you will work longer than your parents had to work. So, you had best like what you’re doing, because you will be doing it for a long time! Most important, you are going to require multiple income streams to make it. A paycheck is not going to cut it. The quicker you figure this out, accept it and embrace it, the better off you are. Don’t be like me and wait almost 10 years! If I had listened to James, I would be further ahead in developing these streams than I am today.
So what has transpired since 2003 for my own career path? Well, most significant is that I have given my life to Jesus. My personal desire for security through employers has been released and traded for the eternal security of Jesus in my heart. I have navigated through an additional downsizing, followed by two other companies; both of which have shrunk considerably because of the changes in manufacturing coupled with the downturn in the economy.
One way to diversify yourself and enhance your capabilities is by volunteering. I have donated much of my time over the past seven years helping job seekers who have either been laid off, downsized or are just plain unhappy with what they are doing career-wise. By doing so, I inadvertently developed my career coaching skills and also created a model to help people navigate the exploration of the difficult task of redefining their career path.
I have also created various forms of cash streams. A good friend of mine, Allan Collins, of Success in HR, calls it “side hustling.” It means finding something you enjoy doing and monetizing it. Allan sold comic books for years, diversifying his income. Many people start an eBay business or an online portal selling specialty items. I started a Internet Media Business separate from my HR consulting firm that not only provides a cash flow for my retirement savings, but also prospers the sales agent and gives back to a counseling ministry for each sale made.
I launched an additional offering in conjunction with my HR firm, based on my 20-plus years of coaching job seekers: ChristianCareerCoaching.com. This has proved a success for my business beyond my expectations but, as important, has made great impact in righting people in their careers.
I believe that God wants us to be happy at work!
Work should not be awful. If it is, God is telling us to make a change!
This new normal requires continuing education, as well. I was fortunate to have received a BA in Human Resources and a Masters in Business Administration. Several years into my career, I attended several Executive Education programs at the University of Michigan. But, after those formal programs, I did little in furthering my knowledge. I did become Green belt, qualified in Six Sigma, and taught many programs through the years in the subject areas of Finance, Human Resources, Supervision, and Training and Development. But delivering training is not the same as working in that field. Except for the occasional seminar, I felt myself stagnating. So, just recently, I invested in myself and my firm and spent time becoming a certified practitioner in the Myers Briggs Type Instrument (MBTI). It was well worth the time and dollar investment, as I increased my skills and my credibility with my clients.
So, the new normal as I see it is that you cannot rely any longer on a long-term commitment by an employer. It is statistically improbable. Volunteer and enrich yourself and others. Follow James’s and Allan’s advice and create a “side hustling” cash stream. And, finally, never stop learning. Step out of your comfort zone and rekindle your relationship with learning. Enter a Master’s program, get certified on a program, get a license for use of a program, or become a practitioner of a tool that can enhance your marketability. If you do all of these, you will become more resilient to the New Career Normal.
Before publishing this, I shared this with several people, all of whom have considered at least one of these points. What are your thoughts? Is there a new normal we are missing? We would love to hear your opinion.