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Succeeding in an Age of Uncertainty or How to Keep Your Job!

March 19, 2014

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill


Uncertain job market

We live in uncertain and unpredictable times. We always have. It’s actually the norm, although we only notice it during really tough economic times because people talk about it more. That’s the good news. The bad news is that going forward, we we’ll be talking about this, and living an Age of Uncertainty all the time. It’s almost guaranteed.

Have you noticed that companies undergo huge transformations almost every other year now–even where you work? Though some are more transparent than others. In the old days–which ended for the most part, at the end of the Bush Era–big corporations only did lay offs, made big changes in technology, business process or organizational structure about every 10 to 12 years. That meant that even if you were a low-performing employee, your job was safe for at least 10 years.

American business is now global

The global economy matters

Now that we’ve seen how the global economy can impact us here, it matters more than ever, so corporations are forced to make big changes almost every year. Succeeding in the global marketplace, is no different than you trying to succeed in your job market, it’s much like playing a game of chess. Some big global player makes a strategic, or stupid, move and the other players have to make their moves in turn. It’s one of the ways of staying competitive within your industry. You have to stay ahead or at least keep up with your opponents. That’s why companies also make strategic changes internally–to keep employees motivated and high performing. So what does that mean for us?

It means we, as employees, must have our own yearly strategy for staying competitive, efficient and for becoming a “learning individual,” much like a “learning organization.” Be smart. Keep learning. Think ahead. Look ahead. Plan ahead. When you can see what’s coming next, you can prepare for it and be ready. Best of all, you can survive big transformations. Not everyone does that. Not everyone wants to–some people don’t want to work that hard–so that leaves a lot of opportunity for those who do!

Because I spent my younger years, not planning for the future, or even considering the future, I now live on the opposite end of that spectrum: Constantly thinking of the next BIG thing, the next BIG move or trend or cycle–at least with regard to my career and business. I’m not saying you have to be obsessive, but you do have to be extremely dedicated to navigate and succeed in the current rapidly changing marketplace.

So how do you do that? There are two major schools of thought, at least from my perspective. One, change the way you think, or two, grow your skill set. When companies downsize, the people with the broadest skill sets tend to be the last ones standing. They are the worker bees.

Brainstorming is a journey

Critical Thinker or Worker Bee?

On the other hand, those with the right mindset–that of a critical thinker and problem solver–almost always have the right skill set by default. It’s just a part of their nature to do so. They are the strategists and analysts, but also those who are willing to do what’s needed to survive. And succeed. Which one are you? James Reed and Dr Paul G. Stoltz explore the theory that employers prefer people with the right mindset and what that mindset entails in their thought-provoking book, Putting Your Mindset to Work.

Developing the right habits, along with “a certain way of thinking” also are major themes in Mark Hopkins’ Shortcut to Prosperity, another book I found extremely inspiring and valuable. If you only read one book the rest of your life, his book should be it.

In the early part of your career, you’re expected to be a “doer,” but at some point you should work to be seen as a problem solver. But you have to become one first. No one tells you when that time should be though, you have to figure that out for yourself and begin presenting yourself that way, otherwise people continue to see you as a tactical “doer,” forever a worker bee.

I’ll explore both schools of thought more in my next post. In the meantime, I wish you the best in your job search or in advancing your career. There are a lot of formulas for success out there. You just have to find the one works for you.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ― Lao Tzu  


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