Do you feel that your career is stagnating and you’ve resigned yourself to the fact of hoping that your employer will retain you on payroll in these uncertain times? Do you find yourself laying fault with the job market, the economy, or your employer for not advancing as quickly as you anticipated? Maybe it’s time to take a very hard but objective look at your skills and your work ethic. “The Economy is Changing, Jobs are Changing and the Workforce is Changing. Is America Ready? Rethinking Work” was the cover page of the special 65th anniversary issue of Businessweek magazine in October 17, 1994, celebrating 65 years of the American work ethic and how it has evolved through the decades. That article seems dated now, but the trend is perhaps more applicable than ever today.
Just take a look at the 401K plan which was first approved by Congress in 1974 and enacted in January 1980. Prior to the 401K, administration of a company sponsored pension plan was their administrative responsibility. With the advent of the 401K, corporations provided an opportunity for their employees to invest in a tax deferred savings plan for retirement, but there’s a caveat, you must manage the fund options yourself and how well you perform financially in the plan is your responsibility, not the employer. If you’re passive with administration of fund allocations, it will be reflected in the overall financial performance.
Many parents of, and baby boomers themselves, may have worked for a single employer for a number of years and as long as they performed satisfactorily, it invariably assured them of earning a guaranteed pension funded by their employer upon retirement. Loyalty and longevity seems synonymous. Whereas Generation X and subsequent generation workers found themselves thrust into a changing job market environment where loyalty to an employer became secondary, conditional, or not at all. The burden of your career and employment future is your responsibility and not theirs.
The Business Week 65th anniversary issue summed up the following two important axioms to ensure your potential for being successful and staying gainfully employed. It is an easy path to settle in a work comfort zone, devoid of challenges. The first axiom, you must stay in tune with the business climate in your industry, as it changes constantly. New ways of doing business, new technology, new equipment, new hardware, new software, and a new mentality are all part of the business realm. Read up on periodicals, trade magazines, or the web, if you prefer. If you choose to ignore them, you will surely relegate yourself to being placed on the “chopping block” when the employer experiences a downturn or re-assesses economic operations for cost savings. If your resolute, try to understand and embrace the changes in a positive manner with constructive criticism. Even then, it is important to follow company protocol for submitting any concerns or grievances.
The second axiom, stay in tune with the business technology and this cannot be stressed enough in today’s rapidly changing market. For example, it is practically a prerequisite that new hires possess a fairly solid working knowledge in the use of Microsoft Office applications. If you’re still stumbling with Excel or Word, please take the time and effort to brush up on those skills. These two applications are fundamental for any type of administrative and managerial positions. It will pay off in more ways than you can imagine.
Confront your supervisor and request a meeting to discuss how you may improve your skills in your current position. Does the company offer in-house training for hardware/software? If so, sign up and take advantage of the free training. If you have a better idea or a more effective way of doing things, be prepared to back it up with facts and numbers that clearly illustrate cost effectiveness or savings to the company, the type of ammunition corporate management is accustomed to viewing. You may be pleasantly surprised by your superior’s response and furthermore, he may view it positively with your taking the initiative to improve yourself, and save the company money without being prodded.
Re-invent or create a new position within the company or department. You would be amazed at how something so simple is sometimes oblivious to upper management. They are often times preoccupied with their responsibilities and may not view it from your perspective or at their level. Perhaps your current responsibilities have increased to the point it warrants the creation of a new or more applicable job description.
You must accept and embrace the fact that the burden of ensuring your continuing employment is your responsibility and not the employer, and that means staying current with the business climate, technology, and training. Cheaper, better, faster with quality results is the byline for solid economics. Added value is another. It’s what you bring to the table that justifies your salary.
If you’re not content with your current employment position, please take a hard look at where you are with your career and ask yourself, “what can I do to ensure that my career going forward is challenging, successful, rewarding, and beneficial to both me as well as the company?” You have nothing to lose and perhaps both of you may have a lot to gain.