Made It Through Another One
I put my head on the table and let out a huge exhale. For over two months I had waited for this phone call.
In early December, my company announced that it would be engaging in one of the biggest restructures in company history. A constantly evolving world demanded that the organization evaluate where it was and what it needed to do to stay competitive and thrive.
Unfortunately, this major change meant that many jobs would either change or be eliminated.
Not My First Rodeo
This latest round of “Survivor, Corporate Edition” was nothing new to me. Since beginning my career, I have been through no less than a dozen reorganizations. This was one of the biggest, but it was by no means the worst.
I remember in 1998 when I worked in the oil industry and the price of a barrel of oil dropped all the way to $17. This triggered a major restructure which was a truly “burn the furniture” exercise – whole divisions were sold off, budgets were slashed down the bare minimum and ultimately, the company sold itself to a major competitor resulting in thousands of people being laid off.
What struck me about the layoff was not how worried some people were about their future, but rather how happy they were that they had been let go. Don’t misunderstand me. These people had not set themselves up financially for any type of early retirement or felt they could quickly transition to a new company.
Rather, they were so miserable in their roles that losing their employment actually brought them joy.
What’s really sad is that for some of them, it was the first time I had ever seen them happy.
Don’t get me wrong, no job is perfect. We all have days that genuinely suck. However, this should be the exception, not the norm for 25 years.
You Must Play Offense
No matter how old you are (25, 60 or anywhere in between), a solid career strategy will allow you to maximize all aspects of your working life, provide the mental health that comes with a job you enjoy, and ensure your happiest day isn’t the one where your position is eliminated.
Ok, I can hear it now: “But Angelo, I’m too far along in my current job to make any changes. I’m just going to have to accept the fact that I’m stuck”.
If you feel you’re too far committed to change, then nothing I say or write is going to convince you otherwise. However, before you write off your career and sleepwalk your way to retirement, I would ask you to consider the countless people (including myself) who have made successful career shifts at all ages.
Pick Your “Hard”
Is changing jobs and careers easy? Not even close. In fact, it will be one of the hardest things you do. However, let me ask you this: how hard is it to spend each day in a job you hate?
If you want to join the ranks of those that actually enjoy what they do (most days) then I offer the following “waypoints” to map a path to your dream career:
Waypoint 1: Determine what you really want
This may seem trite and obvious, but most people I know don’t have any career goals. If I ask them what they’re trying to achieve, I usually get some vague answer about “getting promoted”, “finding something they like”, or “working for a better boss”.
These are not career objectives. Rather, they’re a weak wish list of things that will make what they don’t like, go away.
Almost every successful person I’ve met has firm career goals and a concrete timeline
- Senior executive by 35
- Vice President by 40
- Division Vice President by 45
Now, here’s the important part – mapping out career goals not only covers what you want but also what you don’t want.
For example, I determined a long time ago that I didn’t want to be a CEO or company president. The demands of the job put too much pressure on a marriage, family and personal life.
Rather, my goal is to have my personal life and career perfectly integrated. Allowing me to maximize my professional talents and earnings potential while still being a present husband and father.
Waypoint 2: Don’t chase the money
I have made 2 career choices in my life due to money, and they both worked out horribly. I landed in jobs that I did not enjoy doing and that didn’t connect with my passion.
If I can leave you with just one thing it’s this – no one can pay you enough to do something that makes you miserable every day. It affects your personal life, mental state and in some cases your health.
Now, don’t mistake this for a “money isn’t everything” play. I actually think money is extremely important. In fact, I believe building wealth is not just a good goal, rather it’s our obligation. The more wealth we accumulate the better life we can provide for our families and, the more good we can do for society in terms of charity. All I’m saying is: don’t make money the sole reason why you choose a particular career path. Instead…
Waypoint 3: Follow the fun
I am a true believer that if you pick a career path that you find “fun”, success is not difficult to achieve. In fact, it becomes a byproduct of what you do and as a result, the money will find you.
I choose my roles not based on the following criteria: Will I find it interesting? And will it offer some challenging business problems that despite how difficult will be enjoyable to get involved with?
This philosophy has afforded me some incredible opportunities. Most important, doing this has brought me a tremendous amount of career fulfillment and financial security.
Waypoint 4: Develop your skills
You need to remember this: the job you hold is not yours. You are a company asset, in some ways no different from a piece of equipment. You need to continually maximize the return the company is making with you. And just like a piece of equipment, you must constantly require maintenance and to be upgraded in terms of building skills. Fail to do this and you simply become obsolete and need to be replaced. Heartless? Absolutely not.
The company never promised to take care of you. The only agreement is fair compensation for producing a specific result. If you can no longer fulfill your end, you’re FORCING the company to upgrade to a more productive model.
So for the sake of your career, become a personal development fanatic.
Waypoint 5: Build A Network
In January 2015, a very dear friend of mine was laid off. He was given a year’s salary (pretty awesome). At 52 and a VP at a major financial company, statistics indicated that it would take him a minimum of 16 months to find a job similar to the role he had. In addition, he would probably have to take a 20% to 30% cut in pay. More likely is that he would not land a role with another company and would end up consulting.
My friend landed a new role in 5 months at roughly the same pay. He not only beat the odds but got to bank 7 months of his severance. What was his secret?
Ted was an incredible networker. He belonged to trade organizations, was on boards, and did volunteer work. But most importantly, he stayed in touch with everyone he had ever worked with.
After being laid off, he would spend time calling his contacts and setting up lunch and coffee dates. In no time, he was back on his feet.
Building a network is a skill. And if you work at, like Ted you will have an extensive network that will always guide you to a career that brings you fulfillment and happiness.
We’re Only Here For A Short Time
Life is too short to hate your job. Getting laid off should never be an occasion to celebrate because you’ve been ejected from ongoing misery.
Use the guidelines above to build your ideal career plan and you will find fulfillment, happiness and financial security.
Now go take control of your future.
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I’ve spent my entire life in the Fortune 500, and I want to share everything I wish I knew when I was younger in the hopes that you can find success far faster than I did.
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