Since you’re reading this publication, it’s likely you are keenly aware of how profoundly the realm of business has been changing. And how the pace of change seems to be speeding up.
But the workplace is transforming just as fast for employees. And not only for line workers but for managers and executives as well. So much so that what used to be the wrong thing to do may now be right.
That’s the theme of “The Changing Nature of Work,” a book by Richard A. Kaumeyer Jr. of the San Fernando Valley.
People used to join companies with a plan to stay for years, maybe an entire career, Kaumeyer writes in the first paragraph. “Anyone with this philosophy today is programming themselves for serious trouble and career disaster.”
He goes on to tell the story of a composite employee, John, who was just named executive of the year. But the company is sold unexpectedly, and the new boss quickly imports a trusted colleague to replace John. “All the work, worry and long hours had nothing to do with the loss of the much loved and valuable job,” the author writes.
Kaumeyer, who worked in outplacement for years and owned a retained executive search firm, has seen versions of that scenario play out again and again. As company mergers have increased along with offshoring, contract work and the insistent tide of technology, more dedicated workers have gotten the ax for reasons that may have nothing to do with their job performance.
As a result, career-minded employees tend to move every few years to stay ahead of any changes. Job hopping used to be viewed with suspicion. Now it’s more likely to be seen as smart. Today, writes Kaumeyer, a person who stays with a company for three years is considered an old timer.
Likewise, getting a job with a big, well established business used to mean a stable work environment. But that’s no longer true, he writes. “In fact, it may mean just the opposite.”
Interestingly, Kaumeyer is 80, yet he sees and understands the changes in the workplace more acutely than many people half his age. Maybe it’s because he has a clearer point of reference – one that started back when an entire career with one or two avuncular employers was common.
(By the way, I have no interest, financial or otherwise, in the book. It just struck me as insightful and breezily written. And it’s by a local guy.)
What is his primary advice to executives, managers and workers? In a word: Network.
“One’s network has always been important,” he writes. “It now may be the most important thing one has in today’s business world.”
Join business groups and speak whenever you can, he writes. Be sure to network outside of your company. Don’t wait until you’re out of a job to start. For every 8 hours you work for the boss, work one hour for yourself, mainly by connecting with others. A good network may lead you to your next gig.
Here are some other points he makes about the changing workplace:
• In the past, a doctorate degree “almost always guaranteed a higher-paying professional job. This has about totally reversed from the 1990s forward.” Sure, a Ph.D. is very helpful for seekers of some technical positions, such as many in the biotech corridor in Conejo Valley. But it may be a burden otherwise. As Kaumeyer notes: “The feeling in the corporate world is that someone with this background is going to over analyze and slow the decision-making process.” Some job applicants these days don’t even disclose their doctorate degree, he writes.
• A government job, be it at the federal, state or local level, used to be a kind of last resort. “Currently, it is probably the most sought-after opportunity,” he writes. The public sector tends to be more stable, and “in a government job, your feet aren’t constantly in the fire to produce ever-increasing amounts, and the hours worked are usually reasonable.” And I might add that there’s the prospect of a fat pension at an early retirement age.
• Not only do companies and industries come and go, but cities wax and wane. New York was considered a dreadful city in the 1970s, and Kaumeyer points out that his hometown, Detroit, was once a vibrant place. They have pretty much switched positions. Likewise, Los Angeles was once the hub of the aerospace industry but now is known for technology companies and the tech infused entertainment industry clustered in Silicon Beach. The author didn’t put it this bluntly, but I will: You may consider moving to wherever your target industry is taking off.
“We are all self-employed in today’s world,” he writes toward the end of the book. Jobs and companies come and go, and so do careers. The days of working your way up the corporate ladder “are over.”
Charles Crumpley is editor and publisher of the Business Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.