Monday, March 24, 2014

If Disaster Looms

I don’t mean to be melodramatic but, if disaster looms, what would you do; what will you do? Too many otherwise smart people choose to do nothing at all except sit and suffer through whatever comes. They refuse to recognize the dangers and risks, instead hoping for the best or waiting for someone else to help them, pretending everything will be okay, that what they face isn’t really happening. Often it is just plain fear of the unknown that prevents them from finding a solution to whatever affects them. So they stay right where they are, in denial until it is too late.

While I could be talking about natural disasters I am not; although what I’ve described is a legitimate description of the reactions of many when faced with uncertainty. Indeed, I am describing man-made disaster but not the kind you think and not the random stuff that happens in other places to other people. I’m talking about something much closer to home; affecting many people we all know and, perhaps, even you.

As a headhunter, a direct-search recruiter for more than twenty years, I’ve seen it many times and in recent years there are more people than ever facing uncertain futures, their careers on the edge. It’s not their fault; they have been good employees who have contributed much to organizations that now hang in the balance, be it economic and market uncertainty or machinations behind closed doors, where employees are mere commodities and secondary concerns to profit and loss accounting figures.

I know people right now with whom I’ve met or spoken, who know something’s coming and they tell me there is better than a fifty-fifty chance their job will downgrade or disappear. They say to me, “If something happens I would like to look for a new opportunity, but I am hoping things will stay the same because I’d rather stay where I am. So until then I don’t want to look elsewhere, not yet.” That sounds like a lot of us, doesn’t it? And I often think to myself, “okay, I guess you’d prefer to stand there waiting for the tsunami to arrive to see if it’s taller than you are before you decide to run the other way.” My advice was, and is, this person should already be actively interviewing - now. 

In the current jobs market and considering economic fluctuations, everyone should have an updated resume ready to go and always be at the very least passively looking, adjusting your effort according to the level of urgency you perceive. Even during better economic times, I’ve always suggested that the best time to be looking for a job is not to wait until you need one.

Some people are prepared for anything; they may even have extra cans of tuna fish and a stock of bottled water at home. But when it comes to their careers far too many people act as if they are powerless and just stand there, like a deer in the headlights, when faced with a pending career crisis. If you sense trouble, if the signs are obvious, you know and anticipate a change for the worse, what are you waiting for? The depressed jobs market and economy hasn’t changed overnight; have you adapted your thinking? Do you have an action plan ready to go? Should you already be implementing it? Times they are a changin’ and you’ve got to adapt with them. I have a hard time feeling sorry for those who saw the signs and failed to act. As they say in the south, you been knowin’. So what are you going to do about it?

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  1. In times of increasing uncertainty it may be worth while to get yourself a break, look inward and question everything that your current way of life consists of. But first and foremost one should investigate where that diffuse feeling of a „looming disaster“ comes from: Understanding the economic and political reality that is causing distortions at an ever increasing pace should deliver the rational upon which plans for the future have to be built. Don't be surprised to learn things that will lead you into questioning most of what your previous socio-economic believe system was based upon. Saying that, I am not entirely sure if the future can or should be forged out of a corporate office room. It may just turn out to be a waste of precious lifetime. „How can so few rule and ruin so many, while so many let so few rule and ruin them?“

    1. The characterization of "looming disaster" is of course a metaphor to illustrate my point. What you suggest relates to a personal value judgment or commentary of society and that's neither my focus nor my intent. Although, whatever you choose to do requires taking the time to address and evaluate your options and reactive steps before you are effected - if you see the signs, rather than waiting which is the primary point of the entry.