Wake up. It’s 2010. Paternalism is dead (just like Marxism, Communism, but unfortunately not Cronyism). There are implications for living in this brave new world. And if you don’t start taking care of #1, you could end up in a nice big pile of #2.
Be selfish. That’s right. I said it. But as usual, I’m saying to do so in a measured and appropriate way (although invariably at least one person who reads this will be too pea-brained to read further and just bash the post as unenlightened tripe and give it 1 star in the ratings). You need to continuously build your network and seek future opportunities while helping your current employer succeed.
While you work at your company, regardless of how big or small it is, you don’t owe it anything more than an excellent day’s work, an ability to trust you to care for its interests, and your best efforts and loyalty to help it succeed. Beyond that, you’re putting yourself at risk for being disappointed at best and hosed at worst.
The only way to avoid that outcome is to think selfishly. What do I mean? Allow me to explain.
A scenario: your company is wildly profitable. It’s growing like mad. During this boom, you put in long hours and sacrifice much of your personal life. You forgo exploring other job opportunities (even though they regularly land in your inbox) because looking for other employment while you’re working at SuperProfitable, Incorporated wouldn’t “be right.”
After a couple of years of leaving your blood and sweat on the corporate altar, you’re offered a new role. Congrats! You deserve it! You quickly say yes and get ready to take on your additional responsibilities.
Then it happens – your key product loses patent protection and your biggest competitor wallops you in the market. SuperProfitable, Inc. quickly becomes RedInk, Inc. And then you see the layoffs happen all around you (but luckily you’re left standing).
So what now? You *did* make a commitment to stay when you took on the bigger role (nothing contractual – just a verbal commitment). Clearly they value you because you didn’t get laid off in the first round. Surely they’ll continue to take care of you because they care about their employees, right?
WAKE UP! If you’re not spending substantial amounts of time networking and using your personal CRM system to look for your next opportunity, I don’t want to hear you crying about your severance check a few months from now (PRO TIP: the severance packages in the first round of a layoff are ALWAYS bigger than the second round because the company usually has less money to pay the folks it cans that second time around. So when you see the layoff coming, jump into the first round if you have a choice and heaven help you if you’re in the third round).
I meet plenty of people who “feel bad” looking for a job while they’re gainfully employed. They feel like they’re being disloyal to their organization. What they don’t realize is, come layoff time (or any other difficult time for the company) the company feels no such remorse. Sure they promised you a promotion but “you know, times are hard and we can’t just go around giving people raises and promotions…” Sound familiar?
So what am I advocating here? Nothing more than understanding the corporation owes you nothing more than what it has contractually agreed to nor will it usually give you more than that. Realize you have to care for yourself because most companies will put the corporate interest ahead of your personal retirement and career goals.
Some tips for handling the cognitive and ethical dissonance this article is probably creating for you: take a step back and consider yourself a freelancer. Imagine your company simply has a contract with You, Inc. Sure that contract includes pay, bonus, benefits, and your own personal little cube, but it’s a transactional relationship.
If you approach a job this way, you should absolutely give your “client” the best you have but realize your job is to build You, Inc. into the best company it can be. You should be on the lookout for new potential “clients” of your “services” so you can grow You, Inc. as best you know how.
If you understand this contractual approach to your job, you’ll quickly realize RedInk, Inc. will stop spending money on freelance services at some point in the turmoil. The more diverse You, Inc.’s portfolio of prospects is, the better the chances of keeping You, Inc. from becoming RedInk, Inc. too.
Let the screaming begin! What do you think? (I can always tell when a post has provoked some thought based on the vitriol of the comments). Look folks, I’m not advocating being a heartless mercenary here – I’m simply encouraging you to look out for yourself occasionally so you don’t end up in a bad situation at some point. If this post has made you think, even for an instant, I’ve done my job.