Who moved my job?
Posted by Ken Klaus on December 24, 2008
I’ve been in the same role now for nearly twelve years and I have a pretty good idea what you’re thinking, because lately I’ve been thinking it too: How could I possibly have stayed in the same job for twelve years without losing my mind? (Okay I totally set myself up here, so feel free to enter all the snarky responses to this rhetorical question in the comments section. I totally deserve them.) I guess the easy answer is I haven’t really been doing the same job – because the job I was hired for in 1997 has changed – a lot. In some ways this has been a blessing, because for starters I probably would have lost my mind. But there’s a downside as well, what I think of as job creep – when the requirements of the job grow or change so dramatically that you wake up one day and realize you’re no longer interested in, or worse no longer qualified to do, your job.
Part of me wants to blame the HR department for this problem; because, after all, aren’t they responsible for ensuring the job I was hired to do is actually the job I’m doing? But the truth is the overworked, under-appreciated and mostly befuddled HR department probably can’t even provide me with a copy of my job description, let alone ensure it’s still valid. This leads me to wonder whether there’s something I can do to help control job creep, or a least soften the impact of accepting that the job I fell in love with more than a decade ago has left the building.
Optimist that I am, my heart (and my head) tells me there isn’t going to be a quick fix for this problem. The world and the market place in which we work are evolving so quickly now that successful companies, with any hope of remaining competitive, require an adaptive and agile workforce. Though the speed of this evolutionary trend varies by geography and industry (the technology sector for example moves at nearly the speed of sound – or at least the sound bite) few organizations will be completely immune. So, if fixing the problem is at best a long shot, then perhaps the next best thing is to find ways of coping with it. Here are a few survival strategies I’ve tried to adopt.
First, you have to become compulsively proactive in assessing and developing your core competencies. To start, ask yourself, when was the last time you participated in some form of learning (formal or informal) that resulted in a tangible improvement in your proficiency level or performance? If your answer is, “more than three months ago”, or “I can’t remember”, then it’s time to dust off the login ID for your leaning management system and enroll in a course or two. Don’t have time to attend a class? Then head to your local bookstore or library and try a little self-directed learning. Unless you’re fortunate enough to live in France, where employee development is a legislated benefit, you have to own and manage your learning and development plan to same extent you do your 401K. It’s your career after all, so hop in the driver’s seat and take it out for spin. Oh, and don’t be afraid to head in an entirely new direction – new skills often result in new opportunities.
You should also be constantly mindful of your attitude. Most managers will tell you they would rather have an average employee who has a great attitude than an extraordinary performer with the personality of a baboon (surly, anti-social, arrogant – you get the picture). Change is always stressful and when the job you have loved and nurtured changes to the point where you no longer feel capable of managing your responsibilities, it’s easy to respond by lashing out at others. Don’t’ make this mistake. Remember, that keeping your attitude in check is one way to demonstrate (and develop) you’re ability to adapt and change.
Finally, you need to be brutally honest in accepting that you and you alone are master of your vocational destiny. Most of us are hired at will – meaning the company for which we work, as a general rule, does not need to provide any reason to end our employment. But at will employment is a two way street and you ought to be ready to make a change when an opportunity presents itself – even if you’re still totally in love with your job. You’re résumé, list of references, academic transcripts, social networking profiles, and nicest business suit should always be ready for their close-up – long before Mr. DeMille (a.k.a. the next round of layoffs, reduction in force, restructuring, or whatever euphemism your company uses) arrives. As our preeminent Punk Rock HR expert says so succinctly in her post, Signs you need to start your job search, “you should never stop looking for a job.” Great advice Laurie!
In the mean time, if you find yourself standing on a soccer field in your ballet slippers and tutu, don’t despair. There’s a very good chance that just down the hall there’s some poor guy standing on a beautifully polished stage in cleats and knee high socks, anxiously wondering what he’s going to do when the curtain goes up! Cheers!