Just Two Thoughts On How To Secure Your Career?
The company I work for is going through 'restructuring.' Tens of thousands will lose their jobs. Like many times before, and like many other multinationals in the industry. It's very likely that it's not “if” you, or I, get retrenched, but when.
There are a number of responses to this very real threat, one I find prevalent”
“Make yourself indispensible!”
This exhibits in all sorts of ways, like:
- Working the hardest, or at least the longest hours
- Becoming exclusive about 'owning' activities and relationships
- Being the 'expert' at a process, skill, or capability – like the only mainframe programmer who supports a system, or solitary EA who can work the procurement process.
- Even the 'empire builder' who amasses subordinates and budgets to wield political power
And this is the wrong approach!
1. No-one Is Indispensable
If there's anything I've learned from an IT career in 5 continents it's that you are never indispensable. For one thing the decision as to your continued position in the organisation is often made by executives far removed from you. They don't see your work, know your expertise, or even calculate your value. Often they simply see your cost in a spreadsheet and make a 'strategic' decision from afar.
(By the way, this is also the reason why you shouldn't attempt to negotiate a raise at review time.)
Even when you understand the need for executive sponsorship, execs are pruned all the time, often with their whole team.
Early in my career I had a debilitating illness and discovered that the company didn't even notice my absence despite being the 'indispensable' technical lead on a project.
2. Replacing Yourself Is The Only Way Forward
The counter-intuitive method to indispensability is to share your value. Think about it this way, if you have no succession plan, i.e. no-one to take your role if you leave, you can't be promoted. Or you can't move to a better role either in or outside the company.
As you share your intellectual property you increase your value. And you free yourself to grow.
This morning I chatted with a friend, an independent consultant, who was talking about shifting from PDF slide copies he'd share with his audience, to Google Slides that he could 'lock down' so they couldn't share his IP for free. But think about the opportunity cost?
The reason TED has exploded, and TED speakers have increased in value, is precisely because you can get their talks for free. In an economy where ideas worth sharing are shared, the originator of the idea becomes more valuable.
Coming back to the corporate example, the person who mentors and trains others increases their value to the organisation just through network effects.
It really doesn't matter what you do, find someone you can teach your role and replace yourself.
“Those who give will receive, 10 and 100 fold” is an immutable law of the univers.
Oh, and continue to learn, continually re-invent yourself too.