It felt good to share my thoughts the other day on what I really wanted to say to CEOs, COOs, CIOs and CFOs across the corporate world. In this “Eleventh Hour” of our world filled with scary things like war, terrorism, genocide and corruption, I don’t want to silence my true voice anymore. I want to make use of my life for things that matter and that have a real, measurable impact. In that spirit, here is what I have to share with employees of large corporations everywhere:
I have met you in meeting rooms, hallways, on conference calls and on the internet. You work for large corporations which you detest. You arrive at your cubicle every morning with a vaguely sick feeling in your stomach and begin your day of work. You have too much to do. Co-workers left and no one replaced them, so you have inherited their job and all the work that went with it.
You pulled me aside after a training class or offsite meeting and shared your thoughts about your job. “I hate my manager. They do nothing but issue edicts from behind the closed door of their office, then take credit for everything I do.” “I am so stressed out from all this work that it is impacting my health and my relationships at home.”
I did what I could to comfort you and give you hope. But since I am helpless to change the overall state of corporations, here is my best advice:
- Don’t pretend your job is secure. I know of no job in any industry today that is safe from market forces or lame managers. You read stories in the paper every day about well-established companies (some that are making huge profits) that are cutting back tens of thousands of employees to “stay competitive.” But you still act angry and surprised when you get pulled into your manager’s office with the HR rep and are told that your job is eliminated. We are all self-employed, and if you don’t get that fast, you are in for a rude awakening.
- Make a long-term life plan. You get so caught up with surviving each day that you have no idea what would make you happy down the road. But it is this long-term plan that is going to give focus and structure to decisions you make every day on your job, and guide decisions about the next step in your career. Get clear on what kind of work energizes you, the kind of people that you want to be around, where you want to live, how much money you want to make and how much time you want to spend at your job.
- Pay attention to who you go to lunch with. It is theraputic to bitch and complain about your job once you are out of earshot of your manager or coworkers. But are you spending all your time with people who just complain and never do anything to change their life? You are what you eat, say and who you hang out with. If you want your life to grow in a positive direction, surround yourself with people who are eager to learn, problem-solve and support each other. I don’t mean you can never complain – just don’t get stuck whining all the time.
- Always have a Plan B, C and D. Even if you have a great job right now, you should always know what your next step is if everything blows up tomorrow. Network with people inside and outside your company to know what kinds of jobs or businesses you are interested in. It is perfectly ethical to scan job boards even if you are happily employed (just don’t do it all day on work time – a little tacky). I know how busy you are. That is not a viable excuse when it comes to something as important as securing your livelihood.
- Don’t think of your job as a paycheck, think of it as a learning opportunity. Learning should be the primary thing on your mind at all times. You can be in a hellacious job situation and still learn from it. I was once on a great team inside a company that had questionable management. When our recommendations were shot down for reasons we knew were wrong, we would discuss the implications and try to guess the outcome. Most times we were exactly right, and would learn a lot from the experience. If you have taken the time to create a long term life plan, you should be clear what things you need to learn to get there.
- Take responsibility for yourself. Blaming “The Man,” “The Company” or your manager for your unhappiness is a cop out. You choose to be in your current situation, otherwise you would have changed it. So don’t give away your power. If you are miserable, follow the advice above and move yourself to a better place.
I know that not all of you will choose to quit your job and go to work for yourself. Entrepreneurism is not for everyone. Whatever you decide to do, work doesn’t have to be miserable. It is up to you!