Take Cover: Careers Are Under Attack

Monday, May 18, 2015

“Globalization Has Created More Competition for Jobs Reducing Wages for Many” 

“Technology Has Eliminated Thousands of Positions, Reducing the Need for Higher Employment” 

“Free Trade Agreements Have Brought Lower Paying Jobs to Places Like the United States” 

These are just a few headlines from recent years. Although provocative, they only tell a small portion of the story. Now consider this one: “Average Company Lifespan Has Dropped from 67 Years in the 1920s to 15 Years Today.” 

According to Richard Foster from the Yale School of Management, on average an S&P company is replaced every two weeks. In addition to that astonishing statistic, he estimates that by the time 2027 rolls around, 75 percent of the S&P will be replaced. 

What do these shifts in company life cycles or spans mean to your career? Why is this so important? 

Changes in life cycles has two important implications: organizational and individual. 

Organizational Implications 


Organizationally, we structure companies to last for long periods of time. We create processes, infrastructure, rules, policies, benefits, and so forth as if the company and its employees will be around for years to come. Our goal becomes one of protecting what we have built and the value it represents. 

The problem is that being small, nimble, creative, and willing to take risks and forgo a consistent profit due to investments is what typically made a company successful. If the company loses its corporate life, it should at least do it willingly by the use of creative destruction. 

Go back to when your company was vibrant and new and be willing to tear down the walls of old success to create a new success as a different type of company. Otherwise you will look like American Motors or Maytag. 

Another important lesson is to stop trying to cement everything. For instance, consider the traditional career path. Today, people rarely move through the organizational ranks in the traditional manner, and organization structures generally change too fast. Instead, organization should help employees become better at embracing and managing change, specifically personal and career change. 

Individual Implications 

Individually, we must take ownership of our income earning years. Your career will most likely last longer than the life span of most of the companies you will work for. Careers, not jobs or roles, must last for 45-55 years, especially in this current economy and because people are now working well into their golden years. 

Consequently, we must keep our skills sharp. There is no longer room to coast. Each and every one of us needs to have a plan. And not a plan derived from the company we work with or for, but our own plan—a plan for which we take ownership. 

Ask yourself several questions: 

  • What skills will keep me relevant through the next five years? 10 years? Retirement? You need to know. More importantly, do not wait for your employer to tell you the answer to these questions. This is your career. This is your engine fueling your retirement. You must know where things are going. Take classes. Go back to school. Get certified. Seek out mentors. Read! Do whatever you have to do to stay relevant.
  • What gets you excited? Motivated? What type of work do you enjoy doing? Forty-five to 55 years is a long time. Even if you changed your focus two or three times over the course of your income earning years, that is still a minimum of 15 years focused on a certain type of work, service, or industry. It is hard to wake up 5475 days knowing you dread what you do and who you do it for. That is not a recipe for success or high performance. Believe me – you want to stand out, but not for a bad attitude. 

The only thing worse than seeing your company close its doors or change ownership and watch jobs be eliminated is being 50 years old knowing you can’t find a job because you are no longer relevant. 
Make no mistake: Careers are under attack. What is your battle plan?

About the Author

Brad Federman is the chief operating officer of F&H Solutions Group, which merged in 2013, with Federman’s performance improvement company, Performancepoint, LLC. He also is an author, speaker, and consultant with more than 22 years of corporate experience in various aspects of human resources, including performance management, employee engagement, employee compensation, executive recruiting, change management, and instructional design. His background also includes sales, marketing, product development, and operations. 

Previously, Federman was the executive vice president of Novations Group and has held leadership positions with Accenture and Humana Inc. He is a frequently requested featured speaker at conferences and business meetings worldwide. He is the author of Employee Engagement: A Roadmap for Creating Profits, Optimizing Performance, and Increasing Loyalty and a contributing author to 101 Ways to Enhance Your Career. He also has been interviewed for articles in numerous publications such as Fortune Small Business, Los Angeles Times and HR Magazine

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