Take These Steps To Make Sure Your Career Doesn't Turn into the Hunger Games
Knowing your value will help you weather periods of upheaval.
Reason #1 to become an entrepreneur? You don't want to take part in the Hunger Games.
One of the most brilliant business analysts I’ve met in my role as an educator was just informed by his company that due to a reorganization, his job will be split into three new roles. Not only that, he was told that he is overqualified for any one of these three positions.
That makes sense, right? If he was qualified to do all three jobs, he must be overqualified to do just one. This is a perfect demonstration of what my co-author Mark Chussil and I call “corporate” logic.
The story sounds like it’s lifted right out of Jewish folklore, in the tale about the fictional village of Chelm, where the residents never let common sense interfere with a really good idea. The villagers came to symbolize fools, so convinced of their own wisdom that they had the bright idea of carrying each other on their shoulders so as not to spoil fresh snow with footprints.
While the absurdity of what happened to the business analyst is somewhat exceptional, the underlying corporate ritual it represents is worse.
Reorganization, which was originally thought of as a way to adjust companies to changing market realities, has become a dysfunctional act fueled by powerful consulting firms, which are paid handsomely to reinvent the organizational chart.
Since just one reorganization is never enough, companies like the one I described go through an annual ritual of re-reorg, aiming to improve on the previous reorganization, which was implemented to improve on the one before that.
Yes, reorg is not a verb, but part of corporate lingo is to make nouns into verbs so they become “actionable.” Examples include to incentivize, to surveil or to headquarter. “Actionable” is corporate’s sacred term. If what you tell the executives is not “actionable,” it doesn’t exist.
It’s a corporate variant on the French philosopher René Descartes’ famous saying, I think, therefore I am. In the corporate world, it’s I act, therefore I am. Whether the action is needed, carefully reasoned or competitive doesn’t matter as much as the action itself.
If you are contemplating joining a large company, an old-world powerhouse or new-world icon headquartered in a glitzy hoverboard-friendly campus, beware that as my analyst friend calls it, you are in for the “hunger games” every year or so. You’ll live in constant fear of not surviving the next reorg.
So what do you do?
Conventional wisdom will tell you to work hard to prove you are valuable. That’s nonsense. Reorg doesn’t care about your true value. It follows consultants’ feverish need for the next assignment.
Instead, follow these steps:
Do your due diligence before joining a company. Research the industry. What do you think of the company’s relative competitive position? Don’t let its current glowing performance blind you.
Consider your corporate entry job as a paid internship. Learn the ropes, but don’t get too attached.
Keep acquiring strategic thinking skills. Your college degree or MBA are obsolete the day you leave the campus. But they have given you the most important skill: A capacity to learn.
Get to know recruiters. They are not yet pining for you, but when you have a few years under your belt they will become your best friends.
But most importantly, consider yourself “talent,” not an employee. What is your true talent? Everyone has a hidden talent and it is not technical knowledge. After 18 years as a professor I recognized that my talent wasn’t my research ability or deep knowledge -- I had neither. It was being able to identify people as stars after an astonishing short interaction. I have never been wrong.
Alternatively, join the big reorg consultants. They never reorg themselves; they are far too clever for that.