I could tell he was suffering. I hadn’t seen him that way before.
It was like the wind was sucked out of his sails.
As a man, where your self worth is tied up in your job and your career…as the family provider, I knew something big had happened.
There was a heaviness in the air.
I knew that this dinner was not going to be uneventful.
Now maybe you haven’t experienced this moment.
But for me it was life changing.
It was a point in time where I swore to myself never to be subject to being a victim in that situation.
What was it?
Before I tell you, lets look at you.
You’re midway through your career. You’re making solid paychecks. You’re respected in your industry. You have industry contacts and have risen up through the ranks.
You’re the decision maker. The leader. The one others look up to for advice and guidance.
But here’s the dirty little secret.
You’re also expensive. And if you aren’t learning and growing, you’re also a liability.
And you could be soon walking in like my dad when he lost his job, his pension and his confidence in the well worn story that you go to school, get a good job, and retire in comfort.
That lie came crashing down like a ton of bricks.
And I wasn’t going to be subject to that destiny.
And so I worked a different model. I still went to school. Got my degree. Struggled to land a decent job. Worked my tail off and developed a solid reputation. Up to this point I was following my dad’s model. And the once millions of Americans use as their model.
But I did something different.
I recognized that day that you can’t put your future in the hands of an unaccountable corporation.
You can’t believe the lie that Big Education, Big Business, Big Media, and Big Government will all have you buy into.
The lie that they can take care of you.
With the radical change that is everyday in the business world. They can’t take care of you. The corporation may not be around five years from now. The division you work for may fall due to the competitive pressures and mass layoffs may ensue…with you being caught in the crossfire.
So what should you do differently?
Before we go into that lets look at the structure of a typical work career and how things start to get really interesting…and scary…as you hit your mid-career and start planning for pre and post retirement.
So you start off. Dumb, oblivious, and full of optimism.
That job is yours for the taking. You’ve got this shiny new college degree. And six figures is about to be handed to you on a silver platter.
First dream shattered.
Luckily I wasn’t one of those people who got a participation trophy.
I got the equivalent trophies. One for “sportsmanship”. One for “last place”. And by the way, who gives last place trophies? Okay…maybe that’s because I was always on the team that made winners possible.
So anyway, a career as a sports star definitely wasn’t in the cards. And it probably isn’t for you either.
So you land that slightly over minimum wage job to get that thing they call “experience”. Yes, that elusive thing you need to have in order to get the job you want. But can’t get until they hire you. That darn “catch-22”.
But somehow you figure it out. Because staying poor and eating Top Ramen and generic Mac & Cheese just won’t cut it. The chicks don’t dig poor.
So you get the first job. It sucks.
And so you quit as soon as you can find something better.
Then you bounce around from job to job or industry to industry until someone traps you.
Yes, they trap you. With that slightly better pay. Or the cool title. Or the corner office. No, the corner office doesn’t come yet. That’s for the old guy who plays golf and hardly does any work.
Oh no! Did I just jump ahead to where you are today? That fat cat executive or manager bossing the Millennials around?
Sorry for the diversion. Back to the career progression.
So now you’re getting serious.
You found something you can do better than the other poor slacker down the hall and are gaining momentum.
You get the raise. And the promotion.
Then you quit and go work for a better company for higher pay.
Now things are ticking along. You’re starting to feel like you’ve got this whole thing figured out.
Of course you’re working longer hours. But you’ve now been married for a while. Have some kids. And really look forward to getting back to the office each Monday where you’re in control of your domain. Side note: If you’re the man who is the master of his domain at home, I’ll show you a liar or someone who somehow escaped back to the 50’s while we weren’t looking. Because these days that domain has been repossessed. It ain’t yours no more.
So now you’re feeling pretty good about yourself, right?
You make good bank. You’ve got a decent title that isn’t going to get you laughed at by your friends or college buddies. You’ve got the home life handled and aren’t broke. Yes, your wife may be spending all your money each month. But you’re certainly not feeling the pinch.
So here’s the deal. This mother, F#%!er house of cards is about to come down on your sh** a**ed grin’n head.
Because you’re now trapped in a cage like a rabbit.
And not the bad ass one from the Monty Python “Holy Grail” movie either.
Let’s see why…
Look at it through your employer’s eyes.
Scenario 1 – You’re doing a technical job
They pay you a boatload of money (okay, I let enough of my faux expletives out for now). You have family obligations. You’re old. You’re not as much fun. You’re “low-energy”.
So as an employer, if I can get some hot-shot 20-something who’s fresh out of college and willing to work 16 hours a day for shi* pay, and I can train him to do my bidding, and like it, and get two or three of them for the price of you? Why wouldn’t I?
Now you might call that “age discrimation”. And if you’re over 40 you may have a case. Especially here in California where everything is upside down like an Alice in Wonderland movie.
But they won’t tell you that. They’ll use “position elimination”. Or “reduction in force”. Or “early retirement” to justify it. But the short answer is you just don’t cut it anymore.
And it isn’t really your fault. It is just the normal part of the aging process. You’re now irrelevant.
Scenario 2 – You’re a manager
In this situation it is slightly better. They’re paying for your expertise but also for your wisdom. Hard-won over the years. Something they can’t really get from a youngster. So you get the benefit of age discrimination in reverse here. But that is up to a point.
Your bigger risk here comes from competition. Not the guy down the hall who wants your job. No, this is the competition that the company faces. In the market. From other competitors here and abroad. As technology and businesses evolve.
And so you may be trucking along and POW! They run the numbers and they’re out of money. The business model ceases to work. And mass layoffs or bankruptcy greet you. And you’re out on the street.
What happens next.
What happens next? You lose.
You find yourself on the receiving end of an unemployment check. For the average eight months. This sucks. You’re struggling to make your mortgage payment. You’re racking up credit card bills and paying only the minimums because you’re living on welfare (yes, unemployment is welfare…and not very good at that).
You apply for minimum wage jobs but can’t get them because you’re “overqualified”.
You’d be great working the same job at another company. But guess what? The tide has turned and everyone hit the streets in your industry at the same time. And other companies are restructuring.
And so you can’t land another job where you were king.
So you start looking at other industries. And in those jobs you’d have to drop down a couple levels. And take half your old pay. And because you’re an unknown they still don’t want you.
So now it is nearing a year and you’ve lost hope.
Do you really want to be in this situation?
I didn’t either. So that’s why I took my career reins in my own hands.
Yes, I worked hard, smart, and made a strong reputation so I’d have people who’d hire me if I hit the streets. And in all my job changes my network has saved me. Every job since college I got was through a referral or prior coworker.
But just doing great work won’t cut it if the industry experiences a downturn.
I faced that in 2001 when 9-11 hit then the stock market crashed. And funding for telecom projects dried up. And now project work was being issued. And I was out on the street. Luckily before I ran out of money I was able to land something as the tide turned. But I was lucky.
So here’s the deal.
You need to be thinking about the worst case scenario.
And planning for it. And taking action around it.
With this blog, and associated resume and LinkedIn profile writing and business consulting side hustles I do, I’m learning marketing (the real stuff, not just what people tell you in books – some work some suck).
I’m making money out of my ideas and my hard work (yes, nearly every evening and weekend I’m doing something to promote or monetize my side hustle business).
And as a result I’m gaining new skills, relationships, and experiences that both help me excel at my day job and give me a head start if things go South quickly in the industry.
That is my security.
That is my built-in measure of safety.
That is my retirement plan.
And my pre-retirement plan if needed.
So what is yours?
You you have something on the side you’re implementing…just in case? Is your side hustle rolling yet?
What about your resume and LinkedIn profile? Are they update to date? Do your accomplishments rock? Will they ensure you stay at the top of the heap? Or did you just haphazardly throw them together to check the box?
Are you “job search” ready? Take the quiz to find out.
Need help before its too late? Shoot me a message.
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