Monday, July 27, 2009

It's Winter in July

Aesop's fable of the ant and the grasshopper still holds true – you better prepare for winter or you’re screwed. In case you haven’t noticed we are in an economic winter, my friends, and either you have prepared for it or you have not. It's really that simple.

These are difficult times - no doubt. With the economy the way it is, people will often feel fear and insecurity about their positions. If they've been laid off they may be concerned about when, or even if, they'll find another position.

Admittedly, sometimes being in the wrong place at the wrong time can result in losing one’s job. However, more often than not, the security we have at our current employer, and even the difference between having a job and not, is based on our present value-add to the organization. Your entire career has culminated to this point in time and the perception of your relative importance to the success of a team and organization is essentially set. It was built over the course of years both at this current position and every one before it.

I’ve been a solid ant for a number of years now. Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn hard lessons as a result of embracing my inner grasshopper. The repercussions of being cavalier about an important matter as the care and feeding of one’s career will eventually result in pain. Those grasshopper times, however painful, turned out OK for me and if you are experiencing a harsh winter it will likely be OK for you too. The trick is to constantly reflect on whether you are thinking like a grasshopper or an ant – and know and accept the consequences!

Over the course of a bunch of years I’ve come to realize that no one is entitled to anything. Everything you have and is dear to you is on the table. So have a vision, be pragmatic, take risks, and most certainly, be assertive with your career. If you do those things well you will not only best protect that which is now yours but you will grow as a person too.


  1. Jack,

    I like your comments about the need to continually develop your career experiences in order that you can weather an "economic winter", like the one we are currently in. The hope is that younger employees use this current situation as a learning opportunity and personally take accountability for developing their own bredth and depth of experience in their choosen profession, so they can be prepared for when this economic winter hits again, as their potential risks will be much greater in the future i.e., married, children, mortgage, etc.

    This is also an important lesson for leader's within an organization of how they have an obligation to develop the careers of their "A" players, especially if they can not yet appreciate the need to think like the ant. Sometimes, as a leader, you have to look beyond the objectives/goals of your department, and look at how developing your "A" players will serve the long-term health of your organization, as well as ensuring that these "A" players do not quit and leverage their talents for a competitor. Too often,as a leader, we get caught up in the day-to-day weeds of hitting our daily and monthly committments but forget to elevate ourselves above this and look, strategically, at how we can be provide greater learning opportunities for our people to help serve the long-term health of the organization that employs us all.

    Bottom-line, If you are working for someone who does not educate/develop you and does not allow you to move on to other departments to better understand all the working parts of your organization, then leave as quickly as possible, after all you, need to "store corn for the winter".



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