Saturday, November 5, 2011

Corporate Blues

The recent publication of LEVERAGE has given me an opportunity to meet and talk with quite a few people I haven't connected with in a while. Most of these friends continue to slog away at the corporate grist mills.

But I've sensed a common theme: A lot of pent up frustration.

The current job market -- a hirer's market -- has created some interesting dynamics. Managers realize their subordinates are not as mobile as they were a few years ago, and some are taking advantage of the situation. They are clamping down on liberal work practices, pushing their employees harder, and generally giving a "take it or leave it" message.

In short, they appear to be exercising their power. Perhaps not consciously, but for an increasingly large number of friends, work doesn't appear to be fun anymore. And the impacts are clear on the faces and in the voices of many of the people I talked to. They are unhappy. They are dissatisfied. They are marking time.

When things improve, many will change jobs. A few will change careers.

Not everyone can do what I did and exit the corporate world. It takes a solid safety net, or a lot of guts to do so (I went the safety net route). But I believe there are more disillusioned workers out there than ever, and more people dreaming about getting out. And where there's a will, often a way can be found.

So here's my advice to those restless souls -- the same advice I received.

Spend a few minutes each day thinking about where you want to be in ten or even twenty years. Not with just your career -- with your life. This is needs to be a deep examination, and don't be afraid to say "I don't know". Think about options, opportunities, and alternatives. Keep the blinders off. Consider being a vagabond, fishing guide, counselor, teacher, artist, or anything else you've ever wishfully contemplated. But now give those wishes a real voice.

Write out where you've been, and study it. Is that direction going to get you where you want to go? Or is it the wrong trajectory? What could you do to change it? Or should you just start over on a new one?

If a change makes sense, when could you start? Could you take a year sabbatical to explore your options? How about a month? Even if you have to explore them concurrently with your current job, plan it out and design a real examination -- one where you can really see if the direction makes sense for you.

Just don't consign yourself to living the rest of your work-life as a corporate cog. There are alternatives to the corporate blues.

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