The Rules Have Changed: Or How to Make Lemonade When They Hand You Lemons
On July 13, 1997, two days after I quit my fourth job in five years, the most interesting thing happened. I got three job offers and a 30 percent pay increase.
Why, you ask?
Simple . . . The Rules Have Changed.
There are several reasons for the changes: the globalization of the economy (over 50 percent of Hewlett-Packard's income is now derived from overseas markets--and they are only one of many), mergers and acquisitions, new advances in technology and the concept of outsourcing
noncore functions. The entire business economy has changed. The old ways may no longer be effective. Companies are changing strategies in order to stay competitive. They are realizing that they must not only be willing to change but be willing to change quickly in response to new technologies, to new business and manufacturing demands. At one time business drove the market; today it's the other way around. Twenty-five years ago it was a different story.
In the fifties and sixties, long-term manufacturing and business planning was a viable activity. And in those days long-term
meant years. (I mean, how much difference was there between a 1951 and a 1961 toaster?) Now, long-term
is more likely measured in months, sometimes weeks. Technology dictates a fundamental change in attitude and outlook. The feeling that everything is going a lot faster is not an illusion.To Market, to Market, to Market We Go . . .
And you'd better hurry, because if you don't . . . Well, need we say more? The corporate landscape is littered with the abandoned dreams of businesses that were not in a position to be flexible and responsive. Workers, too. Faster than anyone could have imagined, 286's became 386's, which became 486's, which seemingly overnight turned into Pentiums and Workstations and Lans and Wans and God knows what else. What's next? State-of-the-art is what's in the morning mail. And that's each morning's mail. As in e-mail.
The Old Model says that Workers are faithful, loyal, trustworthy and true; they toil long and hard and get small annual raises, work at least five years before a Promotion comes along, at least another five before an actual Position is available. From there, it's ten years' minimum to a Desk and a tie and a small plastic placard with your name on it. GORDON MILLER. You've arrived. At last. But if the process was slow, at least it was usually reliable. Usually . . . Your loyalty was to some extent returned. (That was in the days before the Merger and Acquisition Monster was born. Such a cute baby. How could we have known?) Of course, as you know by now, that kind of loyalty is a thing of the past. It is dead. D-e-a-d. Why? Because it's no longer good business. Companies have to change quickly or they won't be in business very long . . . Goodbye, Mr. and Mrs. Worker. You're not the Mr. and Mrs. Worker we need for this project. See ya . . .
Oh, companies still talk about loyalty. They have Human Resources Departments, Employee Assistance Programs, and they will tell you that loyalty is important, but the truth is you'll be down-sized right out the door so fast you'll get a nosebleed when and if the company decides that you no longer fit into their plans. The paradigm (now there's a nice Harvard word) has changed. Congratulations, you're now a casualty of re-engineering. No Purple Heart--just a plain old Pink Slip.
Some twenty years ago yours truly entered the Wonderful World of Business. Remember now, I'm just your basic, no-frills, small-town Iowa guy with the olde tyme work ethic. Some schooling. Nothing special. But eager. And do I ever want to make good. Wanna be a Team Player . . . Nose to the grindstone. Idleness is the devil's workshop. A penny saved is a penny earned
. . . You know. Stuff I learned from my father, the guy who put a lot into a system that he believed in, lived poor in retirement and died broke. The irony of it is that he still believed in the system when he died. How's that for brainwashing?
The horror stories are almost endless. Nearly everyone of my father's generation has one to tell. First, the Medical Retiree Plan somehow disappears. Poof, like magic. Medicare won't cover all the prescriptions, and then there is Alzheimer's . . . Too expensive, and you old guys are sick too often . . . I know we promised, but we can't do it anymore. So sue me
. . . Then perhaps the Acquisition and Merger Monster strikes and the Pension Plan, your carefully nurtured nest egg for the Golden Years (remember those?), also does an el foldo and you have Lost Out. You are now a statistic. A thorough investigation is under way. Indictments may be handed down at any moment . . . In the meantime, we're sorry to inform you that . . . you're . . . screwed
. . . Do we suspect foul play here, Watson? We certainly do, but there's nothing we can do about it.
So those of us who are relying on the old conventions to pull us through are in for some surprises. There's no place to run and no place to hide in the present business climate. Time to face the music: Old strategies may not work. Old career paths may not be successful. It's good business for companies to get you to be loyal, though it may not be such good business for you personally. Ask any of the 70,000 men and women at IBM who lost their jobs in the nineties. Loyal to Big Blue? Sure were. How about the thousands of folks at AT&T who were laid off? And just to rub a little salt in the wounds, a recent CEO at AT&T was cashiered after less than a year on the job and received one of those Golden Parachutes to the tune of $30,000,000! That's thirty million for those of us who are confused by all the zeroes.
Might have been able to salvage a few jobs at that price. But since the people voting on the severance package are other managers hoping for similar treatment, it's expected that the coffers will be opened for one of their fallen comrades.
And to put it in very recent terms, here's an account of some notable job layoff announcements during 1998:
Fruit of the Loom: 5,000
(So who needs all that underwear anyway?)
And who benefits from loyalty if it's a one-way street? You're absolutely right--the Company. See? You're already beginning to learn. (I knew you were smart when you bought the book.) The Company mantra is Be grateful, be grateful. After all, you do have a job. You know how many people don't? Have jobs? Thousands, pal. Maybe millions. Think about it.
A good friend of mine worked for a large software company for years--one of the top salespeople in the country. Top five. Along comes the dreaded Acquisition and Merger Monster, sprinkles a little New Policy dust around after the merger, and my friend gets an offer that works out to one half his usual commission plan . . . After all, you do have a job. You know how many people don't? Thousands, pal. Maybe millions
. . . Then there are the poor starving children in Africa, but we don't need to get into that right now.
Outsourcing is another reason that The Rules Have Changed. Forbes
magazine informs us that . . . By the year 2002, seventy-five percent of the information technology within corporate America will be outsourced
. . . Companies don't want to build an infrastructure, don't want to add overhead, because costs will go up, pricing will have to go up, and they'll no longer be competitive. Remember how it was in sports during the so-called Golden Age? Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford with the Yankees? Duke Snider with the Dodgers? (So Duke finished with the Giants. Big deal.) One-team guys. That's how business was.
Now, businesses (and sports franchises) that are poised for a timely strike at the Gold Ring will often go out and get some key people to ensure their success. The Hired Gun. Or Hired Guns. That's where you come in.
The Harvard Business School Press reminds us that . . . Every successful organization will tell you that they have quadrupled turnover during the last ten years
. . . The whole scenario spells o-p-p-o-r-t-u-n-i-t-y. Was it better the old way? I don't know (though, as you might guess, I have some opinions). I do know that it was different. Now we have New Rules, and if we don't learn them, we're not going to be able to compete at all. We'll turn out to be nonfactors in the business world. Not a fun concept. Especially since it doesn't have to be that way.
So what do we know so far? We know that The Rules Have Changed, that Companies Have Changed, ergo (another great Harvard word in case you miss the dead language approach) that Career Paths Have Changed.Job Security is a Thing of the Past
It simply doesn't exist anymore. Even if you're willing to settle for 3 or 4 percent annual raises (please, O Great Pumpkin, let that be above the inflation rate), just when you're about ready to ease into that rocking chair routine, just when you think it's safe to go in the water again, some conglomerate will come along and acquire your company or merge with your company and--zap!
--they'll have a whole new agenda that may not include you. So much for security.
People who are prospering today are people who are willing to take advantage of the opportunities, people who are willing to take a chance. Have you looked at the want ads in your local newspaper lately? Depending on the size of your city, there are most likely pages and pages of ads. There are industries that are having labor shortages: Information Technology, Telecommunications, Retail, Banking and Finance, Health and Medical (more about that in the next chapter).
Financial rewards are changing, too. I got a signing bonus at my last two jobs; that's not uncommon. If you stay a year, you may be in line for a retention bonus. Now is the time to be negotiating those kinds of things.
From 1945 to 1971, the economy grew incrementally every year and so did real family income. In the mid-seventies, when the global economy started to change (remember the oil crisis, etc.), growth flattened out and has not improved much since. There's been a big decline in the acceleration of the standard of living for the average U.S. citizen. Some have prospered, but overall that hasn't been true. Yet if you look at the profit picture of Corporate America during this period, you find a far different picture. Corporate Profits are rising rapidly while Wages are slowly sinking. As you can see, the worker is the one who has been negatively impacted.
Consider for a moment the possibility that Job Jumping just might be a Career Strategy, perhaps a strong Career Strategy. It's certainly been that way for me. If the idea is foreign to you, just let it settle for a while. By the time you finish this book, it may seem a whole lot more attractive.
An article in Fortune
magazine dated April 1996 addressed the whole issue of right-sizing, down-sizing, etc.:When will down-sizing end? Never. Get used to it. It's part of the new economy, the new rule.
Never? That may be a long time . . .
A survey by the American Management Association revealed that 60 percent of the companies surveyed stated that they would eliminate jobs over the next year. That's the highest percentage in survey history.
Is your job one of those?
On the other hand, managerial employment has increased three times as fast as overall employment (which has posted minuscule gains in the past year). When companies move from cost-cutting strategies to growth strategies, they need people with management skills. That's also called an o-p-p-o-r-t-u-n-i-t-y.
Listen to what Harry S. Dent Jr. (author of The Great Boom Ahead
) says about all this:Most of our organizations are in for changes more radical than their leadership ever dreamed. They won't be optional or gradual, they'll be sweeping, swift and certainly positively mandated by economic and technological changes We need to understand change and make it our ally.
According to the Yankee Group, consulting services throughout business will grow to $116 billion in sales by the year 2000. That's b
as in breathtaking.
Allan Sinai, president of a prominent research firm, has this to say about the job market:This is a huge, huge revolution, like the advent of the railroads and air travel . . .
Lest I bore you to death with quotes and statistics, I leave you with a few thoughts before we enter the next step in our journey. If you're performing a noncore (noncritical) function, the chances of your job being outsourced and you being re-engineered or neutered (ouch!) are excellent. Be aware of that. Companies are now immersed in a quickly changing business environment brought on by, among other things, the pressures of a global economy. That's just the way things are. But we need to understand that and be able to position ourselves with the right company, negotiate the right deal and take advantage of the situation. O-p-p-o-r-t-u-n-i-t-y.
If nothing else, you'll certainly know how to spell opportunity
by the time you're through with this book.
In the following chapters we will discuss strategies about how to be in the right place at the right time, how to pick the right industry, how to market yourself, how to interview, all the things you need to take advantage of the New Rules.
"BIG RAISE" STRATEGIES:
The fundamental business rules are changing rapidly.
Companies must put themselves in a position to change and respond to their market quickly.
The company's loyalty to you can change overnight (due to many factors).
You and I, the working stiffs, can greatly benefit from the New Rules by developing a Job Jumping career strategy.
Change! Change! Change!
Excerpted from Quit Your Job and Get Big Raises by Gordon Miller. Copyright © 1999 by Gordon Miller. Excerpted by permission of Main Street Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.