Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Career Lost-and-Found Department

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Career Lost-and-Found Department

Article excerpt

Everywhere you go, you find career Lost Souls . . . individuals wandering through the economy, searching for jobs or, if they have jobs, searching for careers. Or, if they have careers, searching for meaning in their work.

They know something has gone wrong - something that "trying harder" won't solve - but what?

Let's start by looking at a typical four-part career and financial advancement strategy:

1. Get your work done and "pull your own weight."

2. Know the written and unwritten rules of the corporation and obey them - don't step on any toes.

3. Devote your energies to your employer, but "keep an eye open," seeking to spot the right opportunity to open your own business.

4. Live within your means - don't exceed the mortgage and car payment levels suggested for your income.

If these statements describe your personal strategy, then congratulations, you have a complete, proven self-advancement philosophy - assuming, that is, that you are reading this in 1955.

If you're reading this in, say, 1995 . . . we need to talk.

Here is an important bit of social history that everyone knows and nearly everyone forgets: In the postwar American economy, corporations were organized on a military model - meaning an employee could count on moving through the ranks, with seniority the primary factor in promotion. So a person could climb up the ranks while the ranks themselves, as measured by real income, were also rising.

With this double lift, the biggest danger for the aspiring executive was falling off "the ladder." So the Old Logic suggested a defensive career strategy: Do your job, fit in, and don't rock the boat. It also meant a person could go into debt easily and comfortably, knowing payments would get easier to make over time.

But change a couple of assumptions and what happens - what if real incomes are falling and advancement is based not on seniority but performance? …

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