Work Manifesto for the 21st Century

In the Information Age the only thing we can count on is change itself. After more than a decade in which millions of people's working lives have been disrupted by corporate outsourcing, downsizing and reengineering, individuals have come to realize that Canadian companies can no longer offer them job security.

In the New Economy “we have a better chance of getting a gold watch from a street vendor than we do from a corporation“, said one former Vice-President of Human Resources with 20 years experience, who had been let go due to corporate restructuring.

Before Globalization and the Information Age, the old trappings of success were a secretary, a company car, and a corner office. These are now things of the past. Today, we are all responsible for managing our own careers. All jobs, whether contract or permanent, eventually end and should be viewed as temporary.

Signs of career trouble have also changed. In the old economy the rules of success where simple – one would receive incremental promotions every few years. If you did not get a promotion, you would have taken that as a warning that your job might be in jeopardy. Over the last few years the warning signs have become much more subtle.

Ask yourself the key questions below to provoke insight into what drives and motivates you – embark on the journey of taking ownership of your career and destiny.

Are you learning?

If you can't say to yourself that you have learned anything of value in the past year nor do you think that you will learn anything of value next year at your job, you should be concerned about your position. In the New Economy our greatest assets are the new marketable skills we acquire. When your learning stops at your present job, you have to be prepared to leave and move on. This rule applies even when a promotion is involved. If your job has become easy for you to do, remember your position can either be automated or someone else can be hired to replace you for a lot less pay.

If your job were advertised in the career section of the newspaper and you applied for it, would you get it? If you were applying for your current position would your employer be looking for the skill set that you currently have?

Has your current employer taken advantage of you? Were you asked to sacrifice long-term career growth for very short-term gains that only benefit your employer and not you? For example, an HR professional who wants to learn hiring practices but is encouraged to stay put as a benefit administrator, while others in the company are paid to learn these skills. If you have answered yes – your company has stopped investing in you and you are expendable!

Do you know what you contribute to the bottom line of your company?

How about your contribution to your company's success? If you are not able to describe what you do and how it benefits your employer from the time it takes for a traffic light to turn from red to green, most likely your boss can't either.

What would you do if your job vanished tomorrow?

Can you honestly say that you have invested enough into yourself and your career by developing marketable skills, built contingency into your plans and developed support networks to help you through a transition to new career opportunities?

Do you enjoy what you do for a living?

Life is too short to live the delayed life plan – doing the things you don't like, in hopes that one day you will be living your true life plan. There are two major flaws with this type of thinking. One, will you know when it is time to switch to living your true life-plan? If you have not taken any steps towards making your dreams happen today, what makes you think you will embark on your true life path tomorrow? And two, do you really have all the time in the world to make this change? Do you believe that you will be the only one in human history to live forever? Ask yourself: “have I accomplished anything in my life that has real meaning to me, my family and the greater community as a whole?

Sure, many of us suffer from the collective illusion that by continuing our delayed life plan we are earning a living and this is the best we can hope for in this lifetime. But if our hearts are not into our work, are we not just making a dying for ourselves? If each day we lose a little more of our dreams, our self-respect and ourselves, what type of legacy do we create?

All the successful people I have ever known had a very clearly defined, written career and financial plan. They believed implicitly and unshakably in their plan and were impervious to external circumstances. They did not alter their plan every time the wind changed directions, and continued to work their plan steadfastly; no matter how long it took, until the plan inevitably succeeded. It has been said that “those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” People are frightened of change because they don't feel they have any control. As the ancient Chinese proverb says, “The thousand mile journey begins with the first step!

A successful career in the New Economy results from having a resume that describes a person with fewer titles, but many employers and experiences. Whether you are employed permanently or are a sole practitioner, it helps to see yourself as a self-employed person who is always of the mindset of turning work into their vocation/purpose. Being inwardly directed and outwardly focused. Having a self-employed mind-set prepares you mentally for the likelihood of becoming unemployed, looking for new opportunities and turning your dreams into your living reality!

Written by Peter Merrick

Peter Merrick, FMA, CFP, FCSI, Instructor at George Brown and Seneca Colleges, President of Merrick Wealth Management, a boutique financial planning, employee and executive benefit consulting firm.

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