Changing cabins in the Titanic

Changing careers Photo: Thinkstock

Don't try and solve a strategic career problem by creating an even larger problem, labor market expert Orna Rudi warns.

One of the most common career blunders is an attempt to solve a major problem by creating an additional problem, in most cases in an attempt to remove a strategic obstacle (professional and/or branding). These errors are common among both workers and managers although a manager will pay more dearly for the mistake.

Go backwards and not to college

For example, take a 46 year-old R&D Director who has not been able to find work because he preferred comfort and convenience over keeping abreast of professional developments. He worked for 14 years at the same place in the Product Division, where for the most part development involved obsolete technologies, until the company finally closed down. Since then he has not even managed to get a job interview and does not understand why the market insists on experience in the latest technologies (he thinks it's enough just to know how to manage) and due to lack of choice he decided to undergo training for market management. After discovering that for those jobs too, he was unable to even get an interview, he registered for an MBA course at a leading university, certain that expertise in marketing would open up doors for him for that sought after job.

His first strategic mistake was to get stuck with obsolete technology, reinforced by a further strategic mistake of wasting two critical years for an unnecessary degree that did not achieve his aim, which in turn led to another problem, a two-year hole in his CV at the peak of his working career (he didn't work during the MBA), and the result was an occupational UFO that couldn't find work, and drifted about between startups that he unsuccessfully tried to get going.

All this instead of switching to QA management or support management, which in the company he had worked for were an excellent alternative but which he had dismissed out of hand, refusing to move backwards, even though at 46, an age when the slide begins to jobs that are less prestigious and well-paid but more accessible for older people.

He insisted on staying on the Titanic, even after it began sinking (professional obsolescence), an in marketing management looked for another cabin on the luxury cruise-liner, instead of searching for a lifeboat (Support/QA) and sail off to safety on dry land. After two years in academia, and another year looking for a marketing job, it was no longer possible to move backwards - an occupational UFO, three years older and three years unemployed, he is also not attractive for QA support management and his career has sunk into the depths.

Neglect, repression, denial

Another example of such a strategic blunder is due to a characteristic of employees that have successfully integrated into a certain profession despite having the required educational qualifications such as a CFO - VP Finance who is not an accountant or core people in high-tech without a technology degree etc. This anomaly occurs mainly in the public sector and certain organizations in the business sector, or when there is a temporary shortage in the workforce.

Many of them are not aware of, repress and deny the strategic roadblock until they are compelled to look for their next job, and then discover that their professional experience isn't sufficient to find an appropriate position. Instead of completing the required education or move to an adjacent profession (usually more inferior) that doesn't need the qualifications, they move to another cabin in the Titanic, rickety organizations with no employment future that further harms the value of the brand, or to failing independent businesses in which afterwards there is nowhere to go back to, or to professional retraining with zero chance of success. The strangest among them go back to college for a degree in business management that has no value, mistakenly certain that that this is the entry ticket to a business development position, which almost never comes true.

But the most worrisome group of all are the "dream makers" - young people that immediately after their bachelor's degree found startups (business are for the elderly, startups for the young), sometimes even skipping the degree, certain that the new world of employment no longer requires higher education. But at the age of 30, they find themselves without a profession and a trail of failed businesses, with no income, some of them with no education, and continuing to look for new cabins in the Titanic - new startups that will almost certainly also collapse (Israel is in fifth place in the developed world for opening new businesses and fourth place for them closing down).

The sad thing is that most of the "passengers" on the Titanic are quality, smart and successful many of whom were in track for a promising career, or at least held high potential for such a path but failed to understand the job market. Most of them just don't know how the job market behaves and how decisions are taken, and most of all they ignore the most critical resource in a career - time. People have difficulty in understanding that all of us, and especially salaried employees with companies, have a given "bank of years" and it is very much recommended not to waste it on taking the wrong steps. Good luck.

The author is a labor market expert.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 13, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

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Changing careers Photo: Thinkstock
Changing careers Photo: Thinkstock
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