Once, good jobs paid good salaries and benefits. Now good jobs prepare you for your next job.

By Scot Herrick | Cube Rules Commentary

Oct 12

I believe in jobs that have good salaries, bonuses, and benefits. But I also believe that every jobs ends. And when that job ends, you need to have skills and accomplishments to grab that next job.

It didn’t used to be this way. Companies brought you on board, helped you in your work, promoted you when you had the skills and accomplishments and paid you for those skills and accomplishments. There was a commitment of you working for the company and the company helping you to grow. That lasted long enough until companies would lay you off in a New York minute and figured they could replace you through others, outsourcing or not.

Now you have standardized job descriptions, standardized processes, standardized applications that you use to accomplish your work (name a Fortune 500 company that doesn’t use Microsoft everything), and, well, you get the point. If you didn’t know any better, you’d be a functional widget working for the man.

You might be right.

Our career approach needs to change

How we approach our careers has fundamentally changed. No longer can we rely on a long career with a single company (though there are many who fit this description). No longer can we rely on a company to train us in new skills and promote from within. No longer can we believe that our promotable skills will lead to a promotable salary — more likely a small bump.

Not so long ago, business people thought that companies provided a wide variety of benefits to a large number of constituents – to upper management, to employees, to the local community, as well as to shareholders. Many of these benefits were long-term.

But as market value overtook other measures of a company’s value, maximising the short-term interests of shareholders began to override other concerns, other relationships. Quarterly earnings reports and stock prices became even more important, the sole measures of success. How companies treated employees changed, and has not changed back.

Now we, those of us working to achieve Cubicle Warrior status, need to gain skills on the job, need to have accomplishments with those skills, just so we can show potential hiring managers — often outside our current company — that we can help them achieve the manager’s business goals.

In short, a good job today is one the prepares you for your next good job. That prepares you for the next one.

There is no corporate loyalty any more. Only personal loyalty within a company. And that only goes so far.

This change requires you to think differently about your work. It’s not just doing your job, but also about how you stay current or gain job skills that will help you be marketable to the next hiring manager. In whatever company that may be.

The CEO of Me, Inc is a job-quitter for a good reason – the business world has come to agree with Hayek that market value is the best measure of value. As a consequence, a career means a string of jobs at different companies. So workers respond in kind, thinking about how to shape their career in a world where you can expect so little from employers. In a society where market rules rule, the only way for an employee to know her value is to look for another job and, if she finds one, usually to quit.

When evaluating a job opportunity, it is no longer just about the salary and benefits. It’s also about what job skills can you obtain that you need now to move on to the job after the one being offered.

This is cold-hearted

And whenever I write this kind of stuff, I’m always thinking to myself that this is brutally cold. Totally uncaring about the people at the company doing the work. Very selfish. Calculating.

To a degree, it is all of those things.

I’ve also been on the management side of those decisions as well. You need to lay off x number of people. You need to rate and rank your employees. You need to draw a line and those below the line get laid off. You do the best you can, be as honest as you can, but then you (brutally) draw the line and submit the names. Because management told you.

Management will trump personal loyalty. You’re in the site that is closing down. You’re in the department being disbanded. Doesn’t matter how fabulous you were as an employee. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

With that kind of stuff, it’s pretty easy for me to get to the brutally cold calculations about what this job is giving me that will help prepare me for the next job. Seriously, no one else is thinking about that for me except me and, perhaps, my family. Right? Nor you.

Take a seriously hard look at what your current job is giving you that will help you be successful at your next job. And if your current job isn’t, figure out how it can. Or get to a job that will get you pointed in the direction of the next job.

Because, today, a good job is one that prepares you for your next job.