Archive for Monday, September 5, 2005

Spending entire career at one company can be OK for some workers

September 5, 2005


Dear Kate & Dale: Is it prestigious and acceptable to spend an entire working career with the same company, even though it requires moving to another state once in a while? - Linda

Kate: As someone who often works with people let go by their employers, I can only say, lucky you! Go ahead and stay - IF you are learning and growing. If so, you must be doing something right. However, looking over at Dale, I can see he's set to disagree. He loves to point out my tough-love look; well, I can see that "meaning-of-life gaze" coming into his eyes.

Dale: Yes, this one cuts deep. I'm glad you asked the question, Linda. And if you believe that work should be part of a meaningful life, you really need to direct that question inward. If you believe, as Kate and I do, that your work should help carry you along your life's path, then "acceptable" and "prestigious" become irrelevant.

Kate: I'm not sure you wanted to go that deep, Linda. And while Dale is worrying about your soul, let me worry a bit about your career. I work with many people who thought they'd stay with their employers forever, and got forced out. You must keep yourself ready for the day when you have to move on. Get to know people in other companies, become familiar with other corporate cultures, and stay involved in trade associations.

Dale: When part of the culture is to be transferred state-to-state, it's natural to limit work and social relations to fellow members of the tribe. That's part of the narrowing of life that you are perhaps feeling, Linda. Take a look at the people in your company near retirement - will becoming like them mean that you are completing your life or narrowing it? Is it acceptable? If you're asking that question, I think you already know the answer.

¢ Dear Kate & Dale: I got laid off and only got one month of severance. I was disappointed and upset, but decided not to negotiate the package further, as I did not think I'd get better results and I would be hurt emotionally. I decided to move on and focus on getting a GREAT job. As for my search, I've had many exploratory meetings, but haven't gotten job interviews. I have started re-contacting the people I met with, but have not been able to schedule further meetings. Suggestions? - Emmy

Dale: I'm pleased that you are looking ahead and have the perfect goal: not just a job job, but a GREAT job. And while I know it's probably too late, it turns out that looking forward can be a useful negotiating tool for severance benefits. You should expect fairness but you hope for help: You hope that your former employers realize that it's in everyone's best interest for you to find a wonderful job, and that they will give you the resources to do so, leaving everyone feeling good about your job change.

Kate: As for getting follow-up meetings, you have to get honest feedback. That's why it's good to have a coach or job-search group. However, you can also coax feedback from those you meet with, especially if you do it as part of the initial conversation. When in exploratory meetings, the key question is, "If you did have an opening, would you consider hiring someone like me?" The responses will tell you what you need to work on.

Kate Wendleton is the founder of The Five O'Clock Club, a national career-counseling network. Dale Dauten is the founder of The Innovators' Lab.


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