Many of us feel stuck. We’re creative, ambitious, and paying our dues, but the final payoff is far from guaranteed. At many firms, there is a constant threat of layoffs looming. And that might be the best case scenario. Companies don’t have the staying power of decades anymore. Big names can blow up: think BearSterns, Dewey & LeBoeuf.
So how can you protect your future from being tethered to a larger sinking or stagnant ship? ”You need to control your career destiny,” says Maynard Webb, one of Silicon Valley’s technology legends.
Webb has big wisdom to share on this topic. For the first half of his career, he was what he describes a classic company man at IBM and then eBay, where (and this is more extraordinary than classic) as a top executive he played a key role in the online auction site’s growth from $140 million in revenue to over $4.5 billion by 2005. Now he’s a startup guy. He ran the cloud-based call center service LiveOps and currently has his hand (and funds) in some 45 startups. He also sits on the boards of Salesforce.com and Yahoo, both interesting companies in very different ways.
Webb believes “the paternalistic era” in American corporations is over. This is where loyalty is rewarded and climbing the ranks is predictable with hard work. It is being undone by the “the entrepreneurial era” in which loyalty is replaced by strategic career moves and hard work is just one ingredient for success. This doesn’t mean we should all launch startups tomorrow, but rather we all do think of our careers very differently — or risk being disenchanted, disgruntled employees with little job security in return.
I agree hole-hardheartedly with Webb’s theory about work. I’ve called it being an entrepreneur for life. Webb describes it this way: “The company you work for doesn’t necessarily want you to be a superstar. They’re happy to have you keep doing what you have always been good at. But you probably have changed, and you need to do something about it or you’re going to get stuck.”
In his upcoming book, “Rebooting Work”, co-authored with Carlye Adler, Webb takes all of his insight about careers (he has a passion for mentoring) and distills it into a sort of self-actualization guide. The book debuts in late January. He’s trying to fight a nasty trend: only 45% of Americans are satisfied in their jobs, down from 61% in 1987 when the Conference Board began tracking worker satisfaction. “We’re spending most of our waking hours doing something un-fulfilling. What a tragedy, and it doesn’t have to be this way”, says Webb. His advice is meant to be empowering, but realistic too. “You can’t say you want to be a CEO and have work life balance,” he explains. Here are a few of Webb’s golden rules for success in this new era of work:
1. Get over your fear that the safety net is gone. It’s gone.
The notion of life-time employment is antiquated and not coming back, says Webb. He doesn’t disparage companies for this one. “They aren’t dead-beat Dads. They’re simply competing against companies everywhere and that’s tough,” he says. So for an employee, that means loyalty has less value than it used to, and individual should be thinking about their careers on an ongoing basis.
2. Understand where you are aiming to be.
Here Webb has a visualization technique for his readers. First rule: stop thinking about your boss. Then, picture a room filled with only the people you most admire. You are on stage telling them the story of your life over the next five years, after the fact. Webb is very clear that this story should include both your career trajectory and accomplishments as well as your family life. “You can’t have it all, and you need to recognize what your priorities are,” he says.
Think about this elite group’s reactions. Did you do what you should have given your intellect and your platform? Or are they unimpressed?
3. Now that you know where you want to go, figure out how to get there.
Webb cites his own career transition from company executive to angel investor. He asked Silicon Valley’s omnipresent angel investor, Ron Conway, how he shaped his own career. Wasn’t that awkward, asking a potential future competitor for tips? “Not at all. Ron told me he sees more companies than he can fund. I also offered up my technology connections, so it wasn’t just a one-way ask,” says Webb.
Webb advises using LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to keep tabs on the people doing what you want to do.
Tips 4,5 and Complete Forbes Article