by Tom Melander

Like the people profiled in this piece from 60 Minutes, you probably believe that you have reasonable expectations about your career. These folks never expected to be out of work for a year or longer. After all, they did all the right things: finished high school, earned a bachelor’s degree, or went back to school for an MBA. They worked hard and aligned their personal goals with the goals of their employer. Then their employer discovered (as Hewlett Packard did in this example) how to consolidate operations and reduce costs by 30 percent.


As good as it gets

Even though our overall economy has grown for the last nine months, job creation has remained flat. In fact, at 14 months and counting we have surpassed the length of the Great Depression in terms of unemployment. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect American corporations will quit looking for ways to save money and increase investor returns. After all, this is what corporations are expected to do. This got me thinking, what should you and I expect going forward, and how can we prepare ourselves as individuals to compete not only with each other, but with workers across the globe?


What to expect

Even if the overall unemployment rate remains high, it’s expected that entrepreneurs and small companies will create the most jobs in the future. So we should start considering some of the things small business value. Here are a few things I’ve heard from people who have had success working for small companies:


  • Small companies value good learners
    Anyone who has had career success at a small company will tell you they’ve had to wear many hats as the company grew. The job they were hired to do grew, and their job tasks and responsibilities grew with it. So expect the new job market will favor people with a willingness to learn new things.

  • Small companies value initiative
    People who can see what needs to be done and do it are more likely to see their careers grow in a small business than workers who sit on their hands waiting to be told what to do. The important thing to remember is to keep the company’s best interests in mind when you go the extra mile. Employees who look for ways to save time and money are generally appreciated.

  • Small companies appreciate employees who get along with each other
    Good interpersonal skills, or getting along with a wide variety of people, is especially important in smaller workplaces. Even low levels of interpersonal conflict can have a major impact on productivity of a small team. Dealing kindly with people you disagree with is a good habit to develop.


Whether or not as a nation we climb out of this high unemployment, you and I will continue to face increased competition from each other and foreign workers. We can expect that jobs will come, and jobs will go. This is our new reality. By focusing on the three fundamentals above, we can begin to position ourselves as the survivors in this new reality.


3 thoughts on “What Do You Expect?

  1. Interesting point, Phil. There is a difference between having a skill (or the know-how) to do some task, and the mindset to do that task well over time. It’s important to be aware when we're working outside of our strengths, because, it takes more energy to keep our job performance at an acceptable level. Thanks for the comment.


  2. Item 2 is a particularly valid point. I work for a mid-size company and the unspoken expectation is a willingness to take on new and diverse tasks that weren't originally part of the job description. This is particularly true for project managers and business analysts in the IT world who are called on to perform not only their own roles, but also each others and then branching out into software testing and administration. This can be tricky because the tasks and roles require different skill sets–which can be learned, but more importantly different mindsets; which are often a little harder to change.


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