“May you live in interesting times” is supposedly an ancient Chinese expression that is viewed as both a blessing and curse. The origins of the quote are disputed as is the real meaning of the proverb. This is where we are now. As a nation, we cannot seem to agree on anything. We don’t believe half of what we read in the papers, view on social media or watch on cable television news. Any seemingly innocent opinion is fiercely decried as horrible and the person making this statement should be banned from whatever platform they used and calls are made to get him fired. The veracity of every statement made is viciously challenged and accusations are levied against the political motives behind their posting.
It’s not too surprising that tempers flare as we are always on edge. The ending of 2018 offers a volatile stock market that wreaks havoc on our retirement and children’s college funds, school shootings, forest fires that engulfed large swaths of California, mass layoffs at large corporations, geopolitical concerns with Russia, the Middle East and North Korea and the list of worries and concerns never end. It is one of the most contentious and troubling times we’ve faced as a country.
The other day I wrote a piece entitled Why Fewer Holiday Home Decorations Predict A Bad Start To The 2019 Job Market, which garnered a lively discussion including some who contend that it was portending doom and gloom. The article humbly suggested that fewer festive holiday decorations may indicate a negative sentiment on the economy and Americans’ feelings of insecurity about their future financial and job stability.
As the CEO of an executive search firm and founder of a start-up company, WeCruitr, a website that connects top-tier candidates with suitable and recruiters, it would be prudent for me to always pretend to be wildly optimistic. I prefer to be transparent and honest, even if the news is not so pleasant.
If you are seeking a new job in 2019, the usual presumption is that it is the best time to do so, as it has almost always been this way. New budgets and headcounts are approved, employees receive their bonuses and the back-to-school mentality takes hold in the workplace. People eagerly suit up and start searching for a new opportunity. It would be highly unfair to make believe that everything is great if it’s not. The job market is not immune from falling stock prices and geopolitical and economic events that are less than positive. It is important to appropriately manage expectations. If a person seeks a new job and thinks that everything is fine and dandy, they will be sorely disappointed when it does not go smoothly. It is far better to manage expectations downward so that they enter the search knowing it will be challenging and they will not be discouraged if they have an initial slow start. They would likely appreciate the heads up about the potential difficulties lying ahead of them.
I’ve noticed that much written about the job market, interviewing and career advice is generic, and naively uplifting in the “You got this! Just tell them you want this salary and you’ll get it!” variety.
In my experience, it’s not that easy and the dispensers of this advice are misleading people with false hope. If you are looking for a new job or desire to go far in your career, this is what you have to be prepared for:
- Almost nobody is going to really care about your career and you will need to make your own breaks. If you are good at your job, your manager will probably—behind the scenes—try to keep you from being promoted and moving up the ladder because you are too important to lose.
- You will continually be faced with rejection and subjected to rudeness, abuse and prejudices.
- I have met precious few people who have worked in the corporate world for over 10-plus years who have not been downsized, had their job relocated or were marginalized until they had to leave.
- A large number of people, which no one wants to talk about, are sidelined in middle age and find it almost impossible to climb back up the ladder.
Now, you may think this is pessimistic, but I prefer to think of it as reality. Life and work are not easy. We all die in the end. Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean we give up. The bad breaks and dead ends lead to getting stronger, wiser and tougher.
There is a zen beauty to all of this. Bad things happen all the time, but if you know that, you’ll always be prepared. It’s to be expected. The greatest entrepreneurs and CEOs faced numerous defeats until they used their failures to turn them into greatness.
Yes, the stock market plunged, the Democrats and President Trump are feuding children at times and China and Russia are threats, but we are probably the most well positioned in our history. Just because things look hard, it doesn’t make them insurmountable.
Here is what you need to do now:
- Be strong and brave and you will overcome and succeed.
- Block out all the noise and drama around you.
- Hyperfocus on your goals and ambitions.
- Don’t let failure stop you.
- When you get knocked down, dust yourself off, get back up and start again.
- Just because the news makes things seem bleak, don’t give into that darkness. Maybe they are right—but, most often, they are amazingly wrong.
- Put on blinders and work hard.
- While others will give up, you must persevere and you will attain the new job or advancement in your career.
- Avoid allowing all the negativity to give you an excuse not to do something that you really want to achieve.
- Keep forging ahead—even when things look bleak and scary.
- The harder things are, the greater you’ll appreciate the results when you ultimately succeed.