I recently taught a half-day seminar on project management and was approached by a participant after the class. Rick informed me that he was 55-years-old and had a strong IT background. In fact, he had an excellent mix of IT and business, which increased his value in the job market.
During the training, I learned that he was pleased with this company but that sales were slowing down, and he was concerned about the future of his organization. In fact, there were rumors spreading that cuts were coming soon.
Our discussion went something like this …
RICK: Hi, Jimmie … do you have a quick second?
ME: Sure … what’s up, Rick?
RICK: As I discussed during the seminar, my company is struggling a bit with sales. We’re in the heavy equipment business, and we’re not moving as much product in the European market. In fact, I heard that Caterpillar is having a similar problem. We have meeting-after-meeting to discuss how we can make things better, but the global marketplace is still stagnant.
ME: Why do you think your job is in peril?
RICK: I’m actually not too sure about that, but I want to be prepared. Back in the 80s, I was working for a company who was in a similar situation. I was told that my job was “safe,” but I was on the street a few months later. I want to be prepared this time.
ME: I agree. When companies begin to struggle, the knee-jerk reaction is to cut staff. The fact is that we still need good people to get us back on track.
RICK: I came to this seminar to brush-up on my project management skills. I earned the PMP [Project Management Professional] about 7 years ago, but my work is more operational today, and I have let some of that knowledge fade. I know that qualified project managers are in high demand, so coming here was the right move.
ME: We can always stay busy with projects, especially when we have the experience and the PMP credential. You’re making the smart move.
RICK: When I get home later today, I’m going to take a more proactive role. It seems like I’ve been sitting there waiting for stuff to happen, and that’s counterproductive. In fact, it’s making me nervous and anxious.
ME: Rick, I think you should also have a heart-to-heart talk with your manager. You want to know where you stand. I understand you have performance appraisals, but these tend to be a bit formal. Ask your manager what she knows about the future of the company, and how you fit into the picture.
RICK: I will do that! I’ve been so close to the situation that I failed to see the obvious.
Rick thanked me and walked out of the room. I was pleased to see that he was taking action. Job hunting when in the 50s can be tough, especially if you expect to earn a competitive salary. With a proactive approach, Rick has more control of his career, which can make the difference between gainful employment and sitting on the sidelines collecting an unemployment check.