Shattered and Re-formed

Some industries need to be shattered before they can be reformed into a new whole.

Career Opportunities podcast logoShattered and Re-formed
By Douglas E. Welch

Listen: Shattered and Re-formed


I have spent the last four weekends speaking at conferences, and speaking with many people, in California and Arizona. Despite being a bit tired from the long drives and long hours, I am also energized. It is amazing how exciting and enlightening it can be to talk to people outside your normal area of expertise. Too often, we find ourselves in an echo chamber where we hear the same thoughts, the same advice, the same voices again and again. If you want to build your career, it is important to step outside your neighborhood and see what others may be doing.

Over the past few years, I have thought that various industries in America were overdue for a “reboot”. Sometimes the only way for an industry to recover and grow is to dismantle — to shatter them — and then reform the bits into a new, and hopefully more robust whole. While I am sure it sounds frightening, I also see it as a requirement. We can continue plodding down the road to failure or take the future into our hands and create something new. How does this destruction and recreation effect you, the careerist, trying to develop the career you deserve? In some fundamental ways you can often only react to the changes that are coming, but you can also do your part to adapt and prepare for this change. As is always the case with this column and podcast, your career is about you, your decisions and your success. That said, changes in the industry often start with changes within ourselves.

First, there are several industries that are ripe for shattering. The banking industry has led the way in this area. It is fundamentally different today than it was only 6 months ago. It has been shattered to a large degree and reforming it is likely to take years. More importantly, it gives us a road map of what might be to coming for other at-risk industries such as automobile manufacturing, airline travel and manufacturing in general.

If you are currently employed in any of these industries, you should be spending a great deal of time investigating new opportunities. As an industry changes, layoffs are one of the first steps. We are already seeing hundreds of thousands of people being put out of work in the last several months. You might even be one of those people. Despite the past stability and relatively good earnings of these industries, their futures look bleak. Your future may still lie in these industries but it as just as likely that you will need to find another job, perhaps even another career, in another industry. You need to deeply look at other opportunities you might have and especially any chances for re-training. In some cases, this might even mean re-training yourself, if other resources are not available. If you work in these at-risk industries, you simply cannot count on your job or your career being around over the course of the next 5 years. You need to find a way out today, before you find yourself competing with the thousands of others who will wait until their industry shatters to take action.

Let me be clear that I am not suggesting you abandon a job or career you have today to go on a wild goose chase for another one. Rather, you need to build your knowledge and skills and start planting the seeds you will need when finally forced to make a decision. You owe it to yourself and your family to be prepared. Sure, you can ignore the changes happening in your industry, but this will make the shock all the more severe when it comes.

One way in which you can build a new career is to seek out areas in your current industry where the reformation will first occur. In automotives, it is very likely that we will see a resurgence of small automobile manufacturers grow from the remains of the Big 3. With so many people, with so much talent, out of work, that talent will naturally look for a place to be expressed. Watch your industry and follow closely those people and companies who seem to be at the forefront of the reformation. It is very likely that you may be able to develop a career with these smaller companies and continue along your existing career path.

You can also seek out ways your unique talents and skills can be used by another industry. Manufacturing skills can translate between industries. Design skills even more so. You have a unique set of skills that could be in demand elsewhere, if only you take the time to look. Don’t limit yourself to your current industry. In fact, I would recommend starting your research as far from your industry as possible. Break new ground. Blaze a new trail. I guarantee it will be enlightening and very possibly build an even better career.

If your industry is in danger of shattering, you must do what is best for you, your family and your career. No matter how many years you have spent learning your craft or building your career in that company or industry, there will come a time when change will be thrust upon you. Don’t wait to be forced into action. You can see what is happening around you. You have the power within you to find a new path through the career forest. You have the power to build the career you deserve if you only wield it.

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