What do Steve Jobs,CEO of Apple Computers,Karl von der Heyden,former CFO of PepsiCo.,and twenty other top executives at Fortune 500 companies have in common?The answer is they have all been 'interim managers', hired on a temporary basis to come in and revitalise a firm with their own special brand of magic.And then leave. In fact, such short-term employment contracts are now becoming the norm at all management levels. And if they're good enough for the likes of Jobs, they're good enough for the rest of us.
Provided you can stand the insecurity, there has never been a better time to get a job. The old 'smokestack industries' of mining, shipbuilding and steel may be gone, but with the arrival of the New Economy, what we're now increasingly seeing is highly paid project teams created for particular assignments for a specific period of time.Once the project is completed, the team is simply disbanded. No hard feelings - just thanks and good job, you've added to what human resources people call your 'e
The Corporate Ladder
In the past it was different. You worked hard, pleased an insufferable boss - you had a job for life. True, you were little more than a wage slave, but if you stuck to the dress code, played by the rules and made a few powerful friends along the way, you could climb to the top of the corporate ladder by the age of fifty, take early retirement at fifty-five and drop dead at fifty-six.mployability'. You've enhanced your career prospects with another firm on a similar short-term basis.
Then along came the 're-engineered' 90s and changed all that. According to Jerry Yoram Wind and Jeremy Main at the world-leading Wharton School of Management, big companies like AT&T "finally woke up in 1995 and said 'Oh my goodness, we have 40,000 people too many'."Mass redundancies followed. In April 1997 Newsweek ran a cover story entitled 'Corporate Killers, the Public is Scared as Hell'. The killers were giants like General Electric and IBM. Now managers were kicked out at forty-five and on the scrap heap at forty-six.
The tables have turned. The forty-three million jobs lost in the United States alone since 1979 are more than compensated for by the 70.2 million jobs created in the same period. Now it's our employers who are afraid we'll take our expertise elsewhere. With so many job opportunities, severe skills shortages in many industries, fewer barriers to entrepreneurship and easier access to start-up capital, we've never been so
In a stady carried out for Management Today by RHI Management Resources, sixty-seven per cent of managers put a job for life at the bottom of their list of priorities. Amongst the under-35s the figure was seventy-seven per cent. Ninety-one per cent of those younger managers said career development was the responsibility of the individual. Fifty-five per cent of them wanted retire at fifty-five or younger. All of them wanted the flexibility to work from home or even telecommute. All of them said they would dump their present company in an instant if they were offered something 'sexier' by another employerempowered. Never mind the corporation. What about me?
The Rat Race
Mark Albion, founding partner of You & Co., and co-founder of Students for Responsible Business, approves of this new opportunism. "You learn where you fit in by not fitting in," he says."You learn what you want to do by doing what you don't want to do.If you're offered a 'big' job, take it. You might love it. But you might not find it as satisfying as you'd hoped, and it will be a jumping-off point for what you really want to do." His simple message seems to be: "Don't get really good at something you don't want to do." And remember to get a life along the way. For, as comedian, Lily Tomlin once put it: "The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat".