Our World Shaken

Seems like no time since I was enjoying Great Depression 2 drinks in a Tokyo watering hole back in Dec 2008.

However, what the Japanese media calls the Lehman Shock kicked off in 2008. And here we are in October 2011, now facing an overlapping troika of massive personal, sovereign and supranational indebtedness whose resolution is by no means guaranteed.

Trying to unravel a complex and dynamic mix of socio-economic variables is beyond most mortals, in my opinion. Yes, political leaders and central bankers believe they know how to tinker with systems and kick cans down the proverbial road of our future. But, and I’m sure they all know this too, it’s well nigh impossible to legislate for human greed, stupidity and stubbornness; theirs, as well as their constituents.

What I’m reasonably sure of is that all systems, whether nature’s or our own, eventually reset in one way or another because they have built-in limits to growth.

(For more background, see this post entitled, Career Growth Primer; The Malthusian Approach.

At the micro-economic level, if you’re an individual who has in-demand talent, experience that is valued, and are internationally mobile; your career horizon remains relatively bright. But for those with little experience (recent graduates), or with domestic or extended family responsibilities that require a local presence, prospects are even tougher than they were just three short years ago.

So what’s to be done?

I suspect that, unchecked, the great systemic game of globalization will continue to erode differences in real living standards and wages between the developed and developing worlds. Sounds wonderful if you’re in Shanghai or Mumbai but a royal PITA for natives of London, Paris, New York or Los Angeles (including their hinterlands and flyover states.)

For mid-career changers this is not an easy time to make an uncertain leap in the dark, and I would recommend that if you have a job at present, hang onto it! Yes, continue to build the skills you’ll need to make that career change eventually, assuming the national/international economy makes it through the painful deleveraging and readjustments to come.

Be particularly wary of advice that encourages you to just go do it. This may be fine when times are good (i.e. a rising tide lifts all boats) but in a recession / depression requires deep financial reserves and luck to survive what can be lengthy, lean periods.

Four years since my third career change (and my second and probably last mid-career adventure) have taught me that leveraging existing skills and experience is much easier than trying to start from scratch.

I highly recommend that you carefully examine your key strengths and see where these might take you in the future. (Ed Schein’s work on career anchors was an important step on my journey.)