Shift Gears When You Can, Not When You Are Forced To

Author Mirna Diab

 

A BBC Worklife report shines a light on so-called “minternships,” where mid-career employees leave their jobs to take internships, often in other industries, in order to re-skill. The report notes that many workers in the millennial generation are dissatisfied with their jobs and are looking for a change, and these minternships may provide an opportunity to re-launch their careers in a new field.

Reading this heading has me wondering about the change the millennial generation is bringing to our traditional ways of thinking. We all have a cautionary tale, a wishful thought, that if we maintained some patience, things will sort themselves out on their own. This scenario rarely works out and things will not sort themselves out on their own until we do something about it. Something I teach my business students in their first day of the program is opportunity cost. Taking action has costs and not taking any action has its costs as well. It all depends on your risk appetite, and your analysis of the short and long term costs and benefit. Not taking any action is often preferred more as it is less natural to pay attention to the “what-ifs” of inaction.

Not taking action in today’s market place encompasses plenty potential threats as technology is changing the way jobs are defined. Every day, new job categories are destroyed, new ones are invented, and it is happening in an accelerating rate. The assumption that your industry and your profession are secure is the most dangerous assumption of all.  There is simply no job security anymore.

Last year, I started seeing a new dentist. To my amaze, the dentist was a fresh graduate from dentistry school in his mid-40s. He was an engineer in the oil and gas industry for all of his professional life but because of the rising problems of oil and gas companies in Alberta in recent years, he decided it was time for a career transition.  You might be thinking it is a very hard and terrifying step to change your career to this extent, especially after you have spent most of your adult life building skills and rising through the ranks in your organization. However, during tough economic times, your level of risk tolerance increases and you are driven to gamble with uncertain odds in hopes that might be better for you in the long run.

According to a study conducted by Robert W. Fairlie from the University of California and published in the Journal of Economics and Management Strategy in 2013, The Great Recession, which began in late 2007 caused many businesses to close their doors or file for bankruptcy protection. However, the rapid rise in unemployment drove an increase in entrepreneurship. The Great Recession saw the largest increase in entrepreneurship of any period in the study’s 14-year time frame. Fairlie explains that the rapid increase in layoffs, the availability of newly unemployed workers, and a dearth of employment alternatives were all triggering events which may have combined to create higher numbers of entrepreneurs than in pre-recession years  (Fairlie , 2013). Another study from 2009 also found 57 percent of that year’s list of Fortune 500 firms got their start during previous recessions or bear markets.

Clearly, in the presence of these triggering events and severe shocks, the surge for a radical change in career in fuelled. Does this mean we need to wait for such shocking events to find new challenges and to pursue our dream career? I certainly would say, No. We owe it to ourselves to continue to find new challenges, to acquire new skills which meet those challenges, and to commit to a job that provides meaning and happiness to our lives.  

We are all creatures of habit. We love routines and status quo that give us a sense of comfort and relief. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States, once said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”, and I know that not taking risks is the riskiest decision to ever make.

I do not advise this for anyone who wants to take an un-calculated leap of faith. The intent of this blog is to remind the reader that you pay enough attention; you will find the perfect moment and opportunity when you would stop and say “It is time to take action”.

Do not wait for the shock to happen. Be proactive and shift gears when you can, not when you are forced to.

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