Dear Manager, will your career exist in 5 years?


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By

M. Rajagopal

Career obsolescence is a real threat today for most mid career professionals. It’s a scary thought for most of us and yet the dark clouds may not even be visible today.

You are still young, have enough energy and years of experience behind you and yet your linear career of the past is increasingly under threat. It may not be anything you have done wrong in the past that’s the culprit. It’s what you need to do now to stay relevant that’s the key to survival and growth.

Career threats come from various sides – ageism prevalent in organizations, compression of organizational structures, automation of systems and processes, industry disrupting technologies and processes, changing business and consumer needs.

If your job involves primarily transmission of top management instructions down the chain to the actual executors and expedition of tasks rather being a source of these, then it’s a sign of potential obsolescence waiting to happen. If your industry has many new competitors with completely different approaches to technology, process and customer, then it could be a threat for your organization and hence to you.

An example or two may illustrate further: You are senior automobile designer and a new entrant in the industry makes a car which gives 100 miles to a gallon while the car you designed gives 25 miles to a gallon. You are in charge of supply chain in a consumer durable retail major and a competitor offers the same products 25% cheaper and delivered within 4 hours while your company can manage delivery in 3 business days at the full price. If you are in a situation like this and you are not an ostrich, you can see the writing clearly.

Workflow automation with rule based decision making can make several intermediate jobs redundant. So can forced technology and paradigm changes such as what Tesla is doing in the automobile industry or Amazon has done to retail. If your career was built on doing something which has been disrupted by one of these companies and many more which are around the corner, then while your company may be smart enough to re-engineer, buy into or exit such businesses but you may not have the same options.

.Since smart money and brains will chase the largest and most profitable sectors, watch out if you are in any of those. To name a few in the cross hairs– retail, automotive, financial services, telecom, travel, education – are already feeling the heat of disruptive waves.

So if you are a middle manager in one of the traditional established companies in a profitable or large industry, do prepare yourself for the next wave. What you do today will determine will determine if you ride the wave or drown.

This is an area that concerns me as a career consultant and well wisher with many friends in those echelons of large and medium sized companies. Some of whom have had to exit mid-career while at their peak, with no way back into a commensurate job at the senior level.

If this blog rings a bell with you or if someone close to you has been affected, do comment here or message me privately. I am happy to discuss this and hope some good comes of it.

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