Losing your job when you're 45, 50, 55, or even 35 can be devastating to our psyches. But having a convenient justification like the pandemic thrown at you can be a lot worse.
Hello, I'm Lavanya and I spent the past two years coming to the startling realisation that I am in most likelihood unemployable.
My story started when I was 25 and decided in all my whippersnapper glory that I could dive head first into entrepreneurship. I held a great job as a marketing strategist and decided that the world of copywriting would only take me so far, and when I saw an opportunity to jump ship, I leapt. My justification was that even if all failed, I would still be in my 20s and so finding my footing wouldn't be as difficult.
* I shall poignantly stop now so you can take a minute to smirk at my adolescence...
But fret not! I found a beginning like no other and I'm glad to say that I am unemployable and content. I got thrown into the digital nomad lifestyle and my previous experience with running an actual engineering firm were solid badges I was not going to lose any time soon.
The concept of being unemployable is a strange notion that not many professionals speak about but all of them constantly dread. Over the past two years I have done nothing but strike up conversations with as many thought leaders as I possibly could, I grew my LinkedIn network and hit up anyone who would be willing to have a conversation about personal and professional growth. What I found was this:
Most individuals make a great practice of focusing on ONE thing that makes them exceptional. But it's this same undivided attention to their niche that gives them endless grief.
People take having a niche as a badge that guarantees irreplaceability. It is important to understand that everyone's competing in their own specialised race, but since the job market doesn't expand as fast as universities can pump out "professionals," older more experienced individuals are at constant risk of being replaced by someone fresh out of Uni who is more malleable to changing systems.
Over the past two weeks, I've seen hundreds of professionals put up posts on LinkedIn about their experience with trying to find a job this year. A lot of them were laid off earlier in the year from jobs they were dedicated to for 5, 10, 20 years of their careers, and all it took was six months of instability for the business to furlough them.
Now let me ask you something - if the average human is only going to live longer, and healthier, and be present in the workforce for a lot more years than previously anticipated, is it really the human's fault that they're getting older?!
My heart goes out to all the individuals out there who gave years of their lives to organisations in the hopes of having a secure footing as they head into the endless void of age related paranoias. These people do not deserve to be cast away as if they have no other value to offer to the organisation than their youth.
The unforeseen demand for skilled mentors
We're heading into a strange phase of human history. It was only a few decades back that people not only stayed with a single organisation for most of their careers but were also guaranteed a secure retirement in exchange for their labour.
I did not grow up knowing such a luxury. We were told early on in our careers to never make the mistake of staying with one organisation for more than a few years (what a horrible piece of advice that turned out to be!), that one should always focus on positives and completely deny the existence of any negatives, and a whole lot of other unauthentic pieces of advice that if I had continued buying into would have resulted in the complete destruction of my career.
What I did instead was make a decision to go back in time. I decided to treat my career as the acquisition of a craft. Which meant that I made a resolve to stay patient, surround myself with knowledgeable mentors, and create till I perfected my technique. Invest in myself because no one else will.
It does not matter if the tools of the trade change, the fundamental nature of humans is rooted in something far stronger than the internet revolution.
Well, here's an open request to the thousands of incredibly skilled humans out there who currently feel lost in an ecosystem that must seem hostile and distant - please be patient. Reach out to us younger folk and we can help you realign yourself to how millennial companies function. Document your strategies, your learnings, and share them with people who need guidance so that you don't remain a passive acceptor of fate but an active participant in moulding your destiny. This advice must seem like a whole lot of platitudes coming from someone younger, but I guarantee you this, the digital landscape always finds a way to reward creators.
Meanwhile, I do hope startups, future entrepreneurs, and the younger stalwarts of legacy firms decide to be more human when it comes to their employees. Please take the time to look at the world around you and recognise the need for a better system. We are not islands, we are a community. Our organisations would not be able to grow without our teams, and it might be that tomorrow you become the unicorn you thought you would, but do not take that as a sign of your own success, but rather as a culmination of all the years of hard work that your team put in.
Plan for your employees' futures, help them grow into strong individuals who can become independent consultants in their own right. Do not leave them desperate and isolated.