The Successful Career Strategies

Larry Price
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Wednesday - June 09, 2005
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Many workers are concerned — and justifiably so — that their pensions and other benefit plans won’t be honored when the time comes for them to leave the work force. The recent showdown between United Airlines’ negotiators and two of its most powerful unions is a classic example. A bankruptcy judge was primed to rule that the management of United Airlines would have the right, under current law, to cancel the pensions and other benefits won through collective bargaining. One union involved vowed to strike the airlines if negotiations failed and they really did lose their pensions and other union benefits. Fortunately, the two sides got together and averted the strike in the twilight of a court-ordered deadline.

There seems to be little question that other unionized companies will be using the bankruptcy court as a way of cutting costs and making their shareholders happy. What does this mean to the thousands of employees, whether they are unionized or not, who don’t believe their pensions and other retirement promises will be there when it’s their turn to retire?

The simple answer is don’t depend on your employer to develop your career. In that way, if they do what most of the reliable research suggests and try to weasel out of their collective bargaining agreements, you will have a plan to carry you through the abyss. A word of caution: Make sure you know the difference between a job and a career before you proceed.

The first thing to do is have your own personal mission statement. The key here is to focus on what performance in your daily function is important to the company or corporation. The most critical aspect of this assessment is your interpersonal performance. You have to be easy to get along with and a team player.

If you are wondering about the responsibility of a company to manage your career in the current global economy, forget it, it has none. It’s true that many companies did at one time, but not anymore. The reason is cost cutting, quest for profits and the fact that only in rare cases do companies recognize employees as a vital organizational resource. It’s not all management’s fault. Today’s organizations are flatter and offer fewer opportunities for advancement. It’s a tough organizational environment.

This is the unhappy part of the process. In Hawaii, with our much ballyhooed “diverse work forces,” most people who adopt a careerist strategy focus on career advancement through political machinations rather than excellent performance. There are many young people who believe that the way to advance one’s career in Hawaii’s tight labor market is to play the political game. Some research show others believe “being at the right place at the right time is the key,” while other think it is just luck.

If there is something that bothers employees in Hawaii, it’s the blatant manner in which some employees try to influence their superiors’ opinions of them. First there is the worker who does favors for a superior in hopes that the favor will someday be returned. Second is the practice of opinion conformity, which said another way means always agreeing with superiors in order to build trust. The last technique is the use of flattery and self-presentation. In Hawaii, this technique has reached an amazing level of sophistication. This is all about workers portraying themselves as having very desirable traits and motives thereby warranting special consideration and compensation.

There are endless ways in which employees might influence superiors’ opinions of them. Every worker has his or her own horror stories about getting passed over because they lacked the stomach to use flattery and self-presentation.

The record shows that the techniques mentioned are on the rise, so if you don’t like the idea of losing your pension and benefits, learn to play the game or stop complaining. Management is depending on you to play the game, even though they don’t know which employees are being sincere.

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