Let’s start with a question:
With all the current emphasis on entrepreneurship as the preferred career choice, why would anyone write a book about creating a successful and rewarding career by working for someone else—and not just anyone else, but a large corporation, with its inherent politics, hidden agendas, and adherence to the herd mentality? It’s just the opposite of the popular career rhetoric that preaches self-employment as the ideal way to wealth, independence, and happiness.
It’s no secret that with a majority of business authors, bloggers, and career strategists touting the advantages of being an entrepreneur, bashing the corporation has become trendy and fashionable.
And moving away from the supposed drudgery and unrewarding routine of working for the man is the popular fantasy. However, for most Americans, that’s exactly what it remains—a fantasy.
While business ownership may be the dream, here are the facts:
The overwhelming majority of the American workforce are employees. They work for someone. That “someone” might be a Fortune 500 Hundred company employing thousands of people, or a small business with just a few employees on the payroll.
It’s hard to understate the importance of these numbers. They tell us that most of the working population is not in business for themselves. They work in and for the business of others, adhering to company policy, procedures, and methods that usually pre-existed their hiring.
The numbers also tell us something even more important: The overwhelming majority of people are satisfied—even happy—with a conventional eight-to-five job, even when they say they are not.
Yes, a large percentage of employees complain about their job, but they seldom consider their grievances sufficiently motivating to relinquish the advantages provided by their employer. Although they may argue they would much rather be in charge of their professional destiny, their complaints usually reflect temporary disappointments and dissatisfaction inherent in any occupation.
In short, they’re comfortable with the relationship they have with the boss and consider the inherent company bureaucracy a necessary and inescapable part of working for the man—in effect, a reasonable tradeoff for the benefit of relatively consistent work, and the opportunity to build long-term financial security. It’s these genuine advantages that continue to drive new college grads to large corporations and motivates job changing executives to stay on a corporate career path.
So before we go any further, let’s get something straight . . . Not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur!
(Gasp!) That’s right. I said it. And I said it because it’s true. More about that later, but first, let’s look at the main reasons so many still choose to work for the man.
Immediate and consistent income. Working for a business powerhouse, with its inherent financial reserves and assets, means there’s less chance of suffering a loss of income in the event of a temporary market reversal, or even a general economic downturn. You may have to do a little creative self-marketing to substantiate your value, but a large, economically sound corporation is a good place to weather the ups and downs of the marketplace that have become commonplace in our continually changing economic picture.
You acquire immediate credibility. Belonging to a well-funded, productive, and recognized force in your chosen field grants you immediate credibility. For many, working for a corporation satisfies a need to be a part of something larger than themselves. They find satisfaction in having a large part of their identity defined by their association with their employer, especially when others recognize them as an integral and important member of a successful organization.
For many professions, it’s the right—if not the only—“fit.” For example, technical people, engineers, researchers, planners, scientists, computer programmers, and other “analytical types,” typically find the working environment in a large company to be exactly what they need. In many cases, these workers are intelligent—some are brilliant—well-adjusted, hard-working individuals who are happiest when they can concentrate on assigned tasks with pre-defined parameters, and do it without having to be concerned about all the details of running their own company. They have no desire to worry about company taxes, balancing the budget, or profit margins—unless that’s their area of responsibility.
It’s a place to grow and prove yourself. Having an existing organizational structure to negotiate, climb, and eventually conquer, appeals to those born with a management personality, who see the corporation as a place to be tamed and mastered. They’re typically competitive, politically savvy fast-trackers who have their eye on a vice-presidency, access to the company jet, and want to see their picture in the annual report. They go where and when the company tells them, collecting promotions and raises along the way. Often valuing titles more than compensation, they love to chat about internalizing profit centers through divisionalization and departmental micro-managing. They usually represent the very essence of a “company man,” and their loyalty cannot be questioned—until they are pirated away by the competition (a useful career strategy we’ll talk about later).
Investment benefits. This includes access to 401K plans, privileged stock purchases, health insurance, and other “group” discounted advantages. Investing in the company you work for provides the benefit of an in-depth understanding of what you’re buying and how it compares to the competition. You know the industry and you understand your company’s operation within it, giving you far more insight than is contained in a stock analyst’s projections and recommendation.
The above five benefits only scratch the surface, especially when we consider the value of the relationships we build with co-workers, management, customers, and yes, even the competition.
Each individual has a different idea of what’s important when evaluating a career choice. While some have their priority on compensation, others want a flexible work environment. Still, others need some degree of independence and autonomy. The list can also include things like recognition, status, travel, access to proprietary systems and tools, and the association with other technologically-minded or industry-specific individuals—benefits that are often only available under the roof of a large organization.
In short, a large corporation provides a defined structure—complete with processes and procedures—in which to create, process, and deliver value. And there are plenty of people who thrive on this kind of organizational discipline, accomplishing their best work under the corporate umbrella while finding a sense of satisfaction in what they do for a living.
Yes, the dream of running your own business empire is a compelling thought, but just as there are those who aspire to own their own business and can’t wait to gain their financial independence, there are many more who are born to follow, to fit in, to find a place where they can contribute.
Things Have Changed . . . Forty years ago, “working for the man” meant a job for life, identity by association, and confirmation of personal value, evidenced by a monthly paycheck. In the most literal sense, the purpose of “working for a living” was to generate money—to buy food, pay for housing, buy a car and take a two-week vacation once a year. The other (subjective) metrics of a satisfying career didn’t matter. It was a simple mantra: Show up on time, put in the hours, go home, repeat for thirty years.
Today, deriving a sense of meaning and purpose from your work often competes in equal priority with compensation, time-work life balance, geographic location, and a positive, supportive work environment.
With the amount of opportunity in today’s job market, no one should be at the mercy of a draconian employer. Working within a corporate environment shouldn’t mean you have to give away your dignity and self-respect. And it certainly doesn’t mean conforming to the hive mentality and slaving away at some mindless job like a worker-drone.
Yes, things have changed—on both sides of the career equation. Choosing a corporate career can be a managed path to financial freedom while deriving satisfaction from your work.
My goal is to help you make the most of your relationship with your employer—to maximize the advantages and benefits while reducing your exposure to the negative aspects inherent in any large organization.
If you only take one thing away from this book, I hope it’s this: The relationship you have with your employer can be managed. And knowing the nature of the beast will give you a tremendous advantage in making day-to-day work decisions as well as long-term career choices.
The bottom line? If the majority of us are working for an employer, why not determine the best way to manage that relationship? You have the opportunity to make the most of your current career situation—right now! And once you learn how to influence and manage the vital relationships that influence career success, you may find the advantages of working for the man far outweigh the drawbacks.
“Better Mondays is a must read for all levels of employees in the Corporate world! A comprehensive overview of the influences and inner workings that every employee needs to understand to achieve career success and personal satisfaction!” – Gordon Haubenschild, former IBM Senior Program Manager
“Roger Reid bridges the business culture gap of yesterday with that of tomorrow. His chapter on takeovers, buyouts and re-organization alone is worth the price of the book. It’s a great road map to recognizing the danger signs of those cyclical corporate moves and how to deal with them. In short, Better Mondays is the “cliff-notes” to your working life.” – Bob Stevens, former national marketing director, Seiko