The folks over at Knowledge @ Wharton, The Wharton School of Business at The University of Pennsylvania have nailed a crucial aspect of the current economic crisis with an article on how it is inordinately tough on older managers. The thing that is especially hard about this is that many of us, as we navigated the route to success or survival, found our way by specializing. We went or were led into unique careers that increased our value. The last twenty to thirty years has seen an unbelievable surge in managerial and technical specialization, and in independent consultants. This has not been a case of foolish people following dead end paths. It has been the prophetic invisible hand at work. We did it because it made sense, intellectually and financially. However, given America’s turn away from manufacturing, the global financial crisis, and the light-speed growth of technology, many of us are now at a disadvantage. We are in a sense tradesmen with no place to ply said trade.
The impact for those of us closely tied to manufacturing is obvious. But this downturn is not so selective. It appears to be affecting everyone. It not a select industry or specialty group that is feeling the brunt this go-round. This is an equal opportunity recession. It is affecting the banker and the backhoe operator, the engineer and the trucker.
You will notice my emphasis here is a human resources one. I’m not even getting into the macro-economic side of this, although I am very interested in and equally confused by that. What I am finding as a business owner is that it is not any easier than when I was an employee. The bottom line is still the bottom line, still important, and still directly related to my paycheck. I am like any of the other middle aged managers mentioned in the Wharton article. I need to diversify, find other opportunities, make myself more valuable yet again. The big challenge is, given the current environment, how do I go about that?