Re-Examining Myths about Work

Original Spanish version published in El Comercio newspaper (Peru) on July 20, 2004.

The world of work has changed dramatically, forcing us to reconsider paradigms and attitudes. It is time to ask ourselves: What is happening in the labor market? How can I prepare to compete? And… what myths should I break?

Myth 1: Companies are like families. If I do my job well, my job will be secure, and therefore, my future is assured.

Reality: Companies are not families. They cannot ensure a secure job and, even less so, a stable future. Today, the business world is so competitive, globalized, and changing that companies cannot ensure even their own survival.

Security does not come from having a job today, but from the ability to get work when and where necessary. You can achieve this by being employable, that is, by having the abilities and skills expected of your level, quantified achievements and results, appropriate reputation and image, and an active and current contact network.

The executive profile most looked for today is that of an entrepreneur who strives to create value, take risks, and solve problems in order to develop the organization. Nothing sells better than success and the enthusiasm to do things right.

Myth 2: The most qualified or hard-working people get the best jobs.

Reality: Factors such as key relationships, the possibility of access to decision-makers, how you are perceived within the organization, ambition, demonstrated commitment to company objectives, value creation, and profitability may be more relevant than job performance. People who are not only upright but also able to present themselves as the best alternative obtain the best jobs and promotions.

Myth 3: The company where I work should be responsible for my training.

Reality: Obtaining coaching and training is every person’s own responsibility and is a major competitive differentiation factor. Skills and abilities learnt and demonstrated through quantifiable results and achievements contribute significantly to each person’s employability.

Myth 4: Not having a job is a sign of professional failure.

Reality: Today, the market is full of capable and successful executives who are temporarily out of a job due to circumstances quite unrelated to their performance.

Due to business and market changes, people can expect to change jobs  as often as every four or five years, depending on the country you live in. Being out of the market at a given moment of our lives does not tarnish our career or discredit our achievements. Moreover, people who have proven themselves in several organizations usually have an advantage nowadays. The danger lies in mistakenly defining our identity by the position we hold, instead of acknowledging its transient nature.[1]

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[1] The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics found that overall employee tenure in the United States had gone down form 4.6 years in January 2014 to 4.2 years in January 2016, and that median tenure among the 25 to 34 year-old group was 2.8 years.  Figures for Canada indicate that in 2017 average job tenure fluctuated between one and five years, and those for Australia show that the average is three years and four months. For more information see the sources that follow for the United States, Canada, and Australia respectively.
US, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employee Tenure Summary, Last Modified Date: September 22, 2016, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/tenure.nr0.htm; The Economist, “Workers are not switching jobs more often”, October 21, 2017,Finance and Economics, https://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21730440-millennials-it-turns-out-are-loyal-and-boring-previous


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