This Might Be Your Last Job

Last night I spent some time searching for old classmates and work colleagues on LinkedIn and Facebook. I just wanted to see what some people were up to, out of curiosity.

As you might expect, many were living their lives – having kids, travelling, developing their careers. However, I noticed something disturbing.

A huge proportion of people from my past have simply dropped off the face of the earth. I sort of expected this when scouring Facebook. Facebook is a cesspool and somewhat pointless, so many people quit. However, I didn’t expect to see people simply vanish from LinkedIn.

She went from jet-setting with executives around the world to homeless.

Where did they go?

While actual profiles were still up, it was clear that many have not made any changes to their accounts in years. These are people supposedly in the prime of their careers – aged between 40 and 55. While a handful might have died (morbid thought), the rest just went dark.

I did some detective work and discovered a common explanation. Many people in the finance industry in the prime of their careers who are laid off never recover. They simply go from being a valuable contributor with a great income and 20 years of remaining career…to nothing.

Some were laid off from long-held positions. Others were laid off after leaving behind solid tenure for a higher-level job only for it to not work out. All went from the prime of their careers to the abyss.

After getting the axe, some of my former colleagues tried to start a business (many failed), others accepted jobs far below their experience level. Many appear to be simply wearing down their severance and savings, possibly leaning on the kindness of others.

I’ve even heard of one high-powered senior marketing manager who ended up on the streets. She went from jet-setting with executives around the world to homeless.

It could happen to anyone

None of these people expected nor deserved this. They weren’t terrible at their jobs nor bad people. They simply were not liked by the right people or were just a number on a spreadsheet.

Due to circumstances outside of their control – and sometimes less than perfect relationship with a key industry influencer – these people became untouchable. Unfortunately, relationships seem to matter more than work quality. And those who didn’t nurture relationships with certain people lost career momentum. I’ve said this many times: the corporate world is for extroverts.

This is the sort of thing you might expect from the music or movie business. Many actors who were household names a decade ago are nowhere to be seen today. We so casually refer to them as ‘has-beens’ without realizing this is a terrible predicament to face, and one that could affect anyone in any industry. However, it appears especially common in the finance industry.

Don’t take this lightly

Once you get beyond a certain level, it becomes increasingly difficult to find a job. Unfortunately, middle-manager jobs aren’t plentiful and executive-level jobs only go to the chosen few. I can only imagine my colleagues’ combination of depression and desperation as they realized their careers were over.

If you are in your 40s or older, behave as if your current job might be your last. Let’s hope it’s not, but be prepared because I’ve seen the sad story repeat over and over.

Knowing your career might end sooner than expected, you need to aggressively save and build alternate income streams. Have a plan for if/when this happens to you. Don’t assume the path you’re currently on will be available to you for the rest of your working life. This might be your last job.

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