It is sad but true, some people find their professional
situations as making them feel like they are in a
downward, “death spiral” with no way out. They are:
- mid-career people who have worked hard for a
firm and been let go, a victim of numbers in a
merger, or downsizing, or off-shoring.
- emerging chemists and engineers who are in
their 4th, 5th, 6th or more year of graduate work
without an endpoint in sight.
- people with a couple of decades of experience
and accomplishment who have been denied promotions
and given staff positions with little or no responsibility
little or no growth opportunity.
First of all, my friends, you are not alone. Second,
there is help out there for you. Many of us have
faced their personal dilemma and found out that
there are strategies and tactics to break out of the
Rosabeth Moss Kanter and Pier Forni are two authors
who have reflected on these kinds of situations and
have something positive to offer.
Kanter nicely suggests re-start your confidence engine
by breaking tasks up into smaller accomplishable elements
with shorter time horizons. Make progress despite
So, attend a meeting, deliver a paper or poster get energized
by the discussion and new insights that sharing offers.
Be open to others ideas and suggestions.
[Have business cards, exchange Linkedin.com addresses
share papers, expand your network, explore others’
approaches to dealing with their situations.]
Don’t shy away from offering to partner with
people in similar situations. The comraderie
and positive reinforcement and sharing of
successes will lead to personal success.
At a recent meeting, I met with several members
who had ‘lost positions.’ All were despondent and
seeking help to overcome personal barriers. I
accompanied one shy, extremely capable man into
an exhibition area to observe and manage his
unwillingness to confront his personal reality with
people he knew, and ask for help. Network where
networking is sought and expected….
Don’t be shy.
Forni builds on the role of civility as an elegant
way to pay attention to others. A colleague mentioned
that he wants to speak with someone but is unable to
get much time with full attention. A suggestion was to
offer a cup of coffee and light refreshment to accompany
the conversation. He responded soon after his critical
meeting that he was very surprised how such a little,
almost trivial kind act, made the whole transaction
positive and successful, even delightful.
[Know that taking the personal initiative to be civil
in spite of challenges reflects a professional inner
core of beliefs. The holding of a door for someone,
sharing a small treat are forms of “paying attention to
By all means seek out mentors who can provide
non-critical sounding board and experienced
reflection. Forni cites a saying that a
smart man learns by his
a wise man learns by the mistakes of others.
Above all, Pasteur is quoted as saying ‘chance favors
the prepared mind.’ Do things intentionally for the
right reasons and you will be positively surprised.