With all of the uncertainty that is out there, how can you get a grip on your career?
First, you need to identify your uncertainties and your fears: Ask yourself, what is the worst thing that can happen to you over the coming weeks, months, years?
After you think about the death of a spouse or a child, perhaps the loss of a job is not quite so catastrophic event. You need perspective.
But you also need a career.
A lot of people are being laid off. A lot of others will -- again -- inherit a larger workload. There will be plenty of opportunity for depression, anxiety, anger and resentment among people who are let go and among people who stay.
Doesn't this sound disgustingly familiar?
The fact is that many of us will be doing something very different next year from what we are doing today -- but all of us will be doing something. For that we need energy, optimism, creativity and imagination.
I suggest that all of us embark on our own personalized program to discover and implement our creative talents.
This column marks the beginning of the 11th year of contributing to the AAPG EXPLORER. The first column, published in December 1988, was written when the industry and the profession were in the throes of a significant low.
Layoffs and mergers were the order of the day. Remember? There was concern that the intellectual capital of the industry was being squandered, that most thinking was focused on short-term objectives, and there were major career problems for individual professionals -- both those who were laid off and those who "survived."
Clearly, some things haven't changed despite all of our wishes to the contrary.
But some things have changed, including the nature of a "job search."
The practice of networking by phone faces a wall of answering machines and unreturned messages. Who you know is less important than what you know. Work is becoming more project-oriented than company-oriented.
Some things have become abundantly clear. You will survive and prosper in the short-term based on your own competence, creativity and imagination. Long-term you must learn to anticipate the future, even if the current option you favor is retirement.
The question was then -- and is now -- what does a person do to survive and prosper in the midst of change?
What do you do immediately and what can you do longer-term to cope with uncertainty?
We have no control over the structure of the industry. We control the development of our talents and we make choices about the direction in which we expend our energy, commitment and dedication.
Dealing with stress. There are a number of ways to deal with debilitating stress. Exercise and meditation are the ones that work best for a lot of people.
But I want to recommend another activity to make part of your daily routine: a morning journal.
This really works -- first as a dump for a lot of negative thoughts, but mostly as a place to discover ideas and abilities that have been buried by the hectic pace of life. Don't knock it or dismiss it if you haven't tried it.
The process is simple. Every morning write several pages of whatever is on your mind. The dreams you had last night, the feelings you have about work and your career, your hopes and aspirations that you don't express even to your closest friends and relatives.
It doesn't need to be organized. This isn't literature. But it does need to be in the morning, before the events and concerns of the day take all your time and energy. It is both therapeutic and valuable.
With time you will capture the kernels of ideas that will pay off in the future -- and you will surprise yourself at what comes out. Like exercise, it can become addictive; you won't feel right if you miss a day. Balance daily exercise of your body with exercise of your creative spirit.
Brainpower and creativity are the currency of your career. Take the time to experiment with some things that can develop it.
With the speed of today's events you need anticipation. To be prepared for tomorrow you need to take inventory today.
What do you do?
We hear a lot about technical excellence, but a phrase I like, attributed to McKinsey and Co., is "towering" competence. Everyone in today's world needs to be identified with towering competence in SOMETHING.
Identification means that your profession and your organization grant you a position of towering competence. It is an integral part of your image and reputation. If this is not now the case, your assignment is to achieve that kind of positioning.
If there is any security it is in your competence and creativity -- and the image and reputation that results from them.
What you know really counts. It will eclipse whom you know. There is not going to be a place for people who do not know anything and cannot do anything. Competition will simply squeeze out people who are poorly positioned in their profession.
Yes, your network is still important. For some, communication and the ability to work their network may constitute their towering competence. For everyone, it is the way we maintain contact with our customers and the mainstream of our organization, profession and industry.
But for most of us it is still only the medium, the conduit for the message. The message is you.
A lot has changed over the last decade. Networking used to be an exercise on the telephone. Today it is either electronic, via the Internet or face-to-face at a meeting.
Your competence finds expression in projects. In today's time-conscious world our work life is segmented, measured and evaluated by projects. Some of the most useful software is in the field of project management.
Today with all of the alliances and joint efforts your identity is likely to be as much with the project as with the company. Your competence earns you a spot on the project team. Your reputation rides with the project. The concept of work and a job is being slowly transformed by this project orientation.
For a lot of people, this already is the way of life. Aerospace engineers have long followed the defense contracts, not a particular company.
The movie industry is all project based. Hundreds of companies were involved in making "Titanic," not a single, big, integrated studio.
You are more likely to find employment as a slot on a project team than you are to find a job like the one that you just had or now have with another company. It is your competence and creativity combined with a project orientation that will define you in the market place.
The question will be, "How will your competence help us?"
You must do the research to answer that question before it is asked.
Recommended reading: The Artist's Way at Work, by Mark Bryan with Julia Cameron and Catherine Allen, 1998. It offers a more complete discussion of "morning pages," along with other ideas for developing your innate creativity.