Who Do You Want to Be Tomorrow?

The workplace is full of disengaged zombies, with only a small minority actively enjoying the prospect of a Monday morning at work. Here's how more of us can enjoy what we do.

Share this article

Share this article

The workplace is full of disengaged zombies, with only a small minority actively enjoying the prospect of a Monday morning at work. Here's how more of us can enjoy what we do.


Who Do You Want to Be Tomorrow?

The workplace is full of disengaged zombies, with only a small minority actively enjoying the prospect of a Monday morning at work. Here's how more of us can enjoy what we do.

Share this article

Gallup reports that the majority of us are disengaged at work. Pointing the finger at leadership for this state of affairs is easy to do. According to the Gallup Chairman and CEO, Jim Clifton, “Of the approximately 100 million people in America who hold full-time jobs, 30 million (30 percent) are engaged and inspired at work.

So we can assume they have a great boss. At the other end of the spectrum are roughly 20 million (20 percent) employees who are actively disengaged.

"Engagement is not a one-way street and not all on the shoulders of the boss"

These employees, who have bosses from hell that make them miserable, roam the halls spreading discontent. The other 50 million (50 percent) American workers are not engaged. They’re just kind of present, but not inspired by their work or their managers.”

Engagement, then, is all about the bosses, if you believe Gallup. Logically then, the only options you have are to change bosses or stay in an unhappy situation.

My co-author and I disagree.

Engagement is not a one-way street and not all on the shoulders of the boss. That’s like saying a marriage is all up to just one partner. We believe you have the power to change from disengaged to engaged and to realize your career dreams, no matter what kind of boss you have.

Why leave your development, your happiness, and your career in the hands of someone else? Engagement scores have not shifted dramatically in the fifteen years Gallup has been measuring them, in spite of millions of dollars of training for managers. Something needs to change.


Line managers aren't the only ones responsible for your happiness at work

Studs Terkel, author and Pulitzer Prize winner, said: “Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”

Work is integral to a fulfilling life. Your only job satisfaction should not be direct deposit. You can find meaning, be engaged, and build a stunning career. Boss optional.

Earlier in her career, I worked closely with Fred Rogers, a children’s advocate and television host. Fred was completely engaged in his work and personally responded to every letter from the children of the world who wrote to him.

After nearly four decades of work, suffering from cancer, Fred started working from home. He asked the staff to continue to send him the letters, and he answered his last letter the day before he died. This is more than a strong work ethic; this is engagement at its most empowering and compassionate.

Imagine if everyone, yourself included, was as engaged in your work as Fred Rogers. And we can be, regardless of present or past work situations, education level, or even childhood expectations.

Perhaps you are the first generation to complete college, just as Karie and I are in our families. The future you could imagine for yourself might have been defined by the experiences of your parents. You wouldn’t be the first to get advice from your parents that limited your future.

Leonard Nimoy, the late acclaimed actor who played the character Spock in Star Trek, was told by his Ukrainian-born father, Max, that if he wanted to pursue acting, he needed to get a practical skill that would serve him well throughout his life.

“Learn to play the accordion,” Max Nimoy urged. “You can always make a living with an accordion.” Fortunately for Star Trek fans, he didn’t follow his father’s advice.


It's music Jim, but not as we know it

Even if your launch into your career was enabled by a strong financial and family support system, you may have found that your equivalent to Nimoy’s accordion advice was pressure to get a practical degree, for which you hold no passion.

Or perhaps you took that well-paying “tangent” job in order to pay down your college loans. Or maybe the job you held for years was sufficient, served its purpose, and you’ve only recently discovered your true passion.

As people live and therefore work longer lives, it becomes necessary to reshape the identities we formed in our careers. We absolutely can prepare for a new future, fulfill a reinvented set of dreams, and surpass any goals we set out at the beginning of our career journeys.

Our undertaking as authors is to share our extensive research and personal experiences in order to give you the capacity to be fully engaged, prepared for the future, and to stretch to the next level, no matter where you are in your career. We also want you to avoid career heartbreak, obsolescence, and loss of purpose.

In our book we show you how to:

1. Learn career management tools that you can implement on your own, without the need for big financial or company resources;

2. Choose from a broad set of options and strategies on how to approach work and develop your career, so that you have the flexibility to pick what works within your own situation; and

3. Assess your current reality and plot a path to achieve your dreams so you can be prepared for tomorrow’s workplace.

The future beckons. Will you remain one of the 70 percent of the disengaged zombies at work? Or are you facing obsolescence, like David, the Pulitzer Prize nominee? Instead, what if the life you are living is your bucket list, and all you want is to ensure that you get to live more of the life you have, work and all?

It’s time to stretch, to prepare for tomorrow’s workplace, and put yourself in control of the career of your dreams.

The Workforce 2020 Research

Our research mission was to discover how changes in the global economy and shifting demographics will impact the employment and talent marketplace. We collaborated with SuccessFactors—an SAP company—and Oxford Economics to conduct twin studies of executives and employees across 27 countries to find out what the future workforce is thinking, wanting, and worrying over.

In addition to the global surveys, we interviewed and talked to over 300 people, and consulted with dozens of academic or corporate learning experts to refine and validate our practices. We reviewed over 1,000 academic papers, kept booksellers in business with book deliveries, and clicked through countless of the web’s estimated trillion pages.

Survey respondents were clear that they need development in order to be prepared for tomorrow’s workplace. Around the world, the number one concern people expressed was that their ability and skills to perform rapidly changing jobs would render them obsolete.

Additionally, only 50 percent of the employees from our survey believe the skills they have today will be the skills they need just three years from now.

This is an edited extract from Stretch: How to future-proof yourself for tomorrow’s workplace, by Karie Willyerd, Barbara Mistick, Published by Wiley, February 2016, Paperback, e-book

Related Articles
Get news to your inbox
Trending articles on Opinions

Who Do You Want to Be Tomorrow?

Share this article