“What do you love, I mean really love, about business?”
It’s so easy to bash the corporate world. In fact, it’s become downright fashionable to complain about the greed, waste, exploitation, and ethically-challenged behavior displayed by a high-visiblity chunk of the business world these days.
Each day, it seems, I’ll come across yet another “corporate refugee” with an amazing tale to tell in terms of the abuses and shenanigans they’ve had to deal with in the workforce, ranging from outlandish cases of sexual harassment to employees being asked to turn a blind eye to fraud. And if one wanted to get even more worked up about the issue, you could always go see Michael Moore’s latest movie “Capitalism: A Love Story.” I saw the film not long ago, myself, and can assure you that it offers up ample food for thought, even if we all fully agree that Mr. Moore’s projects are the product of an extremely pointed (and not necessarily unbiased) agenda!
There’s one major problem with jumping on the “bash business” bandwagon, however. It’s the fact that the vast majority of U.S. citizens currently earn their living working in the private sector and will unquestionably continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I wish I could track down the exact statistics, but I think it’s a safe bet that at least 80% of the jobs in this country are generated through private-sector employers, as opposed to government or non-profit positions. So whether you’re a technical program manager at Microsoft, a self-employed marketing consultant, or the receptionist at a small three-person startup struggling to break even, you must embrace the fact that you are part of the business world. Not exempt from it. And in my mind, as a career coach, this means that unless 4 out of 5 of us can find some business-related problem that we truly love and enjoy solving 40+ hours per week — it’s going to be a rough ride!
Seems obvious, I know, but I meet a lot of folks these days who instantly give off signs that they are “on the rebound” from a bad employment experience. They trash-talk the corporate world. Or seem perplexed by it. Or don’t seem the slightest bit interested in understanding how the potential employer they’re interviewing with actually makes money — or in discussing how they can contribute to this primary goal. This attitude is anathema to hiring managers, especially those tasked with the health of the bottom line. They’re looking for people who want to go to war with them, and win the free market battle, not people simply seeking a paycheck or holding their nose while the company goes about the “nasty” business of seeking a profit. This is even more the case if you’re seeking a management or leadership position within the private sector. Being competent at your job is rarely enough anymore. Companies want to see passion. They want to hire people who seem steeped in the new realities of the market and are chomping at the bit to help the organization attract new customers…or streamline its finance function…or capture market share from a competitor…or build a new recruiting process that will give the company an unfair advantage over its competition.
On a related note, are any of you familiar with the word “frenemy?” As in somebody who is “both your friend and your enemy” at the same time? I’ve heard this new buzzword pop up a few times lately, usually among teenage girls at my wife’s school who seem to find themselves, frighteningly often, in the position of disliking somebody in their immediate social circle — but who feel the need to maintain appearances, as opposed to “going public” with their dislike. Well, that’s the vibe I get from many candidates these days. They say they’re looking for a position in the business world, and they clearly want the benefits a job in business can bring, but they don’t act like they enjoy the business world even the tiniest little bit.
So back to my initial question. What do you love about business? What part of making a profit spins your jets? What major or minor role can you play in helping an organization survive during this tough economy — or better yet, thrive? This question is an important one to ask yourself if you’re targeting a role within the for-profit world. And if you just can’t seem to muster up emotions such as joy, enthusiasm, passion, or love around the subject of business, that’s a serious sign that it might be time to reposition yourself for role in government, academia, or the non-profit sector — or take aggressive steps to process any “emotional wounds” that capitalism might have dealt you, so you can get back on the horse. Sure, there are a great many things to despise about the way certain businesses conduct themselves, but the institution as a whole isn’t going away, any time soon. Find the part of it that amazes and inspires you!