Sunday, November 8, 2009

End of the Plugger?

A few weeks ago, Tom Friedman, the New York Times columnist, published a column entitled “The New Untouchables.” Friedman noted that the new untouchables of today’s economy were those with the ability “to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work…” Those who waited for work to be assigned were the ones at risk of being let go and will be the last to be hired when jobs start to recover.

Stephanie Klein, President of The Boomer Group, commented that Friedman’s column “spells out the end of the ‘plugger’.” This is an interesting insight. When I think of my clients that are getting activity – interviews leading to job offers (yes, people are getting jobs) – they are the people who are working their butts off and demonstrating to potential employers that they can help the company realize – and monetize – new opportunities. Those folks who just want to do what they’ve always done, and wait for work to be assigned to them – the pluggers – are less successful.

Interestingly, the same holds true for companies. Companies looking at the current situation as a way to identify and take advantage of new opportunities are moving forward. Companies that are hunkering down, that are down to bare bones, not so much. They are waiting for something to happen rather than take initiative and identify new opportunities for business. These “plugger” companies that have prevented their “untouchable” workers from working smarter to find new opportunities will lose these talented people as soon as they find new places to land; thus, putting the plugger companies at even greater disadvantage. As noted a couple of weeks ago, the war for talent will be a critical factor in this recovery.

The “new untouchables” will be at the heart of the talent wars. As Friedman says in his column, “those with the imagination…to invent smarter ways to do old jobs, energy-saving ways to provide new services, new ways to attract old customers or new ways to combine existing technologies – will thrive.”

So are you a plugger or an untouchable? If you’ve been a plugger, can you bridge the gap to be an untouchable? Can you articulate the value you bring to a potential employer? Do you know what your value is? The challenge for pluggers is that many have been well rewarded over their careers for “plugging away.” Now they’re being asked to shift their paradigm; to tell another story about themselves.

Similarly if you’re an untouchable; you still need to articulate your value. If you’ve been an untouchable in a plugger company, the story you need to tell is one of potential, of future value. You’ll need to seek out the untouchable companies are and tell them the story of your potential; how you can help them achieve their next levels.

So shed your "pluggerness." Demonstrate value; don't get left behind.

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