April 21, 2023

The Power of Showing Up

The Power of Showing Up

Amazon, Alphabet, Meta, Apple, Disney; the list goes on and on. What do they have in common, you may ask? Well, a lot, but for today’s column, it’s tens of thousands of job cuts in the last 12 months, with more announced as recently as this week. Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s CEO, told the company’s North America employees to work from home Wednesday so they could be at their computers when the latest round of layoff notices went out.

And the carnage is not limited to tech giants. Professional services firms such as KPMG and E&Y have recently announced staff reductions (layoffs) in several of their business units. My guess is there is more news to come in the weeks and months ahead as companies big and small “right size” in the face of the current economic uncertainty.

Business goes in cycles. I’ve been in the workforce for more than 50 years, if you include my first job at Hollywood Pizza in North Massapequa, N.Y. when I was 13. And I’ve lived through cycles both good and bad. The last cycle, which seemed to accelerate during and after the Covid pandemic, was clearly a situation where the leverage was noticeably tilted in favor of employees. Whether it was out of control wage inflation (hire any warm body at whatever price you had to) or work from anywhere—the list goes on and on—employers were at the mercy of the labor market.

But the tide has changed.

I have two sons in the workforce, ages 31 and 28. I try to give them the advice I would hope most parents give their children of the same generation, who by some accounts make up close to 50% of the current workforce.

When my son Leo got his first job after college (about 7 years ago) in commercial banking, I gave him three simple rules to follow: be the first one in, be the last one out and whatever they ask you to do, do more. That simple advice has served him well. Today, it’s more complicated.

In addition to the original three rules, what I tell my boys today is:

  • Show up and make sure your boss knows you by name and face. It’s much easier when layoffs come to start with those you don’t know and don’t see.
  • Do a really good job, all day, every day. When layoffs are considered, it’s not the A players who are at the top of the list.
  • Be a team player and be part of the team. The more people who need you and think you do a good job, the more people you have rooting for you when your employer is thinking about layoffs.
  • Have a real mentor—someone at your company who has a vested interest in your success. Your success is their success.
  • And did I mention, SHOW UP. Work from anywhere worked for a while but is NOT sustainable, for a number of reasons. That is not to say we will ever, in most cases, go back to 5 days, 40 hours a week in most professional office environments. But hybrid is hybrid, which means actually showing up in the office sometimes, and, in my opinion, more often than not. In a 5-day work week, that’s showing up 3 days or more, not the other way around. That is not to say that those people hired on a fully remote basis don’t have a place in the workforce.

Now this is all one man’s opinion. You can actually do whatever it is you want that helps you succeed. But, reading the tea leaves of the current job market, one thing is clear: showing up is key.

On another note, many Muslims around the world ended Ramadan fasts on Thursday at sundown and will be celebrating the holiday Eid-al-Fitr today. To those who observe, Eid Mubarak.