How to Overcome Career Insecurity
In Chapter 2 of 13 in his 2011 Capture Your Flag interview data analytics expert Ken Rona shares as a newly graduated PhD working for McKinsey, Rona loses his job during the dotcom blow up. The experience scars him and during the many years that follow, he remains wary of employer job security given his 'at will' employee status. He learns to let go of this insecurity and need to have a backup plan and focus more about making a contribution and committing to a company, town and establish family.
Erik: What factored in to your decision to take a new job that would relocate your family? Ken: My first job out of graduate school was at McKinsey, and when I got hired, McKinsey was hiring a lot of PhD students, people with nontraditional McKinsey background, so not MBAs from Harvard, right. They were hiring PhDs from Duke, for example. Well, I mean, as an example, one of my classmates at McKinsey, they call it a class, one of my classmates in that consulting year was this woman who had a PhD in art history, like very nontraditional, right. So when I got hired, the explicit conversation that I had with the recruiter was look, you know, we know that academic people who have been academics take a little while to transition to a business role or to a consulting role, typically three years as opposed to two for an MBA, right, it’s typically three years to get to engagement manager level as opposed to two years. And in about the middle of my first year, maybe towards the end of the first year, the dot com blowup happened in 2000, maybe 1999. All of a sudden all the work dried up, and all of us people with nontraditional backgrounds who weren’t quite as sophisticated as the, you know, the MBA folks, all kind of looked at each other going like how come we’re not working? And so there was a mass exodus, right, I mean a forced exodus, right. I had some anger about it, my anger was around like look guys, I was transitioning from an academic to a very different type of job, and the expectation was that you were gonna give me three years of runway. So, you know, I lost my job, and I really didn’t have prospects for another job because the whole economy was, you know, in a bit of a recession, and I hadn’t completed that transition over from being an academic to a business person, I was kind of right in the middle of it, and probably still thought of myself a little bit as an academic. So what that did for me was it scarred me a bit. It scarred me in a way that meant – the lesson I took away from that was oh crap, I better always have an out, right, because the company can lay me off at will, right, most companies, right. They could fire me at any time, and because I did not have a backup plan, it meant that I was unemployed for eight months, little less than that, let’s call it six months. I was prepping for my wedding for two, so let’s call it six months. And so I was unemployed for six months. It was very, very difficult for me to find another job, and candidly, I’m very grateful for my next employer because they kind of let me get back on my feet, but I was really worried there for a while. It was really touch and go. So the thing that I had been always looking -- every job I’d ever had up ‘til now, I had always made sure that I was still talking to recruiters and that I was – that I had options, right, and a lot of this is because of the McKinsey experience. What I was looking for was a place where – like I’m finally – I feel like I’ve worked through it, right. I’m ten years into my career. I think I have enough of a track record to not have to be – I don’t have, I don’t think I have that concern anymore, right, it’s kind of like adolescence, right, I can let go of childish things. I can let go of that insecurity, and I have. So one thing I was looking for was a place that I could let go of the insecurity and, you know, contribute like hell, right, so it’s a long winded answer for – a long winded answer for really contribute – contribute and let go of the insecurity. And in my mind, the – you know, we’ve really committed to Atlanta. I said to my boss like not only is the family moving down here, but like the kids are going to school here, and I’m gonna buy an Atlanta car. I’m gonna buy, as I said to you, I’m gonna buy a car with a convertible, and, you know, I’m gonna buy a car with no roof, so we can drive it around the Atlanta spring and fall, and, you know, and have some fun. But that scarring, like that was – that’s real. I mean I think you underestimate when you’re hiring manager the effect of the previous experiences had, like for me to hold on to that for ten years, I think, wasn’t necessarily healthy. Certainly, you know, I think people look at my resume and go like wow, he has been at I think it’s six jobs in ten years, maybe seven, and every job was progressive, right. Every job was more responsibility or a very different field, right, a different experience, so I felt good about the career path, but this is the first time where I’m like you know what, I don’t – I think if you look at my Linked-In profile, you can look at my Linked-In profile, if you look at my Linked-In profile there is nothing, for now, at Turner. It is just, you know, one line, Ken Rona, Audience Insights, Ad and Sales Partnerships, that’s it, so.