I have been with my company, a professional services firm, for more than 20 years. Every year, our HR department asks me to lead the tour for the summer interns and give them a pep talk about their future here. The interns, university students at the top of their classes, are typically eager and enthusiastic. In years past, I've been just as enthusiastic, talking up the benefits of working at my firm. But after two mergers, increasingly unrealistic workloads and cutbacks to our benefits, I'm finding it harder these days to sing the company tune. How can I look these youngsters in the eye without telling them the truth about what it's really like to work here?
THE FIRST ANSWER
Chief human resources officer, Canadian Tire, Toronto
As companies look for ways to grow their businesses and stay competitive, mergers, reorganizations and productivity initiatives are becoming regular occurrences. With these shifts come new challenges and demands, but also opportunities to thrive.
Since you have lost some of your engagement after many years with your company, ask yourself why you are feeling less connected and what is within your control to change. You have obviously seen much change and need to find ways to adapt to, and succeed in, the new environment. The key for a long-standing employee like you is to show leadership by imparting experience, continuity and stability, while embracing the necessary evolution your company needs to stay relevant.
Your tenure gives you the ability to act as a respected voice that can identify, and seek to rectify, areas of concern in a positive manner that recognizes the need for transformation over time. I encourage you to not just see change as a negative, but to view it as an opportunity for personal and professional growth.
As you consider whether to continue the role of brand/company ambassador, make sure you are prepared to embrace it and do it well. You need to believe in your company and its culture – new hires can see through empty corporate speak. Remind yourself what is great about your employer and focus on what the company offers to new people with fresh ideas at the start of their careers. If you can't do this in light of all the recent changes, politely pass along the duty to someone who can provide a positive experience for these new recruits.
THE SECOND ANSWER
Former deputy prime minister
The nature of your question is much deeper that merely modifying your pitch on the annual summer intern tour. It sounds like you are experiencing serious misgivings about the nature and direction of the company that employs you.
As for the tour, keep it simple and don't offer up any embellishments to the truth. The students will appreciate your honesty and you can sleep easy at night knowing that you have never lied on the job.
But once the tour is over, why not consider a full review of your own career options? You don't mention your age, but you have a couple of decades of experience under your belt so you are no spring chicken.
Would you contemplate a change of direction at this stage in your career? What are the financial implications? What about quality of life? Is your work environment dragging you down?
If you truly feel that your own organization is no longer worth joining, it may be time for you to make a move.
I would undertake a full inventory of skill sets and financial status, including the possibility of hiring a career coach to assist in the deliberations.
Your plea for advice on the summer interns tour sounds a lot more like a cry for your own personal career intervention. Go for it.
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