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Posted: December 03, 2012

Eight signs it’s time to exit the corporate jungle

And four things you can do instead

John Heckers

(Publisher’s note: We’re saddened to report that John Heckers, a favorite contributing author of ours, passed away recently. John did much to help establish ColoradoBiz Exclusives as the thoughtful, provocative media platform it is today. In memoriam, we’re publishing a series of John’s most popular columns over the next few weeks. It’s the least we can do. RIP, John.)

Many people who are currently unemployed used to work for a large corporation. They were "right-sized," or "RIFfed," or whatever new buzzword the corporate jargonists are currently using for destroying people's lives in the relentless pursuit of larger executive bonuses.

If this has happened to you, you may feel that your life is effectively over. Before completing a suicide pact with your loved one(s), however, you might ask if you should have stayed in the corporate jungle anyway. Here are some signs it might be time to re-evaluate where you're going in life.

1). You have values. Large corporations, by definition, only have one value, and that is to make money for their stockholders. If you have values that are deeper than this rather superficial way of looking at life, you probably don't belong in a big corporation.

2). You like obeying the law and having people around you do the same. How many of the white-collar criminals responsible for this Great Recession have seen so much as an indictment, even though many laws were broken? Don't hold your breath. These people are now above the law in Plutocracy America.

3). You enjoy being appreciated and valued as a person. Huge corporations see you as a very replaceable cog in a very large machine. If you like actually being thought of as a human being instead of number, you really don't want to work for these folks anymore.

4). You're over 35 - 40. Mega-corporations really don't like anyone over 40 except (sometimes) in the "C-Suite." If you aren't there, you're probably first on the lay-off list. If you made it past a couple of lay-offs, it is a good bet that your time is coming. Don't believe me? Take a look around you at the unemployment office and networking events and see the predominance of gray heads.

5). You don't like being pigeonholed. Generally speaking, unless there's just been a layoff where you get the jobs of 10 people, you get pigeonholed doing one little job at a large corporation. This is no way for a human being to live! Specialization is for insects, not people.

6). You want to be promoted for contributions. Large corporations rarely promote on contributions. Rather, people are promoted because they are the best person at playing politics. Don't like the taste of your boss's behind? Get out now!

7). You want to make a difference in the world. A single person at a mega-corporation rarely makes a difference, although sometimes the corporation as a whole does. If you want to make an individual difference, don't stay in corporate America.

8). You're tired of being laid off. ‘Nuff said.

Here are a few alternatives.

1). Go to work for yourself. As long as you work for someone, they control your destiny. If you want to control your own destiny, and have the guts and brains to do so, work for yourself. Then no one can lay you off again, you make a very clear individual difference, and you are beholden to no one.

2). Work for a much smaller company. If you don't want the many challenges of working for yourself, at least work for a smaller company. There is a great difference in the quality of life if you're able to look the ultimate decision-maker in the eye and ask a question vs. having to do through channels and getting a B.S. answer.

3). Work for a nonprofit. Nonprofits have their own problems, but they aren't the same problems as mega-corporations.

4). Form a consortium. Don't want to be the Lone Ranger? Fine. Get together with others who complement your offering and form a consortium to work together. This has many of the advantages of working for yourself, and others of working for a company, such as a team, a larger group to get insurance on, and so on.

Whatever your choice, if you're not cut out for corporate America, don't think that you are stuck there just because you've been there. You're not stuck. You can get out. And, even if you're 55, 65 or 75, there is no time like the present. Of course, the sooner you do get out, the longer you'll actually enjoy going to work on a daily basis. Best of luck!

John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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Readers Respond

Thanks for your many helpful columns over the years. RIP John Heckers. By David Houghton on 2012 12 03
I always looked forward to John's column. He provided no-nonsense, logical, useful information. By Diane Kraft on 2012 12 03
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