Don’t Worry, Be Unhappy

Robert Eichinger is sick and tired of all this talk about values-driven work and personal fulfillment. He argues that making career choices based on soft factors “does a lot of harm to people’s lives.”

Eichinger cofounded Lominger Limited, publishers of executive-development tools in Minneapolis, in 1991. Before that he was head of executive development at PepsiCo and Pillsbury. Lominger provides companies with career-development seminars and software. It is also the creator of “Career Architect,” a self-diagnostic tool for individuals. The tool uses a deck of cards to help people assess their skills and develop a strategy to improve them.

Eichinger’s advice stresses the harsh economic realities of business. Rather than following your dream, he argues, you should keep acquiring new skills and experiences — even if it makes you miserable.

“To really future-proof your career,” he says, “go against what most counselors and soft-sided psychologists and HR weenies say you should do, which is to ‘find yourself.’ That won’t help you.”

What will help? “In the short term, taking jobs you don’t like, in areas you’re not traditionally good at, in industries where you’ve never worked before.”

Eichinger isn’t a masochist. He simply believes that the challenges of career survival are so profound that “meaning” and “values” may have to take a back seat.

“Finding calm waters in the future isn’t likely,” he argues. “You have to become a rough-water navigator. Utility players will have the advantage — people who can say, ‘I’ve done a little retail, a little wholesale, a little bit of service business, a little bit of product business.’ Seeking comfort in the midst of chaos is temporarily satisfying, but over the long term it’s not a good strategy.”

So don’t worry. Be unhappy.FCS