Drucker on Managing Oneself, Part 5

In his book, Management Challenges for the 21st Century, Peter Drucker analyzed and discussed the new paradigms of management.

Although much of the discussion revolves around the perspective of the organization, these are my takeaways on how we can apply his teaching on our journey of being a knowledge worker.

For knowledge workers, Drucker encouraged us to ask the following questions in managing our careers.

  1. Who am I? What are my strengths? How do I work?
  2. Where do I belong?
  3. What is my contribution?
  4. How do I take the relationship responsibility?
  5. How do I plan for the second half of my life?

For the last question, Drucker suggested we think hard about this question and try to position ourselves as early as possible for the eventual move.

Why is this question important? As Drucker said before, for the first time in human history, individuals can expect to outlive organizations. Most of us can no longer expect to stay with just one organization from graduation to retirement.

Also, four or five decades in the same kind of work is too long for most people. We get bored, deteriorate, lose all joy in our work, “retired on the job,” and become a burden to ourselves and everyone around us. “Mid-life crisis” is mostly a result of boredom.

Managing our careers will increasingly require preparing ourselves for the second half of our lives. But how can we plan for it? Drucker suggested three potential approaches.

The first approach is to start a different career. Often this means moving from one kind of organization to another. People choosing this approach often have substantial skills. They know how to get work done. They need a community, the income, and, above all, the challenge.

The second approach is to develop a parallel career. Some people, especially those who are very successful in their first career, keep working in their main careers while creating for themselves a parallel job.

The third approach is to start a “social entrepreneur” endeavor. These are usually people who have been very successful in their first profession. They love what they do, but it no longer challenges them.

There are other options, of course, but there is one requirement for managing the second half of our lives. We should think about it early and begin creating it long before we enter it.

Managing ourselves will increasingly mean that we, the knowledge workers, develop a second major interest and develop it early.

Organizations come and go at an increasing rate. Organizations start and can easily end because of poor operating conditions, unfavorable business environments, or simply mergers and acquisitions. No one should expect to go very long without experiencing a serious setback in one’s career or work.

The changes and challenges of Managing Oneself may seem obvious, given today’s fast-changing environment. However, Managing Oneself is a revolution in human affairs, especially after we have grown accustomed to having organizations manage our lives.

Managing Oneself is a new mindset that requires a hard change in our thoughts and attitudes we learned from the industrial age. The new mindset demands that each knowledge worker think and behave like a chief executive officer for our own career.