[Viewpoint]Risk-taking to succeedWho would not be tempted by an offer for a job with guaranteed stability? It might seem even God-given.
Mr. A, an assistant manager at a major company, was approached by a headhunter earlier this year with an inviting offer to become a manager at a government-run corporation. The package offered an easier life and a higher position, with guaranteed tenure until retirement. He seriously considered accepting it.
He consulted his friends and family but finally decided to stay with his current job. When asked why, he said, “If I take the offer from the government corporation, I would be able to live a more stable life. But I have a job to do in my current position, and I am confident that I can excel. It feels thrilling to survive the fierce competition, and in the end, I will gain more from competing.”
His friends told him he was letting a good opportunity slip away and he would come to regret it if he were to be fired. He insisted, though, because he was confident he would survive and prosper. Mr. A, you see, is a born risk-taker, and he likes the adventure he finds in his current job.
It’s already halfway through March, and major corporations are finishing up their promotion decisions for the year. The personnel season began with executive promotions at the end of the last year; staff promotions are being concluded in the spring. For the lucky ones, there is joy in this season, but others are going through a very hard time. A managing director was unexpectedly fired and had to clean out his desk. Another manager has not been promoted for a long time and is seriously considering a career change.
Anyone working in the private sector has to have a plan B in case of dismissal. The government companies are actually not much different. Even positions in city governments, which boast the highest job security, are fast-changing. But it is those working in the private sector who face the greatest insecurity. When you don’t have a specialty or you feel you may be at risk, it is tempting to test your luck or resort to personal connections, but it is better to develop other skills.
Last week, I had a meeting with Kim Yong-sun, President of Doosan Infracore in charge of business strategy. “When I presided over an executive meeting recently, two executives had a fierce argument,” he said. “As I listened carefully, I figured they each had the same position. When I told them they were making the same point, they were both embarrassed.
“Communication in the workplace is very important, and it makes up half of your job ― or your life.”
This must be his secret to success. Mr. Kim climbed the ladder from entry level to the top. He studied abroad in the middle of his career and came back as a business consultant. He took risks to better himself and move ahead. It paid off when Doosan scouted him, and he rose to become president. Mr. Kim has an outstanding knack for knowing what is significant, and he is good at directing the company toward the right decision. Doosan’s main business had been in the food industry, but thanks to Mr. Kim the firm changed its focus to heavy industry.
As I was listening to Mr. Kim, I was reminded of Jo Hyun-jeong, chairman of Bit Computer and a pioneer in Korean IT ventures. “The saying, ‘The boughs that bear most hang lowest’ is so wrong,” he once argued. “If you act humble and display only 70 percent of your ability, you will only regret it. I don’t mean being arrogant or currying favor with your boss. You should build up your skill and let others know of your ability so that you can contribute to the company. That’s the way for you to get ahead and for the company to grow at the same time.”
Mr. Kim and Mr. Jo both understand that surviving and prospering in the workplace depend on effective communication and expertise. Not only should you have a skill in a specific field, for example, in sales or doing business with China, but you also should be able to communicate well with your coworkers and supervisors.
Four days ago, as it happens, I got a phone call from Mr. A. “I have been promoted to manager!” he said. It was great news. To the man who chose adventure over stability, I would like to advise him to keep at it and value communication and expertise as he continues his career ascent.
*The writer is a deputy business news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chung Sun-gu