By: Greg Roche, Managing Director – Transition Services
In a field one summer’s day, a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.
“Why not come and chat with me,” said the Grasshopper, “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?”
“I am helping to lay up food for the winter,” said the Ant, “and recommend you to do the same.”
“Why bother about winter?” said the Grasshopper; “we have got plenty of food at present.”
But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil.
When the winter came, the Grasshopper had no food and found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer.
Then the Grasshopper knew: It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.
About 10 years ago, things were going well in the United States.
- Unemployment was under 5%
- Housing prices were hitting highs
- The stock market was hitting levels that had never been seen
If you were an Ant during this time, you knew the best thing you could do was make sure you weren’t over-leveraged on your house, add to your savings account, and outperform your colleagues at work.
Even though you weren’t looking for a new job, you were cultivating your professional network. You spent a few minutes each day, planting seeds by reaching out to old colleagues and friends. You watered those seeds by turning emails and phone calls into coffee or lunch meetings. Those informal, friendly conversations with your current network of connections bloomed and put you in touch with new people.
You learned which companies were doing exciting new things. You met the people in your industry who were difference makers and willing to help you. You weren’t asking them for anything, but you were sharing your thoughts and ideas. Your professional network was expanding with small amounts of effort every week.
As an Ant, you had a plan if you ever lost your job and needed to jump start your career search right away. Those new connections would be people you would talk to in hard times, and they would help you seek out new employment prospects. You were prepared for winter, even though you weren’t sure when the winds would turn cold, and the first snow would fall.
But most of us weren’t Ants. We were Grasshoppers.
We believed in an endless summer. In the back of our minds, we knew it couldn’t last forever, but we wanted to enjoy it as long as we could.
Summer faded into fall. Banks failed. Houses went into foreclosure. Industries needed government bailouts. Stock markets tanked. Grasshoppers lost jobs.
As Grasshoppers, we started looking for new jobs, but we were just one of many Grasshoppers in the same situation: unprepared and under-networked. We applied for the same jobs the same way we had in the past: by applying online and emailing our resumes. We hadn’t met the influencers in our industry. The ones we did get in touch with were getting contacted by all the other Grasshoppers who were out of work.
What about the Ants?
They got laid off, too.
But the Ants had already built their professional networks. When they saw job openings online, they didn’t send their resume to the black hole of the applicant tracking system. They contacted the friends they had made during the summer. More importantly, as they talked with their friends, they found out about jobs that weren’t even posted.
The Ants quickly landed new jobs.
The Grasshoppers kept looking. Many of them took jobs that were temporary or paid them less than what they made before.
Some of them never returned to the workforce.
Almost a decade later, home prices have rebounded, unemployment is back to 2007 levels, and the stock market is reaching new highs. It’s summertime, and the livin’ is good.
We don’t know when winter is coming, but like the seasons, things will change.
Are you an Ant or a Grasshopper?