By Bruce Rosenstein
The club of laid off journalists is large and growing. We all have to decide the next direction of our careers. I believe we can learn a lot from the life and work of Peter Drucker, who died at the age of 95 in 2005. One major idea I received from him, in an interview conducted that year for a book I was writing, was the importance of living a multidimensional life not focused too heavily on any one area, work or otherwise. It was such a powerful thought that it became the cornerstone of the soon-to-be-published book, Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life.
When I was laid off from a job I loved by USA TODAY last December, after 21 years in their library (I also wrote about business and management books for the paper since 1996), the psychological blow was blunted by the fact that I had been working on my book for six years, and that it would be published the following summer. I also had the further diversification of being a lecturer once a year in The Catholic University of America’s School of Library and Information Science. If my identity had been completely tied to my work at USA TODAY, and if I had nothing else substantive to occupy my time, I would have been in trouble.
Journalists have a great role model in Drucker and his own story of diversification. He wrote more than 40 books that have sold millions of copies worldwide. He taught for more than 60 years, including more than 30 years at a school named after him, the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California. He was a consultant to many businesses and nonprofits. He wrote a column for The Wall Street Journal for many years, and often contributed to the Atlantic Monthly, Forbes, Harvard Business Review and many other publications.
Whether or not you are currently working, looking for another job, or thinking of moving to a different profession, a lot can be learned from the following five areas of Drucker’s life and work:
Teaching: No one learns as much as the person who teaches his or her subject, Drucker has said. Think about getting into teaching, either as a volunteer (such as within a professional association or religious institution) or as an adjunct professor at a local university. It could lead to a whole new career. What teachers do you know who can provide guidance on how to get started?
Continuous Learning: This can be a mixture of formal classes and self-directed learning from reading books and articles, online material, learning by observation or asking questions of people who have knowledge to share. Drucker kept up a self-study system until late in life, where he would pick a subject and study it intensively on his own, mainly through reading books. We can do the same mixing print and online material. One of his last study projects was re-reading all the plays of Shakespeare. How many people have read all the plays, let alone re-read them?
Mentoring: Drucker said that no one develops themselves as well as the person who helps others to develop their own lives and careers. It’s also a way to remember, recognize and pay back the mentors who have guided us. Look into mentoring possibilities in a professional association or as a volunteer in a nonprofit. This can be a particularly important activity if you are not working and want to be doing something substantive.
Volunteering: This was an essential component, Drucker believed, of what he called “a functioning society.” As with mentoring, this is important if you are feeling devalued after loss of a job. Sharing your time and talents can revolve around such areas as literacy tutoring, working in homeless shelters, animal shelters, religious institutions, hospitals, hospices, schools, museums and scouting programs. Among the many pro bono activities that Drucker performed was longtime consulting for the Girl Scouts of the USA.
Reflecting: Even someone accomplished as Drucker set aside time each year to assess the previous year and decide what he would contribute for the next, and “…every year I’m surprised,” he told me in the 2005 interview mentioned above. “Every year the things that worked are not the things I expected to work. And the things I expected to work are at best not failures. And every year I redirect my priorities as a result of that test and a year later find out that I have not lived up to my priorities but have done something quite different. So, I have learned that one has to plan, but one doesn’t follow the plan.”
Paying attention to these five areas may or may not help you land the job of your dreams. But serious thought and action within at least some of them can increase your self-knowledge and self-worth. And that’s a good start for your journey.
Bruce Rosenstein can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and at www.brucerosenstein.com. His blog is Living in More Than One World, http://brucerosenstein.com/blog/. Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life, will be published by Berrett-Koehler in August.