In recent years, the “mid-life crisis” seems to have become an unavoidable life bug for people in the workplace. It seems that as long as you are over 35, you will automatically be disliked by others. From civil servants to civil servants to private companies, they are all or obviously not welcome. Or covertly advertise “No harassment if you are over 35 years old, priority is given to those under 35 years old.” Especially in the Internet industry, in the layoff plans of some major companies, the definition of whether a person is an “asset” that the company should retain or a “liability” that should be eliminated can be as simple and crude as directly using age as a dividing line. 35+ can even become a The red line and hidden rules of “one vote out”.
Feng shui will always take turns. As the external environment changes, the author has observed that this unfriendly situation for middle-aged professionals seems to be slowly changing. Compared with the previous unpopularity, middle-aged people aged 35+ are very likely to experience a career explosion. The present may be the best time for middle-aged people in the workplace.
01 Under the Kangbo cycle, the “underlying logic” of corporate competition has changed
Zhou Jintao, the King of Cycles, has a famous saying, “Getting rich in life depends on Kang Bo.” As a professional, we are also placed within the framework of the grand narrative of “Kang Bo”. In the 40 years since the reform and opening up, from the previous generation to our generation, almost all those who have really made a name for themselves have benefited from the foreign trade economy (the takeoff of industrialization), the real estate economy (urban construction), and the Internet economy (information revolution) and the rapid development of three major economic structures.
These three major cycles have brought epic opportunities to get rich for those who seize the opportunity. For example, Haier in the early years, Vanke later, and now BAT. And the core driving force that drives the industrial gears to keep up with the rhythm of the times and keep moving forward – talent, is also interpreting its own ups and downs in the workplace at different historical stages.
1. In the era of dividends, fight for scale
When talking about economic development at any stage, we cannot avoid using the term “dividend of the times”. If these four words are more concrete in the direction of the workplace, we cannot avoid the objective reality of “demographic dividend”. From the early days when foreign trade factories along the coast attracted young labor force from inland and rural areas, to now when big factories recruit graduates from major prestigious schools, this truth has been explained time and time again.
In the world of martial arts, speed is the only thing that cannot be broken. Why can we achieve what Western countries have achieved in hundreds of years in 40 years? The main focus is rapid development and large-scale expansion. Behind these “developments” and “scales” are all young people. People “come on one after another”, this is true from industry to enterprise. The reason is very simple. In the absence of accumulation of foundation, we cannot be driven by cutting-edge technology. We can only rely on mass accumulation and human sea tactics to “copy” and “learn from” overseas new technologies and new business models. At the same time, We also rely on a large amount of investment in manpower and material resources to realize the cultivation and deep cultivation of the vast domestic market.
Take the Internet industry as an example. Whoever has more APP users and stronger network effects will have a higher valuation, attract more funds, recruit more engineers who are willing to “996”, and accelerate their expansion. soil, the speed and ability of product iteration. In the past decade or so, the Internet industry has always been one of the industries that college graduates most want to go to and that attracts the most technical talents.
2. In the era of zero dividends, fight for profits
As dividends fade and capital ebbs, companies’ competitive strategies undergo major changes. Cost reduction, efficiency improvement, and survival self-preservation have become top priorities for many companies. These companies are also increasingly aware of the reality that under the existing technical conditions and personnel structure, the marginal effect of an additional ordinary employee is getting lower and lower. In other words, having more people is not very useful, and the human sea strategy fails. .
Take Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, Meituan, NetEase, and Kuaishou as examples. From 2021 to 2022, their registered employees have decreased by 6.9% in total, but their business income has not decreased. , but increased by 3.8%. It is obvious that the performance growth of these companies no longer relies on personnel, but comes from technology research and development and innovation.
In the past year or two, there have been more and more actual cases like this. For example, the popular OpenAI company has only more than 300 employees in 2022, but it has defeated Google, which has tens of thousands of people, in the field of AI; another example is Twitter (now % of the cases, it can still run smoothly… Whether it is data or cases, they all illustrate the truth. The era of relying on the accumulation of employees to achieve technological leadership and market leadership is slowly over.
The era of changing from “manpower” driven to “technology” driven is about to begin. Those who truly bring deep value to enterprises may no longer be young people who can stay up late and work 996, but middle-aged professionals with more sophisticated skills, richer experience, and more comprehensive thinking. This is the new underlying logic that enterprises rely on to develop and maintain competitiveness in a new historical period.
02 In this era, “certainty” is rewarded
1. Uncertainty brings risks and opportunities
A relative of the author came to Shanghai in the 1990s to work odd jobs on construction sites. Later, by chance, he became a real estate agent. In just a few years, he bought a house in Shanghai. Later, through constant buying and selling, he waited until the author went to Shanghai to work as a “real estate agent”. When I moved to Shanghai, this relative already owned 6 houses.
How this relative, who didn’t even finish junior high school, owns 6 houses in Shanghai, relies on it. Of course, it is inseparable from his personal intelligence and hard work, but more importantly, he encountered the brutal growth and rapid development of the real estate industry. historical opportunities. The author myself is also a beneficiary of the development of the industry. As a senior Internet person, from earning high salaries, to taking options, to being a technical executive of a listed company, I have almost reaped all the dividends of the Internet industry’s rapid development period of more than 10 years.
In such a dividend period, if you are in the right industry (or surrounding industry, like the real estate agency my relative works for), as long as you dare to fight hard and take risks, you will not be locked in, and there will be endless possibilities. Although there are risks (this risk is often not an unavoidable systemic risk), it is more about opportunities, opportunities and rewards for your courage and action.
2. Certainty, bringing stable returns
Tencent was founded in 1998; Alibaba was founded in 1999; Baidu was founded in 2000; even among the rising stars of the Internet, Pinduoduo, which has the least “qualifications”, has been established for more than 8 years. These giants have already put on handsome suits and combed their hair like adults. Their main demands are no longer “fighting and killing” recklessly. What they want is a moat, stable growth and certainty. Especially under the current environment, the pursuit of stable development and a safe winter are what they, who are aware of current affairs, actively pursue.
Because of this, we often see large companies shrink their business lines, reduce fault tolerance, and mercilessly cut off some projects and departments that cannot bring cash flow or cannot self-transfuse. Data shows that before 2021, some leading Internet companies can double or triple their number of employees every 3-5 years. However, in the past two years, the number of registered employees of these companies has been shrinking and declining.
Whether it is active layoffs or passive personnel loss, it all shows one problem. In order to expand, the Internet industry has gone to the stage of recruiting talents in the past. Young people who are enterprising and dare to make troubles may no longer be the favorites of these companies. Mature, prudent, stable and efficient middle-aged people are their favorite “Mr. Right” at this stage.
03 What “certainties” are provided to middle-aged people in the workplace?
1. Rich social experience
Experience usually means that a person has a better understanding of industry rules and ecology, a better understanding of user needs, and a better understanding of cooperating with people around him, so that he can output value and make contributions faster and more efficiently. This advantage is even more obvious in the stage when the supply of talents exceeds demand. If a person has had successful experience in a certain field before, the company will naturally believe that he can do similar work or projects in the future.
There will undoubtedly be more such replicable experiences among middle-aged professionals, while those heartwarming stories that do not have relevant advantages and try to impress employers by saying “I can learn” may become less and less. Because to a certain extent, there is a conflict between “I can learn” and “I just want to live”. Unless the employer’s foundation is still very strong, or the young person’s other advantages are too attractive, otherwise “saving food for the winter” Enterprises at this stage probably rarely have the tolerance and tolerance for trial and error that they had before.
2. Extensive industry contacts
The so-called connections are actually formed through the precipitation and accumulation of time. Old people in the workplace who have been working hard for many years have more network resources such as classmates, colleagues, old friends, partners, etc. Among them, there are also “effective relationships” that interact frequently and even help each other. The author sometimes looks through my address book and circle of friends, and wonders how I know so many people. Almost every leading Internet company has my former colleagues or subordinates. Sometimes when I am writing articles or making plans, If you need any data or understand a certain aspect of the situation, you can almost send a WeChat message to get it done. Resources like this for middle-aged people in the workplace are by no means available to young people who stay up all night and work overtime.
3. High degree of professionalism
Compared with young people, middle-aged people in the workplace are often more thoroughly “domesticated”. After all, they have been ups and downs in the workplace for a longer time, have eaten pork, and have seen pigs run away. I understand the ethics and bottom line of the workplace better, I also know how to think from others’ perspective, and I know what kind of feedback and results I can expect from a leadership position. And these are precisely the manifestations of a person’s high degree of professionalism. How to respond to the needs of leaders, how to obtain the collaboration of others, and what kind of results to deliver in one’s position are all more familiar to senior professionals, saving enterprises and managers more management costs. or communication costs, and the effects and delivery will be more stable and more reassuring.
4. More sophisticated skills
Anyone who does something can transform from an ordinary person into a top talent in a certain field after ten thousand hours of practice. This is the famous “10,000-hour rule.” Of course, “10,000 hours” is only an approximate number, and whether you can become a top talent also depends on various other conditions. But the principle that practice makes perfect reflected in this law is true and objective.
People who have been doing the same thing for longer are usually more proficient and make fewer mistakes than novices. You will also have a deeper understanding of a certain job, and when you encounter problems or bugs, your methods of handling and responding will be richer and more professional. Their efficiency and technical background may be difficult for young professionals to catch up in a short period of time.
There is a saying that “either you are out or you are outstanding”, but the most unacceptable thing is that people who could have been “outstanding” are defeated by age and “out”. This is very uncomfortable for many middle-aged professionals. Fair. Looking at it now, maybe the spring for middle-aged professionals is not far away. Everyone, hold on, don’t fall before dawn! mutual encouragement.