Outlasting the Layoffs

On the front page of this Sunday's Los Angeles Times Work Place Section (March 4, 2001), there were two articles that seemed worlds apart, but aren't:

  • "Workers Who Survive Layoffs Often Share Certain Traits," by Sarah Hale, Times Staff Writer, and
  • "Top Chemist Breaks Ground Inside and Outside the Lab," by Susan Vaughn, Special to the Times

Skimming the first article (layoff survivors) led to this list of tips:

  1. Understand your company. Follow the industry and learn about the company's products. Read quarterly reports and evaluations for your company and its competitors.
  2. Fine tune your skills. Be willing to learn new things and then use them to enhance your performance.
  3. Be proud of your accomplishments. Without sounding arrogant, remind senior level managers of some of the projects you've completed.
  4. Be flexible. Offer to move to a different unit within the company. Be willing to work with new people under new supervisors.
  5. Learn about technology. Companies value employees who have are up to date on technology.
  6. Make friends. Employees who demonstrate their ability to get along with others are in demand.
  7. Become a self-manager. Communicate directly with supervisors. Take a leadership role whenever possible, resolve disputes, and offer to work late.

Not earth-shaking insights, but not without meat and potatoes substance either.

The second article was about Eloy Rodriguez, born on the very wrong side of the tracks in South Texas to barely educated Mexican nationals. Eloy's father, a short order cook, never got past the first grade. His mother, a housekeeper, managed to stay in school through the seventh grade. Despite all odds, Eloy's parents gave him an amazing gift: a lust for learning.

Today, Eloy Rodriguez (54), is one of the world's top plant chemists, and a professor and research scientist at Cornell University. Among his many achievements, Professor Rodriguez founded a new scientific discipline: Zoopharmacognosy (the study of how animals medicate themselves with natural substances), and has advanced the study of agromedicinals (how farmers integrate medicinal plants with their cash crops).

This article highlights Rodriguez' tips for becoming a successful scientist:

  1. Take a maverick approach to learning. You must be self-motivated to learn all that you need to for your career. Mavericks don't have to be told what to do. They go outside the norm to achieve what's important to them.
  2. Prepare yourself for your profession. Read outside the classroom. Read Scientific American. Make use of the library; read books and journals. Develop basic research skills, including critical thinking. Talk in front of groups--it will also build your self-esteem.
  3. Become strongly disciplined. Your focus should be: I want to be the best at what I'm doing. That's what I did. I had a quest; I didn't want to be good at science. I wanted to be the best.
  4. Try to connect things, for example, evolution, biology, anthropology. Early in your career, learn to build bridges between the courses you take. See how they interrelate instead of considering them separate disciplines.
  5. Find good mentors who are in many ways like you. Everyone who has been successful in life has had a teacher or mentor to help him or her.

Add Rodriguez' 5 tips to the 7 survivor tips and you have some robust wisdom about Knowledge-Age success -- and the makings of a new best-seller!