What's loyalty to You?
Everyone is saying that loyalty is gone; loyalty is dead; loyalty is over. But, I do not agree with that.
I think loyalty is much more important than it ever was in the past. A 40-year career with the same company once may have been called loyalty; from here it looks a lot like a work life with very few options, very few opportunities, and very little individual power. That's what we used to call indentured servitude.
Today loyalty is the only thing that matters. But it isn't blind loyalty to the company. It's loyalty to your colleagues, loyalty to your team, loyalty to your project, loyalty to your customers, and loyalty to yourself. I see it as a much deeper sense of loyalty than mindless loyalty to the Company Z logo.
I know this may sound like selfishness. But being CEO of Me Inc. requires you to act selfishly -- to grow yourself, to promote yourself, to get the market to reward yourself. Of course, the other side of the selfish coin is that any company you work for ought to applaud every single one of the efforts you make to develop yourself. After all, everything you do to grow Me Inc. is gravy for them: the projects you lead, the networks you develop, the customers you delight, the braggables you create generate credit for the firm. As long as you're learning, growing, building relationships, and delivering great results, it's good for you and it's great for the company.
That win-win logic holds for as long as you happen to be at that particular company. Which is precisely where the age of free agency comes into play. If you're treating your resume as if it's a marketing brochure, you've learned the first lesson of free agency. The second lesson is one that today's professional athletes have all learned: you've got to check with the market on a regular basis to have a reliable read on your brand's value. You don't have to be looking for a job to go on a job interview. For that matter, you don't even have to go on an actual job interview to get useful, important feedback.
The real question is: How is brand You doing? Put together your own "user's group" -- the personal brand You equivalent of a software review group. Ask for -- insist on -- honest, helpful feedback on your performance, your growth, your value. It's the only way to know what you would be worth on the open market.
It's the only way to make sure that, when you declare your free agency, you'll be in a strong bargaining position. It's not disloyalty to "them"; it's responsible brand management for brand You -- which also generates credit for them.