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Swim Fast, Young Man--It's Open Season On Execs

I know, you don’t feel young, even though you love to say 50 is the new 35. Or maybe it’s “60 is the new 50.” Pick your poison, friend.

It’s open season on executives with just about every company in America announcing layoffs. (When Goldman Sachssneezes, we all catch cold?)

Whether your career has landed you in the finance industry (poor you) or manufacturing or retail, you are in for a cold, dark winter. We all are. Our corporate leaders cannot cut 10% or 20%, much less 25% without chopping into some executive bone. That means you, partner. You, under the desk!

There’s no hiding from this. It’s big. And it’s ugly. And it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. “Been through this before,” you say? We all had layoffs in 2002. And before that, you’re proud to say, you survived the ugliness of the early 90’s. But remember, you were 15 years younger then. And less well compensated.

This time is different
Listen, we are staring down the barrel of fundamental change this time. When all the dust settles, the U.S. government will be part owner of every major American bank. And it appears very likely Uncle Sam will also own parts of the Insurance Industry, the Auto Industry and the Airline Industry. It might not be socialism but it’s something very different than we grew up with. And Media is different too. Traditional media are dying, getting eaten up by the internet and mobile technology. Iconic brand names, which have dominated our professional lives, are here one minute and gone the next. Who knows, we might even get a new, bolder word for “change.”

The Future
Bob Dylan once wrote: “You better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone. The times, they are a-changin’.” It was true then, and it’s true now. A couple of executive friends of mine were saying recently that they were tired and at this stage in their professional life, they couldn’t imagine making themselves over to keep ahead of the times. They laughed at me when I suggested major alterations in their modus operandi and claimed, “We can ride this out.”

If your 401k accounts are anything like mine however, we could be looking at a long ride. I don’t want to play defense for the next umpteen years and I’ll bet you don’t either. Unless you’re 60+ and you want to retire soon, strap on the Speedo and get moving. And if you’ve been back-stroking the past few years, you might want to consider the butterfly. Pronto

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Erik Sorenson is chief executive officer of Vault.com, Inc. Mr. Sorenson, 52, oversees the strategic direction of the global, New York-based media company. He is widely regarded as an expert on media strategy and industry trends, with experience spanning radio, local and network broadcast television, cable and syndicated TV, and the Internet. From 1998 through 2004, Mr. Sorenson served as president of the MSNBC cable news channel. He has won more than twenty Emmy awards as a writer, producer, and television executive.

Comments? Send them to executivecareers@cnbc.com

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