Steering your own career, getting a new job — or what I like to call “driving your own career bus” is more important today than ever. Everyone needs to maintain responsibility for his or her own success, and that includes keeping an eye out for larger trends and signs and signals of change at a current employer. Burying your head in the sand and ignoring the writing on the wall when your company falls out of favor in the marketplace or your industry is poised for change is a recipe for disaster.
A Fast Company article says the average tenure at one job in the U.S. is 4.4 years. The article asserts men have around 11 jobs in their lifetimes and women have 10 jobs. As the article suggests, “Shorter job tenure is associated with a new era of insecurity, volatility, and risk. It’s part of the same employment picture as the increase in part-time, freelance, and contract work; mass layoffs and buyouts; and ‘creative destruction’ within industries.”
The onus is on the employee to manage all of these ramifications.
One point in an employee’s favor? Increased transparency and access to and availability of information. If you work for an organization and don’t monitor the company’s Google mentions or keep an eye on Twitter and other social media sites to learn what people are saying, you are missing a rich resource. Especially if you work for a large company (or, if you want to work for one!), â€œfollowingâ€ the organization on LinkedIn can help keep you abreast of staffing changes and trends. You don’t have to rely on a rumor mill. Ignore these monitoring tools at your own peril.
Everyone needs to realize we are unlikely to return to the old economy. Don’t be complacent! Embrace change and flexibility. Always be looking for opportunities to expand and enhance your skills, even while in your current job. That may mean you volunteer for projects outside of your typical areas of expertise.
Attend professional development opportunities your employer offers to improve and update your skills. If your employer doesnâ€™t pay for training, you may want to invest in your own career by taking courses or certifications in areas where you have an interest and that youâ€™ve identified as potential growth markets. If you donâ€™t manage your career and future, you are more likely to be left behind when things change and the focus is on people who are flexible and multi-talented.
Closely examine your core, transferable skills. What do your supervisors tend to praise about your work? What skills do you enjoy using, and use well? Donâ€™t ignore the â€œsoft skills,â€ or emotional intelligence. (For example, are you an exceptional communicator? Do you have a knack for leading teams? Maybe youâ€™re a great negotiator?) Purposefully select your best skills and do some research to identify other fields or jobs where you can use them. Make a habit of self-evaluating regularly, not only when you may want a new job.
Once you have your list, try plugging your skills into job board search engines to see what type of positions come up. Consider using LinkedInâ€™s new â€œSkillsâ€ feature (find it under the More tab) to help identify types of jobs requiring the skills you have and are developing.
Learn how to market yourself effectively in this new economy. This may be the most important of all these points. The resume is always at the heart of any new job search strategy. Itâ€™s up to job seekers to communicate their skills and accomplishments to appeal to target employers. Make a strong case describing why you are the perfect solution to the hiring managerâ€™s problem. For career changers, this can be difficult. The key is to focus the resume more on the future than the past. Avoid jargon specific to previous industries and use language and key words to suit the new employer.
Once you know your key skills and have some ideas of fields to focus on, social media offers tremendous opportunities to steer your career in a new direction. In my book, Social Networking for Career Success (LearningExpress, 2011), I explain how, if you have expertise in a particular topic, but you donâ€™t have paid experience working in that field, you can still market that expertise online, via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. (Google+ is another great resource.) Itâ€™s possible to become a go-to expert in a topic and to join a community of thought leaders based only on your skills.
For example, a postal worker who always enjoyed event planning (but has never been paid to plan events) can create a digital profile online, including a social resume (professional website) and presences on all the big social networks to showcase her event planning skills. She can access current thought leaders via these tools â€“ often without requiring an introduction â€“ and she can begin to contribute ideas and resources, thus becoming a member of the community of event planners online. Perhaps earning a certification from a community college would add to her credibility, but if she has the key, underlying skills needed to do this work, and can effectively articulate and communicate her expertise online, she will be well on her way to being able to change careers.
Social media is not a magic wand â€“ users need to have the skills they want to market â€“ but, for those with transferable skills and an eye on a new career, social media can serve as a metaphorical bridge from one career to another.
Another trend in todayâ€™s market? Becoming a business of one â€“ hanging a (virtual) shingle and working for yourself. Itâ€™s not for everybody, but the same tools allowing you to recreate your professional image online to land a new job can also help you attract your own clients. Donâ€™t ignore research reporting companies are outsourcing instead of hiring people. By creating a strong digital footprint (online presence)â€“ via a professional website (YourName.com), and optimized social media profiles (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+), you will be on your way to embracing â€“ and thriving in â€“ the inevitable new economy we all face.
photo by blackthorne