Archive for October, 2009

The New Career Security

Monday, October 26th, 2009

October Blog

The New Career Security

In his October 21st Op Ed column, Thomas Friedman challenged us to provide an education system that makes Americans so competitive in the global marketplace that we would become leaders again.  He noted that successful workers now and in the future “invent smarter ways to do old jobs, energy-saving ways to provide new services, new ways to attract old customers or new ways to combine existing technologies .”

His words started me thinking about how his observations could be applied to our thinking about career management.  Seeking compelling, valuable and interesting work to replace our standard focus on getting and keeping an “ideal” job would require a radical shift in perspective and action..

The problem with the current (pre-Recession) job model is that is depends on an historical rather than future focus.  Resumes and personnel files recap past work assignments, titles, functions and achievements without connecting the reader’s mind to the possibilities.  Applicants for positions get screened in or out based on whether they fit the requirements of a slot on an organizational chart before they ever get a chance to talk with a recruiter or manager about relevant  issues and what their skills could do to address them.  Interviews are conducted in  much the same way and the interviewee often feels like he is at an inquisition rather than a more preferred problem-solving dialogue.  Internal succession plans work in a similar way, adding in the element of sponsorship and politics to the mix.

The job shortages compel us to change our approach.  While they may not be adding to “head count”, organizations, large and small, still need expertise and hunger for innovation and new methodologies.  Many managers cannot get to all the things on their plate, much less be strategic and thoughtful. A thoroughly researched and prepared interview is the opportunity to offer your ideas, to make a pitch for how you will add worth.

Broaden your options and open up work opportunities that do not exist on a job board.  As you have meetings, informational interviews, professional discussions, and attend networking events here is a technique you might try that will expand your focus from “selling yourself”, asking about opportunities and circulating your resume:

  • Focus on potential rather than problems.
  • Inspire your listeners, engage their interest, find out what they need now and next.
  • Start a discussion about what’s going on in your industry.
  • Have a point of view based on your research and other conversations.
  • Think beyond the job you want (your own needs) and your career history and expectations.
  • Become an inquiring reporter, elevate your curiosity, find out what people and organizations are struggling with.
  • Figure out ways you can save money, time, increase sales, uncover opportunities, make a difference based on both current challenges and future needs.

And if you are in transition, think beyond getting a job.  Look for work that you can do right now on an interim or project…or even volunteer basis…that expands your reputation, exposes you to the possibilities, puts you back in the game.  While there, figure out how you can make yourself indispensable to your organization or clients by putting their agenda, their needs, their success first in your mind. and deeds. That is the new career security.