Career Survival Kit
I was recently reminded of the old Chinese proverb: “May you live in interesting times.”. There is little doubt these are “interesting times.” Those of us currently employed likely face minimal pay raises, few promotional opportunities, and stress by being asked to continually deliver more with fewer resources. And we’re the lucky ones. Those in the job search mode confront an economic market that is at its weakest in decades.
What can you do for career survival in these times? First, don’t let all the bad news hijack your focus. You can’t control the market, the economy or companies’ hiring plans. But you CAN control your actions, your emotions and your behavior. Focus on that.
For those currently employed, you must be patient and PACE yourself:
Performance – Now, more than ever, you need to perform at your peak level. Forget about the next job or next promotion. Do your current job exceedingly well! Deliver the results. You will likely be asked to do more with less. Those who continue to perform at high levels will get noticed. Also, building your list of accomplishments can position you for additional opportunities once a recovery occurs.
Augment – Use this period to augment your skills and build your experience. Volunteer to take on special assignments, particularly those that will help you build your skills. Consider how you can enhance both your technical skills and your leadership skills. Investigate low-cost webinars for training. Read books and articles. Find a mentor. Become a mentor. All of these are opportunities to continue to learn and grow.
Connect – The single biggest mistake most women make in managing their careers is having a weak professional network. We often have limited, insular networks that consist of people in our current company. Connecting with other professionals, particularly outside your industry, can help you learn and hear different approaches and ideas. It can provide you with a sounding board for your ideas. You can help others by sharing your knowledge and experience. Connecting is good for your brain and good for your emotional health, as well.
Energy – Spend your time and energy on what you can control. As your company cuts back, you see co-workers getting laid off, and you are asked to take on more work, stress can mount. It’s important that you maintain a reasonable pace at work and do not get burned out. Ensure that you do things that re-energize you – like time with your ‘positive’ friends, exercising, getting enough sleep, eating healthy, laughing and/or spending time with family. Make sure you incorporate fun into your life.
For those in job search mode, focus on the Five P’s of a job change:
Successful career change starts with attitude. A positive outlook and tenacity to stick with it cannot be overstated. This may be the biggest career challenge you have faced. You can find a job, but it may take longer and be harder than you expect. Don’t let speed bumps knock you off your plan and goal.
Your job right now is to find a job. Structure your week to spend 40 hours on the job search. Build a plan of action – a list of contacts, targeted companies, job boards to be reviewed, and mailing campaigns. Create a process that works for you to track your activities, such as who you have contacted and where you’ve sent résumés. Schedule follow-up calls and mail. Consider how you will get support beyond friends and family – join job search groups, utilize outplacement resources, and/or use a career coach.
A job change is similar to a new product launch. YOU are the product that is now available in the market. Create your personal brand by determining what makes you unique and what BENEFIT you bring to potential employers. Tell employers what you can do for them. Communicate broadly, similar to an integrated marketing campaign at product launch– use online, personal visits, phones, and physical mail.
Over 80% of jobs are found through contacts and networking. You should do all the other things but spend a disproportionate amount of your time and energy in networking. Be prepared to help others, as networking should be two-way. Develop a list of target companies and start asking your contacts if they know anyone in those firms. Ask for additional people to meet with. Go to professional development sessions and join groups, such as the Central Exchange and industry trade/professional associations.
Competition will be fierce for the jobs that are open. The best prepared will win those jobs. Use all available resources to conduct research and fine-tune your résumé and cover letters to the specific company. Work with someone to do role-playing practice of upcoming interviews. Always be ready to tell people who you are and what you can do for clients, employers, etc.
All of us may need to step back and reassess our personal and professional goals. Be willing to think outside the box and explore the opportunities that are available. You may need to re-adjust your short-term goals to match today’s available options. Build your career kit to survive these “interesting times.”