Sunday, October 10, 2010

Eager to Stay and Ready to Go

When it comes to career management, two things continue to amaze me:

1. People that don’t proactively manage their careers until they are looking for a job;

2. Managers who hold it against employees that are proactively managing their careers.

How could this be? It’s 2010, not 1970. However, I can’t tell you how many people I run into that don’t have an updated resume. Heck, a lot of them don’t even have a resume. Those are the same ones who I’ll get LinkedIn invites from after they’ve lost their jobs. I’m sure they learned how to set up their account at the outplacement workshop they just attended. My reaction is usually “nice to finally hear from you… so where have you been all these years?”

I’m not trying to be mean here – I’m just trying to help by opening up some eyes.

There are a lot of people that are very happy with their jobs. They might be long-time employees. They either don’t see the need, or see it the same way some managers do – that it would be disloyal or slimy to even be thinking about another job or employer. They think it’s like cheating on your spouse.

Look, being loyal and faithful is important in a committed relationship, i.e., a marriage. An employer is not your spouse. There’s no “in sickness or in health, for better or for worse” vow taken. It’s a job, and they will continue to employ you for as long as you can perform and they need you.

If I sound harsh, maybe it’s because I spent eight years at a large company where layoffs were a regular occurrence. Every year, usually around the year end holidays, I’d see good, solid, longtime loyal co-workers being walked out the door. Off they went to company sponsored outplacement workshops to learn how to write resumes.

Even if you work for the nicest boss in the world, in a company that’s never had a layoff – a truly great company – that same company could be acquired, and before you know it, you’re redundant. A competitor could invent some disruptive technology that turns your product into a buggy whip overnight.

As for the Neanderthal managers that brand their employees with a scarlet letter if they want to apply for even an internal job posting – stop being such selfish jerks! As a leader, you should be encouraging your employees to manage their careers and stay marketable. For every employee you may lose to a better opportunity, you’re going to have six more knocking at your door because you’re known as a great leader and company to work for. In fact, leaders (and companies) should feel morally obligated to help their employees prepare for new opportunities while they are working, not just after the axe falls. That was supposed to be the replacement for a promise of lifelong employment. For many, it’s been a broken promise.

With all of that being said (wow, what a buzz kill), here are 10 career management strategies for those that are currently employed and satisfied with their jobs. Managers should embrace every one of these strategies as well.

1. Update your resume once a year.
Use your annual performance review as a reminder. As you are documenting your accomplishments for the year (um…, you do document your accomplishments, right?), see if there are any that are “resume-worthy” (you should strive for at least one per year).

2. Create a LinkedIn profile and keep it current.
While I think some people go a little overboard on LinkedIn (I really don’t need to hear from you every time you get on a plane or read a book), you should at least have an up-to-date profile and professional picture.

3. Build your network.
Networks need to be constantly added to and maintained. Everybody you meet is a potential valuable contact. Make it a habit to offer to “Link up”. Go out of your way to help others in your network. Networking isn’t just about looking for people that can help you – it’s about helping others. You never know – that same person you assist could be the person who makes that all important connection for you when you need it.

4. Keep up to date on career management strategies and tools.
There's a ton of good stuff out there. SmartBrief on Your Career, Brazen Careerist, Anita Bruzzese's 45 Things, Lindsey Pollak's blog, the WSJ's Careers site, and HRPeople are some of my favorites.

5. Build marketable skills.
Every job and every project is an opportunity to learn. A good rule of thumb would be for 20% of your job to be new and different each year. Work with your manager to develop an individual development plan (IDP) that provides you opportunities to stretch and grow.

6. Know what’s marketable.
See #5. Not all new skills are marketable. Subscribe to job alerts in your field and read the position requirements. Be building the skills on your current job that employers are looking for.

7. Be nice to recruiters.
Return their calls, help them if you can (see #3), and offer to send them your resume (see #1). Talk to them as if you are interviewing for a position – make a good impression. See #3 – offer to connect via LinkedIn.

8. Be a speaker at conferences in your profession.
Treat every external presentation as an audition. The same goes for your behavior as a conference attendee. True story: I actually met two future employers at the same networking event. Weird.

9. Build your personal brand.
It used to be the only way you could get known outside your company was to speak at a conference or get published. Now, with blogs, Twitter, Facebook and online communities, everyone has the opportunity to have thousands of people get to know them. Just be careful – exposure can hurt you as much as it can help you.

10. Manage your finances wisely.
They say it takes 3-6 months to find a job, maybe longer. Make sure you have a nest egg built up to weather the storm, no matter how secure your job is. And don’t put all those eggs in the same basket – your own company stock. Diversify.

Let’s face it, when something happens, only the big dogs get the “golden parachutes”. The rest of us need to proactively manage our careers.

What else would you add to the list?


Kevin W. Grossman said...

Absolutely, Dan. Stay marketable and adaptable. The world is hurling us into the unknown, and so we need to stay known.

seanwhitlock said...

Thanks for the great post. I can't agree more. I feel that i'm pretty proactive with my own career, but I do fall prey to the comforts of my current job and forget about the very real possibilities of the current job market. Thanks for the great input.

Dan McCarthy said...

Kevin -

Sean -
Right, we all do. Glad it helped as a reminder.

Kathy Clark said...

I think with as busy as everyone is today it is easy to neglect this. I have to say I'm as guilty as anyone. This is a great reminder to take the time to take care of our own careers since the days of someone else doing so are gone. Thanks Dan!

Maria Dinu said...

Dan, what would you consider "Resume-worthy achievements"?
I always get this from people who copy-paste their JD into their resume, and consider their results too minimal to mention.

Anonymous said...

I've just come across your blog and really like the advice in this post.

There are some great points here, especially about keeping your details up to date all of the time.



Dan McCarthy said...

Kathy -
I know, I do too at times. Thanks.

Maria -
You're right, regular duties are not accomplishments. If someone were to ask you you "what was your biggest accomplishment over the past year?", what would you tell them?

Darren -
Great, I'm glad you found it, and hope you keep coming back.

Jeffrey Thomas said...

Great list. I know I struggle at times with certain points on this list. However, I am beginning to get better. It's a great reminder

Phil said...

I must agree with this post, you bring up some very good points. I run across people all the time who think its weird I am always looking for a better opportunity even if the one I have is good. I guess you can call it being marketable. I feel like its apart of being ready for whatever whenever. Valuable tips I think we should keep in our back pocket and check over them once a year at the least.

Dan McCarthy said...

Jeffrey -
Thanks, glad it might help.

Phil -
Not weird at all, as long as you're not going overboard with it.

davidburkus said...

Maybe it's my academic side, but I keep my cv updated even more often than once a year...basically everytime something changes. I'd advise business people to do the same, anytime you do something worth noting...add can always remove it later.

istartus said...

Thanks for the great post. I can't agree more.

Dan McCarthy said...

David -
Sounds like a good idea, that way it's always current in case you're asked for a copy.

Istartus -
You're welcome.

Harris Silverman - Business Coach said...

Managers who resent employees for managing their careers send the message that they do not respect or care about the interests of the employee, and are thereby turning themselves into an enemy rather than a friend, and encouraging the employee to move on, which is apparently what they're trying to avoid.

Furthermore, they're doing it for no good reason, since there are very few employees who can't be replaced.

The better strategy would be to increase the employee's loyalty and motivation by encouraging career development, and to take ownership of the need to find a replacement in the unlikely event that the person actually leaves.

Dan McCarthy said...

Harris -
You said it so much better than I did ("stop being such selfish jerks!"). (-:

Tim Timmerman said...

"Doing it for no good reason, since there are very few employees who can't be replaced" is a pretty broad statement. Although you may find other people with similar skills, the cost of recruiting, hiring, and training them, and the tremendous opportunity cost you lose in the process can be huge.

In my current experience, there is tremendous fear as a manager that your "single point failure (expert)" person may leave, and set back projects for months.

People (managers) react very differently to fear, and our "fight or flight" instinct may take over and result in turning ourselves into that "enemy rather than a friend."

I strongly agree that we need to encourage our talent to grow to in turn foster loyalty, but to belittle the fear that a manager has may be a bit misguided. Instead, like all other challenges, we need to recognize it, embrace it, and find creative ways to provide the development and support that our staff needs.

Great post, and great comments.

Gina said...

It's so important to always be thinking about the next step. If you take a class or have new duties added to your role- look at it as not only a way to enhance what you are doing now- but keep in the back of your mind how it could flourish into something else in the future. Be prepared for what you hope doesn't happen- but always give your best where you are in the now. Both will benefit you in the future- no matter what happens. Who knows- you might just be transitioning to a new role with in the company- change doesn't always mean leaving- but just growing.

Chelsea Duran said...

It's important for young workers to take your advice to heart, as well. A family friend is only six months out of college and her company is having layoffs. She was scrambling to get her resume together and make new connections.

Keep a sunny outlook, but always be prepared for the "what ifs" in life.

Dan McCarthy said...

Tim -
Good point. I try not to use this blog for "boss bashing" - there's enough of that going on out there. You remind us all to consider both sides.

Gina -
Well said, thanks.

Chelsea -
Great advice for all ages! Thanks.

Patrick said...

Networking isn’t just about looking for people that can help you – it’s about helping others. You never know – that same person you assist could be the person who makes that all important connection for you when you need it.
I think this is very useful me!
Thanks a lot!