Be Prepared… For Any Career Twist
Be Prepared… For Any Career Twist
The Boy Scout creed has it right. Be prepared. In today’s world, it’s essential. At my age, I am a throwback. I’ve been a recruiter for more than 30 years. People of my generation often went to work for a company, stayed, and never made a job or career change. They simply enjoyed their job, either blue or white collar. Perhaps they climbed the corporate ladder or maybe they were happy and productive in the same position for decades. In fact, I have several acquaintances (including some of my clients) who are with major corporations and have been there 30 or more years. That is becoming increasingly rare these days.
Today we live in a world of start ups, entrepreneurs, corporate takeovers and mergers. Downsizing and layoffs are increasingly common. Job security has become an illusion. If you believe that your loyalty will be rewarded by your employer, that you are in some way indispensable to a company, or simply have an overall sense of job security, you may grow complacent. Complacency causes risk. Risk means being unprepared for any turn your career throws at you.
Career changes generally happen for a number of reasons. You may embark on a career change of your choosing or, as often happens today, it may come unexpectedly and be outside of your or your manager’s control. I’ve interviewed thousands of candidates at all levels, counseled numerous managers in their hiring process, trained recruiters in many disciplines, and if there is one thing I know, it’s that all people need to be ready at all times for opportunity when it knocks. They also need, now more than ever, to prepare for the worst case scenario: “I am unemployed. What now?”
You will not be blindsided if you keep your eyes open and on the horizon. Here are a few ideas that may help.
Be ready. Always have a current resume. Like a will, it’s an essential. Rarely do I deal with an employed person who at my request can’t have a resume in my incoming email in minutes. If you wait until you’re unemployed, you’re being complacent and will not be prepared when the worst case scenario happens or unexpected opportunity knocks. Update it regularly. If you have a title change, new or increased responsibilities, an accomplishment, award or accolade, or even just a change in career objective, keep it current. One trick is to have two or more different resumes. As an example, if you’re a sales rep who seeks a new sales position, sales management, sales training or possibly a marketing position, you may have four separate resumes. Each would be unique in its objective and reflect the strengths in the area that you bring to a prospective employer. This applies to any industry and any type of employment. It’s isn’t a must of course, but it is smart. Even if you are in a blue collar position, have a resume. Filling out an application is required, but a resume sets you apart from the pack.
Be informed. Read newspapers, financial magazines, business journals, trade journals, and listen to the news. Often you’ll see trends in your industry, discover new or growing companies, hear about companies at risk, identify hot, expanding industries as well as shrinking industries, or even glean information about your employer that might set off the alarm bells and keep you focused and ready.
Be proactive. Network. Opportunity often knocks unexpectedly. The best time to make a smart career or job change is when you don’t have to. Why? You can be objective and not reactive. You have the luxury of really evaluating whether an opportunity is a smart move and positive change in career direction. So, whenever you can, whether it’s with friends, others in your industry or similar companies, or even people you meet and decide to strike up a conversation with, network. Remember that all have information about their company, job, industry and more. The person may even be an employer who needs someone just like you or perhaps has friends who made good careers moves with companies of which you’re unaware.
Finally, be aware. Read want ads in newspapers regularly, magazines, association periodicals, and journals; check internet job boards and employment sites; explore the websites of companies that interest you (virtually all have careers sections); develop avenues of communication with managers who hire in any company; and always maintain relationships with recruiters in your industry. Leaving the welcome mat to opportunity in as many places as possible can pay unexpected dividends.
Pay attention to the simple yet powerful words of the Boy Scout creed in your career and always Be Prepared. If you are, when the worst happens you can handle any negative turn far more easily, and if the best happens and opportunity does knock, you’ll gladly open the door.