Hear no evil, See No Evil…that’s been my mantra as far as my career is concerned for several years. I have a good job, and I’m very thankful for it. I’ve had the chance to grow, and I hope to grow with my company for years to come, but my position is government funded, and we all know what that means these days.
I’ve been living in a paradise like with my fingers plugged in my ears saying “Sequestration? What’s that?”, and while I’ve written my congressman regarding my tax-dollars, that’s as far as I’ve gone until recent days. Lately I’ve been inspired to plan for the worst and hope for the best. I’m not talking about living in fear, but I am advocating living with your best interest in mind. My prayer is that none of us every face a lay-off, downsizing, unexpected family emergency, or other career altering occurrence – but in case we do, here are some tips to soften any blow that may come your way.
1) Never stop learning. Successful people never close their eyes to an opportunity for self-improvement. They are the first to sign up for webinars, lunch & learns, and professional development courses. The key to staying competitive is making sure that you don’t become obsolete. Some people think this means you have to shell out money for advanced degrees and continuing education, but not so. Paid training is great, especially if you can get your current employer to help with some or all of the cost, but there are tons of no-cost training opportunities out there. You need only Google “Free online training” to find several reputable sources for online learning. Considering a career change into database management? Try an online database course designed for Stanford students for free before spending money to earn a certification or degree. The same is possible for a wide variety of topics, so there’s no reason not to stay fresh in your field.
2) Keep Track. All of that professional development is no good if you can’t recall it. One of the most practical tips for career success in my arsenal is keeping a career portfolio. It doesn’t have to be anything formal, a simple three ring binder will do. Grab it – stow it away somewhere in your office and make a mental note to tuck any important career related documents inside of it. Certificates for training, positive performance reviews, letters of commendation, writing samples, job descriptions, etc. In the unfortunate scenario where you may have to look for work unexpectedly you won’t be left scrambling to piece together all of your accomplishments from disparate places, or worse – from an email account/computer you no longer have access to. Not the most pleasant thought in the world, but one that certainly made me consider the importance of preperation.
3) Diversify. It’s not just a term that applies to investments. It’s good for your career as well. In this great example of what a “Gen Y” employee would write in a resignation letter to an employer, you see that it’s common for successful people to be plotting their next move in the margins of their day. You don’t have to run yourself ragged – but it makes sense to be volunteering, researching, or moonlighting in another arena, so that all your eggs aren’t in one basket. This requires pretty efficient time management – as our time away from work is precious and few, but diversifying can spell success even in a difficult transition.
4) Work Hard. Planning for the worst is something I would highly recommend to be doing on the side. The key here is on the side. The best way to plan for the worst is to work your tail off on your primary gig so that you are as indispensable as possible. Sometimes when we become uncertain we have a tendency to mentally check out and we can stop producing our best work. True, alll the hard-work in the world can’t always guarantee job security – but slacking off will most certainly do the opposite. Plan for the worst, hope for the best, and work with integrity. All of this together will help you to weather the workforce in a time of economic uncertainty.
Let me say this – I think the uncertainty that we all face right now in a word – stinks. I don’t think it’s good for stress level, blood pressure, or emotional well being, but it is good for one thing. That is, reminding us that we are more than just a job. I think we are learning to describe ourselves in terms other than “I’m a doctor, teacher, mechanic, software engineer, etc.”. Personally, being in a constant state of career flux has had me seeking to improve as a whole person, and it has helped me to stop attributing my worth to employment. I love hearing success stories where people came out of unemployment by redefining themselves as entrepreneurs, artists, and inventors – achieving a better quality of life than they ever had before. Part of me wants the employment world to return to the way it was several years ago – but another part of me loves the new resilience this era has inspired. In a way we are all learning to plan for the worst, hope for the best, and find the best in the worst situations. Let’s keep doing that, no matter what happens!
Image courtesy of [naij] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net