The future of employment is right around the corner and about to rear its ugly head to an already floundering middle class. It’s real and it’s starting to happen right now. Here’s the inside scoop on what growing employers really want from their candidates and employees, and how to create a career plan that fits.
For job seekers, today’s new normal economy calls for a strategic, multifaceted approach. Whether you are a janitor, administrative assistant, general laborer, accountant, or sales representative, taking your career to the next level begins with you. Employers don’t want do-it-all generalists; they want top performers who specialize in one field and have systematically built in-demand skill sets that make them masters of their craft. And they’re no longer looking for bodies to fill a seat and perform a function. They want an innovative, forward-thinking person they can call their partner. By being proactive and taking the initiative to speak up for your professional future, you are giving potential employers exactly what they are looking for: accountability.
Most job seekers I interview have the same goal in mind: to secure a position in a company culture that brings them joy, presents new challenges, and offers opportunities for career mobility and salary enhancement. But there’s one factor missing: they have no idea how to make a career plan that leads to happiness. Left feeling stuck in their crappy job situation, working professionals often turn to their inner circle of influence (family, friends, mentors, and colleagues). They tap everyone around them for career support and neglect the one person who holds all the cards: themselves.
1. Treat your career like a business and yourself as its owner
An overwhelming majority of the candidates who walk through my door believe that an invisible force is guiding their future—the economy, their current boss, the tooth fairy, whatever. But my team’s extensive research tells us that it’s just not that complicated. The most successful people (physically, mentally, and monetarily) are those who recognize that it’s up to them to decide their fate. These people also approach each new position as an opportunity to add to their skill set in a way their previous position couldn’t. And they’re constantly evolving professionally in order to establish a well-rounded background. If you drop the self-sabotaging mindset that you work for “the man,” and realize that the choices you make guide your professional development, it can be incredibly empowering.
2. Identify an in-demand specialty that aligns with your skill set and background
Although they’re undoubtedly well-intentioned, your friends, relatives, and colleagues aren’t expert career advisors. Too many people choose occupational choices based on outdated and limited viewpoints. “It’s the family business and I sort of just fell into it,” or “I went to law school because my parents wanted me to” are common excuses I hear all the time. Not enough professionals take the time to explore their options and find out what type of work makes them happy. Or they’re hesitant to follow their dreams because they were taught to think traditionally. Step out of your inner circle and research in-demand jobs that align with your skills. Take advantage of career assessments, which never fail to provide some much-needed perspective.
3. Choose educational/training opportunities that support your career goals
Because traditional higher education is a big promoter of stereotypical high-paying jobs that have been around for ages—medicine, law, finance, engineering, teaching—many budding minds miss out on new positions in emerging technologies and marketing, for example. So many positions go unfilled due to a lack of awareness, which is a shame since job creation is soaring. For those of you already working, be sure to keep your skills sharp both inside and outside of work. Very few companies that offer optional training programs have a healthy number employees who actually take advantage of them.
4. Build a marketable, online professional brand
It goes without saying that your professional brand plays a significant role in your current and future success. Employers aren’t relying solely on resumes and cover letters to fill their next role. They want to get to know their candidates on every level possible. At the very least, candidates must create, optimize, and maintain a LinkedIn profile. But, make no mistake, I don’t support the “build it and leave it” approach. Keep active by sharing growing trends in your field, contributing to group conversations, and connecting with thought leaders you admire. Not only does it demonstrate your expertise and show that you’re not letting your skills soften, it also shows you’re tech-savvy and ambitious—traits employers look for in a new recruit. Not to mention the fact that the professional exposure is in itself worth it.
5. Map out a blueprint for achieving short-term and long-term goals
If you don’t know what your ultimate dream job is, that’s ok. That doesn’t mean you can’t accept positions strategically. The key here is to amass a variety of experiences that build upon each other. Staying at one job in one capacity is no longer a sustainable career plan. If you’ve spent some quality time working for a large corporation, try a smaller company. No matter your career situation or experience level, it’s important to have a written professional plan you can commit to.
It’s time to start acting like a business owner. Have you started on your job search plan? Complete with resume / cover letter guides and useful checklists, our free Job Search Toolkit will help you get your career off the ground and track your progress.