WEDDLEs

July 26, 2005

Feature: Why You Need to Be a Career Activist

Here's a sober truth for all of you out there who are happily employed: If you're not looking for your next job, you're probably looking at a period of forced unemployment.

What do I mean? Consider this: Of the world's 2,500 largest companies, 355 or 14% fired their CEO last year for lousy performance. While many of those executives walked away with lucrative severance packages, the companies they left behind were often forced to trim benefits, cut pay and, ultimately, lay employees off. For example:

  • Crooks at Enron put 21,000 people, including even the most loyal and high performing employees, out of work, into financial distress or both.

  • Bernard Ebbers, the former Chairman of WorldCom bankrupted the company with an $11 billion fraud that caused countless hard-working, completely innocent employees to lose their jobs.

  • Carly Fiorina was a media darling as the CEO of Hewlett Packard, but so weakened the company with her business strategies that it fired her and announced a layoff of 15,000 workers, abrogating a longstanding corporate commitment to employees.

  • In other words, the sobering truth is that, in today's world of work, the quality of your individual performance and the dedication that you show to your employer give you absolutely no job security. While there are obviously exceptions to that rule, there is no guarantee that you are working for one of them.

    How can you protect yourself in such an environment? Become a "career activist." A career activist is someone who:
  • sets the direction for their career (by identifying near, mid and longer term goals that are interesting, challenging and meaningful to them); and

  • initiates the specific actions (e.g., finding a mentor, acquiring a certain kind of experience, learning new skills) that will enable them to make steady progress toward and actually accomplish those goals.

  • In other words, a career activist is in charge of the change in their career, rather than its victim.

    Does that mean that a career activist is simply a serial job seeker? No. A job seeker wants something that employers control: a job. Their success is based on someone else's decision. A career activist, in contrast, focuses on what they control: their career. They make the decisions, and they do so to meet their own goals. Sometimes that may mean deciding to move from one employer to another, sometimes it may mean moving from one job to another within the same employer, and sometimes it may mean staying right where you are and overcoming a challenge in your current job. The selection of one course over another, however, is always based on a single guiding tenet: it is to do that which will advance you toward a state in which you are the best you can be at your profession, craft or trade.

    It is that end state that obliges you to be continuously on the look out for your next job. There is no other way to ensure that you are always in a position to do your best work. You have to know what comes next in your self development so that you can prepare yourself to advance to that higher level of occupational expertise and contribution. Think of it as Aim, Ready, Fire rather than the all too frequent alternative of Assigned, Accept, Be Fired. Your goal is to perfect what you can do at work, and your career is your personal quest to achieve that end.

    That's why career activism is not disloyalty to your employer. As an employee, you owe your employer performance, not permanence. Career activism enables you to supercharge your performance so that your employer gets the return it deserves on its investment in you. Career activism, however, is based on the principle of win-win relationships. In other words, both parties-the employer and you-must gain from the employment experience. What's the benefit you acquire? Your supercharged performance on-the-job is your best insurance in the demanding, ever changing business landscape of the 21st Century. In good times, it will increase the paycheck and satisfaction you bring home from work. In hard times, it will enable you to land on your feet. It won't prevent you from being laid off, but it will prevent a lay-off from derailing your career. You will have to look for a new position like everyone else who is affected, but you will do so informed about where you should be heading next to advance your career and what positions will enable you to accomplish that goal. In short, you will know how to define success for yourself, and you will know where to go to find it.

    How can you acquire that knowledge? Give yourself a "personal performance appraisal." Turn off the television, shut down the computer, and spend a little quality time alone with the person who is living your career. Ask them the following questions:
  • Am I doing my best work in my current job or am I just coasting?

  • Are my skills and knowledge at the state-of-the-art in my career field or am I growing obsolete?

  • What job should I be doing in the next 12-18 months tin order to upgrade my performance and my satisfaction at work?

  • What do I need to do now to prepare myself so that I can compete successfully for that job at that time?


  • Career activism is essentially a pair of commitments you make to yourself. You commit to bringing the best you can be to work each day and to improving your personal best every day. Those promises provide the only real security there is in today's volatile and perilous workplace. Unlike employment contracts and lofty sounding speeches from CEOs, they offer employment protection you can rely on ... because you are relying on yourself.

    Thanks for reading,
    Peter

    P.S. July is Pitch In and Help Out Month. Tell your friends about WEDDLE's newsletter. They'll appreciate your interest in them and how the newsletter fills out their skills and knowledge.



    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    BrokerHunter.com partnered with The Securities Institute of America to provide the Institute's educational offerings to its site visitors. These include live and online classes for securities professionals' pre-licensing and continuing education needs. It's a good example of the difference between a job board and a career portal. The former is the electronic equivalent of old fashioned classified ads. The latter is an online career community center-a place where you can enhance your skills, network with your peers, and advance your career. A job board is a tool for active job search. A career portal, in contrast, serves you when you aren't looking for a job as well as when you are.

    Gallup and Experian conducted a survey of retirement plans among 1,000 adults in June. It found that only 20% of the respondents plan to retire before the age of 60; half expect to retire between the ages of 61 and 69, and 12% plan to retire at 70+. A hardy 11% say they'll never retire, while 7% are undecided. Whichever of these groups you fall into, it's important to realize that plans only come true with adequate preparation. Now is the time to be thinking about what you must do to stay in the workforce another 5, 10, 15, 20 or more years. To put it another way, longevity is a career plan buster unless it is coupled with knowledge and performance. Make sure that your skills are up-to-date and your contribution is indispensable, and you'll be able to work as long (or as short) as you would like. Ignore that preparation, and you may find yourself "retired" before you're ready.

    The 4Jobs.com Career Network released the results of a study of online job postings. It found that over 40% of the jobs posted online are in just three career fields: technology (23%), healthcare/medical (11%), and finance and accounting (10%). Does that mean you won't find your dream job on the Internet if you work in some other field? Absolutely not. At any point in time, there are millions of openings listed online, spanning virtually every field of work. To find them requires skill, but it's a skill we all have and use every day. What is it? Being a good consumer. In other words, you pick the best job boards (for you) the same way you pick the right computer or MP3 player. You conduct research on what's available (there are 40,000+ job boards, so don't limit your options), compare the alternatives side-by-side, try out or "test drive" the finalists, and then select the sites that work best for you.

    TrueCareers surveyed job seekers on its site and discovered that more than 60% plan to purchase a new home within a year. How about that for confidence in the job market? Or, is it a sure-fire formula for a heart attack? Purchasing a home and looking for a job are two of life's greatest stressors. Handling one is challenge enough; taking on two at the same time or in close proximity to one another seems ... well, almost fatalistic. Sure, everyone wants to own a home, but make sure you're around to enjoy it Find that dream job-doing so is a demanding assignment in and of itself-and get settled there first. Build a good solid foundation with your employer, and then, with that in place, begin to look for the house of your dreams. You'll be in a much better position to handle the search and find what you want.

    The University of Bristol, an academic institution in the United Kingdom, concluded a study of workers' physical activity during the workday. It learned that those who integrate physical activity-walking, running, working out-during the lunch hour or at some other point during the day came back to their desks revived and more productive than their sedentary peers. Exercise helped their performance, improved their attention to safety and enriched their interpersonal relationships on-the-job. We all know how hard it is to get beyond the arm-bend-insert-and-chew at lunch, but finding another more rigorous exercise-even if it's just a couple of laps around the parking lot with a friend-can make the afternoon not only more interesting and enjoyable, but also more rewarding, as well.



    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Insite ... how well do you know the Web's 40,000+ job boards?

    1. You're an experienced Controller looking for a better paying position. Which of the following sites would likely account for your best employment prospects?

  • CareerJournal.com

  • 6FigureJobs.com

  • GreatNumbers.com

  • Netshare.com


  • 2. You started reading Harry Potter as a kid and now, years later, you're looking for a position as a children's librarian. Which of the following sites would add magic to your search?
  • LisJobs.com

  • LibrarySpot.com

  • AcademicCareers.com

  • LibraryJobPostings.org


  • 3. As a seasoned event manager, you're looking for a senior position with a corporate Marketing Department. Which of the following sites would help you generate a lot of leads?
  • CareerAge.com

  • EventTalent.com

  • MarketingToday.com

  • EventMarketerMag.com



  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite ... from the pages of WEDDLE's 2005/6 Guides and Directories

    MOAA's Career Center
    www.moaa.org/tops
    Military Officers Association of America

    Post full time jobs: Yes
    Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes - All
    Distribution of jobs: National - USA
    Number of jobs: Not Reported
    Salary levels of jobs: $51-75K/year, $76-100K/year
    Offer a job agent: Yes
    Resume database: Yes
    How long are resumes stored: 365 days
    Restrictions on who can post: Members of MOAA only
    Other services for job seekers: Career information, Links to other sites with additional information/resources

    Answers to Site Insite
    1. All but GreatNumbers.com, the site of a financial consulting company.
    2. All of them.
    3. All but EventTalent.com, the site for a talent agency in the entertainment field.



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