Preparing for the New Next
If you are over 25, you probably learned about career management from your friends or family. Find a good company, work hard, put in an honest day's work, and your career will grow and evolve over your lifetime. You may change employers a couple of times during your 40+ years, but good people can always find a good-paying position.
Then the world changed, and the game changed, but nobody created a new "instruction book" for the millions who found themselves out of work and with little-to-no prospect of finding similar new employment.
The first half of managing your career today is to understand the new landscape of employment and what companies are looking for. That is a new way of defining talent and what attributes organizations are seeking. It is looking at and competing in an environment where the new norm is more people than positions.
Employers know that they are hiring today for tomorrow's business needs that are not yet defined. But they need a knowledgeable and flexible workforce to adapt and thrive.
So how do you set yourself apart? How do you become successful for a position, skills, and needs that are yet to be defined? Keeping Employable Talent employable requires solid knowledge of the Four Pillars. These pillars are vital to help keep more people employable as opposed to simply employed.
My research of executives who have experienced unplanned, but successful career transitions indicates that they prevailed because they possessed a high degree of resilience. Resilience is akin to when a tree faces a strong headwind and bends, but does not break. Whether an individual has learned or acquired or simply possesses a natural tendency to be resilient, the trait demonstrably enhances that person’s adaptability to unwelcome developments along the career path.
Among some resilient individuals, each career and life challenge is viewed as if it were all a game. Challenges and obstacles are to be embraced. They are springboards to greater accomplishments and a more stimulating existence. A downturn on the job—even summarily being fired—is a big challenge. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s one of the many challenges that life presents. Survey some of the top leaders and executives in all industries and professions, and you will find that nearly everyone has a story about a job at which they failed during some aspect of their careers.
You can emotionally toughen yourself by looking toward the future, anticipating your next move, and establishing an alternative game plan. The people who do the best once receiving shocking news such as a termination or experience a "career kick in the butt", tend to maintain a strong sense of self. They stay relatively optimistic. They have an ability to analyze the situation objectively. They are comfortable taking appropriate risks, and they keep an eye to the future.
Staying balanced is central to a successful employment situation as well as a long-term career. The importance of balance among one’s professional life, intimate life, career life, public life, parenting life, friendships, travel, physical and mental health, and spirituality cannot be understated. The ability to stay balanced allows Employable Talent to compete for careers and to complete successful career transitions.
The people who try to use the workplace to obtain the bulk of the life rewards that they desire invariably feel let down. People who maintain balance do not submerge their personal identities into their professional identities. People out of balance view career setbacks, particularly terminations, as crises of major proportions. These individuals most often link their very identity excessively with their work. In the face of a career crisis, individuals with high balance quotients in my studies were able to avoid many of the emotions and feelings that others with lower balance quotients typically experienced: fear, frustration, resentment, anger, depression, guilt, and mistrust. Upon hitting career roadblocks, individuals in balance rarely experience the feeling of being “stuck.” Such individuals are often able to maintain a sense of objectivity.
Strategic Career Planning -
A strategic career plan can help Employable Talent maintain employability by having an alternative game plan in the case of unforeseen career developments. In my study of executives who had been terminated without fair warning, the ones who had prepared strategic career plans were able to quickly act on those plans and move forward rather than focusing on emotions or becoming immobilized by indecision.
What actions would you pursue if you were unexpectedly derailed in your career? Once actual derailments occurred, a plan can prove to be useful in providing direction. Studies confirm that, in almost every case, individuals with strategic career plans minimize emotional uncertainty and disequilibrium.
Ideally, a strategic plan helps to achieve optimal returns on investment of time, energy, and efforts. Strategic career planning helps individuals focus on the handful of career-enhancing activities that predictably offer the best results. Like others, employable talent who engage in strategic career planning constantly grapple with the questions, “How do I reap the greatest rewards for my efforts? How do I focus on areas of prime opportunity, minimize risk, maximize gain, and maintain balance so that I can stay in the game for the long run?”
Strategic career planners who intend to reach their goals do not allow logistics to stop them. Within reason, allocating more time, effort, and funds tends to be the rule rather than the exception, and worthy goals require some level of sacrifice. Handled in stride, on a regular basis, your strategic career plan adds up to solid achievements.
Active Financial Planning -
The fourth pillar of Employable Talent is active financial planning. Everyone wants to be financially secure. No one lives easily or well if constantly suffering from want and worry. We all need to pay our bills on time and have enough left over for a decent standard of living. We want to put funds aside for retirement or a rainy day.
Yet, the 50-year-old American has assets of less than $50,000—and that includes the net value of their home. Many people have not saved adequately for retirement. At least a third of adults knowingly spend more than their means; two out of five households spend more than they earn in a year’s time.
What you have in savings, how much of your assets are liquid, what termination benefits you receive, and how long you could comfortably go between paychecks from your last place of employment to your next—these are all vital pieces of information you need to know if you are to understand your options. The career professional who has six months or more of cash reserves has an advantage over those who can’t afford any break between paychecks.
Some people who understand the value of resilience, balance, and strategic career planning—as well as their future employability — still dig in their heels when it comes to active financial planning. They’ll say, “I don’t see how this is fundamental to my long-term, future employability. I’m resilient; I’m balanced. If I do well at the interview, what do my finances have to do with anything?” They overlook the fact that being in an advantageous financial position provides leverage. Sudden career downturns are not as jarring. You have time to figure out where you want to go and what you want to do next. You are not desperate. So you do not have to take whatever comes along first.
It’s not too late to initiate a plan; active financial planning is valuable to any worker at any age. By making small contributions to savings and investments, people can see their funds build up to notable numbers.
The Four Pillars Working Together -
Those who are best prepared will demonstrate to potential employers that they understand the Four Pillars and are prepared to add value to an organization that must successfully navigate an uncertain and unpredictable future. One must demonstrate they are truly versatile, willing and able to make an immediate and long-term contribution.
As we re-learn how to manage our lifetime career goals and objectives, are we treating unplanned career transition and outplacement support as an event? Are we developing a new life skill of coping with an ever-changing environment of current and future employment? If we treat it as just a short-term event, we will continuously find ourselves left behind.
It is important to focus on the new life skill of your personal Career and Employment Management to remain a sought-after talent contributor. You and your career counselor can accomplish this goal only if you are willing to rethink and reframe what you learned earlier and understand the new paradigm of today's career management.
Do you own the Four Pillars to navigate the future? Those that do will be able to thrive in this new, ever-changing environment.
Dr. David Miles is Chairman of the Miles LeHane Companies, Inc. He is a member of the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD), a member and founding chapter President of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the Association of Career Professionals (ACP) and a Charter Fellow of the Institute of Career Certification International (ICC International), as the largest global non-profit certification Institute. Author of The Four Pillars of Employable Talent and Building Block Essentials. Follow David on Twitter @David_C_Miles.