There’s a lot of conventional wisdom swirling around in the career management category. Which means it’s time to insert a dose of reality — no matter how awful the market may be. We’ll be the first to admit: We’ve probably unintentionally contributed to the situation. But that doesn’t mean buying into the same old drumbeats. Here’s more:
1.) Dump the career aspiration blah-blah and focus on The Job. What do you do really well that others may need right now — sales, marketing, operations? If demand is low for what you do or have done, then consider retraining or more education. Careers and “work with passion” are great when the economy is growing but hold little sway when things are contracting. The only exception is when you’ve decided to become an entrepreneur. Then it’s a whole different ball game. And it’s not one to play just because nothing else in your job search is working.
2.) Suspend the how to tools, on-line resume builders and social media. On-line should only take about an hour or two each day max. Find the potential buyers (hint: they’re human with voices and generally live closer than you think) then craft the proposition with their needs first, your competencies second. Find a way to create ongoing conversation. And no, the resume and cover letter don’t always come first even though a majority cling to these tools like a security blanket.
3.) Differentiation doesn’t always mean being different. It’s more about bringing an advantage to bear that someone else has been unable to. Example: “Highly experienced attorney with 35 years experience” means very little when stacked against “Proven litigator specializing in Fortune 1000 employment law.”
4.) Chances are you are not a brand and won’t become one anytime soon even despite what the personal branding whizzes and certified strategists have to say. At the core, branding is about cutting through the clutter to identify why what you offer is valuable and then making sure whatever that is resonates with potential buyers. It doesn’t depend on clippings and other self serving nonsense. The process is not the product either. We’ve seen our share of empty stares on this topic. Bottom line: We’re not all bars of soap or laundry detergent. So get a move on. Risk being yourself.
5.) If You Inc. isn’t your cup of tea, then become a teacher, government worker or hospital employee. No one in a business-driven environment should be incapable of standing on their own. Through a series of intended and unintended actions, we have created a system where lack of accountability rules the day. Layoffs rippling through the economy have claimed their share of performers. But the cuts also have claimed a few pretenders. And while it’s painful in the short run, the adjustment makes us stronger in the long run. So the economists say. We’ll stay tuned and report back on how this lullaby plays out.