Let’s face it, the world of work has drastically changed over the last 20-30 years. When I was just a young boy, my parents were working in jobs that they intended to stay in, for as long as the employer would keep them. It was not uncommon to know people who had been with same company for 25, 30, and even 35 years or more. Back then, company pensions were normal and job security was actually a real thing. Today, the world of work looks much different. For the most part, gone are the pensions and the gold watches. They have been replaced by merger, layoffs, and general employee dissatisfaction.
Get used to it…you will have more than one job in your career and you will work for more than one company. Research has shown that the average amount of time that an employee stays with an employer is 5 to 7 years. Extrapolate this out across a typical 40 year working career and you can expect to work for at least 5 to 6 different employers.
So how do you effectively manage your career in this relatively new world of work?
You start by taking responsibility for your own career development. No one should care more about your career than you. A career path is something that you, the employee, should determine. Do not rely on the employer to define this for you because after all, the path they choose may not be what you had in mind!
In addition, there are five areas that you should focus on to ensure that you continue to have viable career options:
1. Monitor your skills and make sure that they are not at a risk of becoming obsolete
Continuous professional development should be your mantra when it comes to your skills. In some industries, there is new technology that comes out every year. Think information technology. You do not want to be perceived as a “dinosaur” when it comes to professional development. You are responsible for keeping your skills up to date. This will serve to maintain your marketability in the workforce.
2. Stay abreast of the job market and recognize industry growth trends and areas of high growth
What industry sectors are growing? Which ones are declining? Which side of the fence does your industry fall on? If you happen to work in a declining sector, get out before it is too late. Think textiles and furniture manufacturing.
3. Understand how your talents, strengths, and interests translate into alternate opportunities
What other industries hire people with your education, skills, and talents? How can you leverage what you like to and what you are good at into a new career opportunity?
4. Establish and nurture your professional network of industry-related contacts
If you lost your job today, could you pick up the phone and have an interview within a week? Networking is not an end-of-job event. It is not something that you start when your current job ends. Networking is a process of building relationships today that could influence opportunities for you tomorrow. It is a lifelong event; something that you should always be doing.
5. Seek the advice and counsel of a mentor and career coach
We have doctors, lawyers, accountants, and mechanics. We trust these individuals with our health, finances, and vehicles. Who do we trust with our careers? After all, how can we pay for the doctor, the lawyer, the accountant, and the mechanic if we are not gainfully employed? A mentor is an important person to have on your career-related board of directors. A mentor can be an effective sounding board for career issues. A career coach can be an effective member of your board, someone who can help you navigate the treacherous waters of the job search and decrease your time in the market for a new position.