This month’s Feature Article is actually the transcript of an interview that was recently conducted at the offices of Career Potential, LLC. Ford’s associate, Susan Fletcher, asks important questions about how long-term career management ensures maximum success. |
SUSAN: What is the difference between “doing your job” and “managing your career?”
FORD: Well, doing your job is very, very important. If you’re working for an employer, you have to work hard, do well, meet their needs and fulfill your obligations. But the thing about jobs is that they can come and go. In other words, the employer owns the job, and you can lose it any time. Your career is yours always. No one can take your career away from you. And furthermore, a job, in my opinion, is a subset of your career, not the other way around. Too many people focus all their energies, all their attention, on the job, when really, it’s just an assignment. It’s just a temporary way-station in the course of your entire career.
SUSAN: You mentioned the concept of “Perpetual Career Management.” Do you literally mean “perpetual” – that you have to manage your career all the time and forever? That’s a huge commitment.
FORD: Well, yes, but having a career, working, making a living is a huge commitment too. Getting married, having kids, having a family is a huge commitment. Buying a house, having a mortgage is a huge commitment. This is all part of the life we live, and if you’re going to be a working professional, you have to face-up to this commitment that you’re going to be managing your career forever, until the day you retire.
SUSAN: You also mentioned that your job is a subset of your overall career. How do I go about creating that mindset or changing that mindset, so that I will think of my jobs as little steps along the way? How do I internalize that?
FORD: Well, I like to think of it as an entrepreneurial mindset. For example, let’s say you had a small consulting business of your own. You would have clients. Clients come, clients go. Projects come and go. But your business continues, and you’re always looking for the next opportunity or the next client, right? Same with managing your career. As I said before, jobs might be great, but they all end eventually, so the entrepreneurial mindset dictates that you’re always thinking about growing, being more successful, building a better future. So I think that this mindset is great, even for people who are in full-time jobs.
SUSAN: I think the Millennials already have that mindset. They stay at a job, what is it, maybe two years, and then they move on. For us baby boomers, how do we go about thinking, “OK, my job’s not going to last 10 years or 15 years?” How can I see myself as my own service center? What do I need to do? What are some of the daily activities to really start thinking that way?
FORD: Perpetual career management, as we know, means managing your career and keeping focused on your career over the long term. How do you do that specifically? There are many techniques. One strategy is to always keep your career documents up-to-date, because you never know what’s going to happen. Another thing is to have a clear vision of where you’re going. What’s your long-term career plan? Keeping your other documents current, like having testimonials or endorsements, letters of recommendation, lists of professional references, having your LinkedIn profile fully up-to-date. These are just some of the things that you want to keep top of mind, always fresh, always new. Also, being involved in your business community outside of your job, professional associations, organizations, even volunteer work in some cases. You want to be plugged-in, connected to the greater business landscape, not just within your own silo.
SUSAN: So for example, in January, maybe I could focus on doing my documents. In February, I might focus on networking. So I do these all separately, along the way, or do I try to do them concurrently, or what’s the best approach?
FORD: I think it’s mostly concurrently, always a little bit here and there. Every week, you should be spending time on your perpetual career management and your self-marketing tools. It’s very, very important to keep this top of mind and to not get lost 100% in your job. So many people are consumed with their job. They have no time for anything else, professionally speaking. This is a huge mistake. I tell my clients to block-out time in their weekly calendar for networking and for other perpetual career management activities. If you don’t do that, it’ll never get done.
SUSAN: You mentioned several career documents. Of course, we’re all familiar with the resume. How often should you update that?
FORD: Any time something changes in your career or job. So let’s say that you get a promotion to a new title, or you just had a work anniversary – so you need to change the dates on your resume. Or let’s say that you have a new accomplishment that you’re very proud of. You can go into the resume, add another bullet accomplishment into your current job. Basically, the answer is – whenever it’s appropriate, whenever needed.
SUSAN: OK, thanks. I think we’re all familiar with letters of recommendation too, but you mentioned something called testimonials. Can you explain what testimonials are?
FORD: Sure. Imagine that you have eight letters of recommendation. Let’s say that each one of those letters has one great paragraph that really stands-out from the others. You would excerpt those paragraphs and then compile them on one page so that you have essentially six to eight paragraphs in quotation marks. Each one is ascribed to the author, whether it’s a coworker, an old boss, whoever it might be, and then put all this on your letterhead with your name, address, phone number, e-mail address and so forth at the top. Now you have your testimonials page. Think of them as short endorsements. It’s a quick read that any prospective employer or recruiter can look at. They can see right away that you have incredibly high credibility. That’s the goal.
SUSAN: So you make this part of your career portfolio?
SUSAN: Also, one of the strategies you mentioned was to take leadership roles. Well, not all of us are leaders. How can we do that if we’re really either a reluctant leader or we don’t feel comfortable in that role?
FORD: Well, you don’t have to be an aggressive, Type-A personality. You can be a leader in your own way. If you belong to a professional association, you can become the Secretary, or the Treasurer, or the Vice President for Programming. You don’t have to be extremely visible. You don’t have to be out there in front of the entire group every day, but move-up into a leadership or a responsible role where you’re really contributing something. You’re not just hiding in the shadows, paying your monthly dues and that’s all. Let’s get you actively involved. Let’s get you into a situation where you’re also growing your skills and your contacts by doing this volunteer work. Volunteer work like this is a great way to expand your repertoire of skills and behaviors, things that you might not get permission to do or be asked to do in your job.
SUSAN: So even though it’s not paid work, it’s valuable work that you can add to your credentials.
SUSAN: That’s a great idea. You’ve heard of Steven Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” One is called “sharpening the saw,” where you continuously improve. This is kind of the same idea you have in a lot of your 10 Strategies. What specific things can you tell someone regarding their career, to continue growing professionally?
FORD: Well, the way I look at it is that no employer is going to be interested in a candidate whose intellectual capital is stale, old, worn-out. What we have to do is stay current, always learning, always growing. Courses, workshops, seminars, teleseminars, webinars, books, booklets, e-books, mentors, coaches. There is certainly no shortage of information, of help, of educational material. Every professional, in my opinion, has an obligation and responsibility to continue growing, learning. Part of perpetual career management is always being better tomorrow than you are today, knowing more tomorrow, being more skilled, more prepared than you were yesterday. That’s simply what professionals do.
SUSAN: You also suggested not just leadership roles, but giving presentations or writing articles. What types of articles? Should they be in your field of study? Should they be in your profession, or can you write about something other than that and get noticed?
FORD: In perpetual career management, one of the strategies is building your brand or building your expertise, your credibility, distinguishing yourself as an expert, a thought leader. One of the ways to do that, as you mentioned, is writing. You don’t have to write books. You don’t have to write magazine articles, even. You can write shorter items that you can post on LinkedIn or maybe submit to a website. It could be one page. It could be half a page, or it could be 20 pages. It’s doesn’t really matter. The most important part is actually to get your name seen, for people to see your “byline,” as we used to call it. That builds your credibility and your visibility. It makes you seem more attractive as an expert or potentially as a thought leader.
FORD: Giving talks is also a great way to continually develop your career management. You don’t have to give a TED talk in front of thousands of people. You can start small. Chamber of commerce, maybe a small neighborhood or a community organization that you belong to, maybe an organization has a smaller group that gets together from time to time in your area. Getting-up in front of five people is not that difficult compared to getting-up in front of a hundred people, so start small. While public speaking may not be for everyone, it’s just one other technique to get your name and your face out there, build your credibility, and continue your perpetual career management.
SUSAN: I know continuing your career growth is important to employers. In fact, in interviews, a lot of times they’ll ask you right out, “What have you been doing lately to improve your skills?”
FORD: That’s right.
SUSAN: What are some other ways to continually improve skills? I know we mentioned taking classes. What other online resources can you name?
FORD: Obviously, there are so many. If you were to Google computer skills, or interpersonal skills, or diversity training, or whatever it is, you’d have a whole list of learning opportunities, just in your own community. I would say just look it up. You’ll find it. Then make a move. Be bold. Try something new. Learn something new!
SUSAN: When people think of networking, they think of making contacts to promote their business or their job search. But in your 10 Vital Strategies article, you also recommend asking “How can I help you?” How does that work in promoting perpetual career management and helping your own career?
FORD: I look at this as a long-term effort of building your reputation or building your “brand,” as some people call it. Everybody needs something, everybody has interests, everybody has priorities. If you’re good at asking about and fulfilling some of those needs, if you have a reputation built over many years of being service-oriented, providing real value, showing genuine generosity, that’s going to take you very, very far.
FORD: So I think that part of networking, which is therefore part of perpetual career management, is building your reputation of being generous, helpful, interested, engaged.
SUSAN: What are some of the reasons people don’t take advantage of doing this? What causes people not to do this, besides time? Why don’t they try to build their careers in this way?
FORD: Well, perpetual career management takes extra time, extra effort, extra discipline – and some people simply have never heard of this and never thought of it. You know, most people go to their job, they come home, they go to their job, they come home. So this never even occurs to them. I think this line of reasoning appeals to people who are ambitious, people who want to grow and improve, who really embrace the concept of professional and personal development.
SUSAN: You also mentioned always asking, “How can I contribute more?” Is this something you say internally or do you put it right out there to the managers and the folks around you?
FORD: Part of perpetual career management is improving your own performance at work, when you have a job. So it’s not just outside of the job, it’s also within your job. It’s about asking for more responsibility. It’s something that you put right out there to your boss, to your team.
FORD: This is where a lot of people will say to me, “But I don’t even have enough time to do what I’m already supposed to be doing. How can I possibly ask for more responsibility?” Well that’s a longer conversation. It usually has to do with learning delegation skills, being more selective about where you spend your time and effort. But the quick answer to your question is yes, you put it right out there. You actually ask for more responsibility when it seems appropriate. This will get you selected for the plum assignments, the high-visibility assignments. This is what will get you promoted when a new opportunity arises.
SUSAN: And also investigating other opportunities. It’s almost like be ready to move-up at the drop of a hat. That’s another strategy. Again, it’s like building that arsenal so in case that job doesn’t work-out or in case something changes within that organization, you’re ready on a moment’s notice to move forward in your career.
FORD: That’s right, and perpetual career management is all about being prepared for anything. It means you’re always at the top of your game, it means you’re always ready. Your materials are ready, your documents are ready, your oral statements are ready, your connections, and your network, and your contacts with recruiters are always current. It’s a very different mindset. It’s very empowering and engaging. It’s something that can give a person a greater sense of control and really open-up possibilities for the future that otherwise wouldn’t exist!
Copyright © 2019, Career Potential, LLC. Reprinted by permission of Ford R. Myers, a nationally-known Career Expert and author of "Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring." Download your free career success gifts now at http://www.careerbookbonuses.com.
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