Career Victory: Guerrilla Tactics in the Digital Job JungleBy Tom Jackson
Part One: Don't Farm Out Your Future
In the landmark Elks movie theater in Rapid City, S.D., 200 people have turned out for a job-strategies workshop. The speaker asks the participants to pair off and alternate role-playing employer and job seeker. The employer has one question: "Why should I hire you?" Nervous laughter breaks out as the job seekers fumble for the right words. More than one blurts out, "I need a job!" Ginny, a laid off researcher, can manage only, "I'm good at what I do."
Ed, a $75,000-a-year telecommunications specialist who's been out of work for 10 months, wants his old job back. Unfortunately, there isn't much call for what he used to do. He needs to look at alternatives and envision a new future for himself.
At the nearby South Dakota School of Mines, 30 career consultants are discussing this problem. They wonder how to support clients who are totally unprepared for the future. "People are afraid to look for what they want" because they haven't learned to think that way, says Peggy Schlechter, dean of student services at National American University. "Their fear gets in the way, and they're looking for someone else to make the choices for them," she says. Another consultant comments that many people spend more time researching a new car than on the direction to take in their careers.
What's Your Future?
Most of us are like Ed. We rely on past job titles and try to build our future out of our past, using traditional job-search approaches. In a rapidly changing world, we need to find a better way.
We must stop the job-search madness and think about our futures. "What future?" you say. "I've got a more serious problem. I've got to find a job. The future will take care of itself."
Actually, it won't. The work world is an ever-changing, dynamic
phenomenon. New opportunities are being created constantly that
require new skills while organizing traditional skills in new ways.
Relying on your past to build your future and looking in the same
places as you once did for openings--the way most people search for
jobs-- won't work.
Like a powerful story or screenplay, a job search must be a focused search for something, not a random quest. Preferably, something you're passionate about. If you only want to get back on the carousel where you left off, you likely won't demonstrate enough energy to interest anyone who's breaking ground and hiring in this economy.
Create a New Blueprint
Still, it isn't surprising that many job seekers resemble the Rapid City folk. Many experts in job-search-related stress say the pressure of being unemployed often spurs people to take the least demanding course of action. They hastily crank out ill-conceived mass mailings, employ expensive resume services and make thoughtless phone calls. These tactics keep them from what they really need to do to create a satisfying future, which is to create a coherent plan focused on your future.
If you wish to stop doing more of what doesn't work and focus on what will lead you to your long-term future goals and address your immediate needs, you must understand certain principles. You then need to follow them up by answering important questions and taking suggested actions. This three-part series provides a blueprint to help you achieve this career victory, starting with three principles that can improve your short- and long-term odds of being successful.
Principle 1: There is no scarcity of opportunity.
How can there be no scarcity of opportunity when thousands of people are being laid off? The short answer is that at its most basic, a job is an opportunity to solve a problem or add value to a situation. There's no shortage of problems in the world now, and so, by definition, there's no scarcity of opportunity. What is scarce are people who know how to convert problems into tangible opportunity and to express this ability convincingly to problem owners.
The longer answer is that the economy and its work opportunities come from the ground up, not from the top down. Before today's 25 million Web sites were built, only the ideas and problems involved in creating them existed. Now the Internet is the fastest growing human-communications system in the world. Use it as a model. As the Internet grew, people hooked on at different stages. What's happening now that offers you the same potential?
The $10 trillion U.S. economy employs 146 million people, up from 144 million in 2001, the Labor Department reports. The overall turnover rate is about 20% annually. That means that last month more than 2 million jobs were filled or refilled. The unemployment rate is about 6%. The employment rate is 94%. How often do you get 94-to-6 odds in your favor? There's better than a 90% chance that in six months you'll be working. Will you choose the opportunity or will the opportunity choose you?
Consider the entire landscape of opportunity as your shopping field; advertised jobs are only a small percentage of the total. Don't join in or succumb to discussions about job scarcity, the bad economy, lack of responses from employers, bad luck and other negative thoughts. These fears can be paralyzing. You want just one out of the 146 million positions, and you want to be able to choose it for yourself. Choice leads to satisfaction. You can have a choice if you're willing to go beyond the scarcity myth and shift your approach.