Step up or step outBy Nimish Thakkar
Recently, I got the opportunity to work with, Nick Smith, a fascinating client, in fact, one of the most intelligent and talented professionals I have ever met. Yet, despite the abundance of natural talent, Nick was unemployed for a very long time -- the few jobs he managed to find did not last very long. After a series of setbacks, he knew something was wrong but couldnt unravel the mystery cause that was foiling his career goals repeatedly.
During one of our coaching sessions, we finally hit the life-changing eureka moment, not just for Smith, but for the many who are guilty of the same [professional] crime: knowledge stagnation. In his career spanning over two decades, Nick had paid very little attention to his professional skills and expertise. He was so focused on the work he was doing, he rarely paid attention to the changes that were shaking the very foundations of his chosen profession, a bitter truth that came to his attention after his long-time employer closed operations.
Envision the future: think growth, think cutting-edge.
Avid business readers may be aware of the case of the word processor giant. The company had invested billions of dollars into its word processing product, but had made the fatal mistake of underestimating the impact of personal computers. Much to the manufacturers disappointment, the product was rendered obsolete when PCs became accessible to common consumers.
Since we work with the same employer for a number of years, it is too easy to close our eyes to what is happening around us and think I am doing my job well; I am never going to need that new innovation.
In my past articles, I have always emphasized on the fact that you are in charge of your career, not your employer. Set aside a professional development budget and ask yourself what professional competencies will be in demand a few years from now? Use this information to create your annual professional development and training plan.
Books, e-groups, newsletters, professional associations, conferences, seminars, webinars, training programs, graduate degrees, peers, competitors -- opportunities exist in abundance.
Do I practice before I preach?
It may come as a surprise to many, but even to this day, I spend the first hour of my work reading over a dozen professional newsletters, articles, and books that make their way to my desk. In addition to professional reading, I regularly interact with peers, participate in numerous webinars and training programs, contribute toward more learning and networking groups that I can count, and maintain membership in key professional associations. In addition to the theoretical learning, I regularly float my own resume in the market and attend interviews to keep up with what is happening.
The truth is that we are knowledge workers in this Information Age, an age where knowledge becomes obsolete faster than fashion. Not keeping up is like building a house with cards; the slightest breeze of change or innovation can shatter the construction to pieces.
Staying current is the ideal way to build a successful career -- and the best hedge against uncertainty.
Consider creating networking cards that you can carry with you at all times. In place of title, you can use creative branding statements, such as Award-Winning Marketing Professional, Certified Executive Recruiter, Chair of Geeks Club.
Ask the coach
How long should I stay with each employer? Staying too long would raise red flags and too many short term jobs would get me classified as a job hopper. What would you recommend?
I admit the answer is very subjective and each hiring manager would have her or his own perception about the right duration of time.
I am not overly fanatical about the number, though. For me, the minimum would be the number of years I would take to make positive contributions (translation: powerful resume material) and the maximum would be the point where I feel I lack opportunities or am not growing professionally. This range could be 4-6 years for some, while for others it could be 5-7 years.
You could also research norms within your profession and geographic location. I wouldnt recommend following the trends blindly, but the information certainly helps.