Recent news from the Bureau of Labor ... ... anemic job growth in a ... economy and the election of ... to quit looking for work ... to baffle the experts and depress t
Recent news from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting anemic job growth in a recovering economy and the election of thousands to quit looking for work continues to baffle the experts and depress the unemployed. If only there were jobs… politicians would get elected, company profits would soar and individuals would be able to earn a living. Behind statistics, politicians’ promises and corporate reluctance to hire, is a larger idiom dictating a shift in how we think. Whether 150,000 or 1,000 new jobs are created, the numbers belie a new reality that we, as individuals, must embrace if our employment continuity is to be maintained. For over a decade, irrespective of economic downturns, the combination of technology and globalization has wreaked havoc in the workplace. The "workplace" has become "workspace" reflecting the virtual nature of worker output. The movement of work product knows no geographical boundaries or world time zones. The electronic tethers allow engineers in Bangalore to develop IT applications and interpret CT scans for American-based banks and hospitals, aeronautics specialists in Russia to design parts for US aircraft manufacturers and accountants in Manila crunch numbers for US corporate audits. Additionally, there is an eclipse of world markets with that of the US. Companies are looking for population growth that ensures demand, under-developed areas that ensure need and highly educated, cheap labor that ensures profitability. North America as a market is losing its "glitz". Yes, it’s important but (swallow hard) possibly not as important as other world locations. No labor law can out-legislate the quagmire of immigration, citizenship, security, nationalism and corporate interests relating to job creation. Waiting for economic reports portending job growth is folly for the individual job seeker. The availability of jobs will always ebb and flow based on factors well beyond any single person’s control. The responsibility for staying employed rests with us as individuals—not with economic statistics, government programs or corporate initiatives. It is time for individuals to take control and adopt career management strategies that recognize this new world reality. New strategies include: Understand the labor market: Acknowledge your competition sits not in the next cubicle but in another country. The reality is your company can hire an engineer with a master’s and five years of experience at $1,000/month in India versus paying you $7,000/month. It’s critical to demonstrate the value you deliver for this additional cost through new ideas, recommended improvements and specialized expertise. Embrace technology: Stay current in the applications appropriate to your field. Master your company’s business software and that of your customers. Don’t wait for company sponsored training, seek out external providers and commit to maintaining a given level of computer literacy. Key systems (e.g. SAP, SixSigma, ERP, People Soft) are common to many companies and their knowledge can only increase your marketability. Know your industry: Become a student of your industry. Know the products of your competition, trends, the supply chain, your company’s strategy, product life cycles, market share and labor challenges—the big picture. Fluently conversing about your industry and carrying out responsibilities within this framework can set you apart. Make yourself global: Remember your faceless competitor across the ocean, speaks two, three and possibly four languages. His or her English, is likely better than that of yours. Develop proficiency in another language. It will differentiate you and level the credential playing field. Also recognize, your international colleague has probably lived in different countries and understands several cultures, labor laws and markets. An expatriate assignment helps strengthen your credentials especially given the increased likelihood of working for a non-American manager. Money is secondary: Often, compensation is defined in monetary terms and is paramount in accepting a position. Over emphasis on salary can be very shortsighted. Instead, jobs instead should be assessed for the opportunity to add expertise missing from one’s portfolio. Companies can no longer promise long-term employment, career paths or pay increases. The only true benefit of a position is the quality of its content. The average time on a job in American companies is three years and four months. Money does not guarantee employability but expertise and in-demand skills do.
New loyalty: "What have you done for me today?" is the current corporate mantra. Not because companies are bad places to work but most are struggling to respond to the demands of global competition. Mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and bankruptcies tell us we can’t out run the name on the door. Regardless of employer, accept that the "employment contract" operates daily. The sooner one shifts from a paradigm of corporate loyalty to "profession" loyalty the closer job security becomes. Building depth and currency in your chosen field, regardless of company, is the new definition of loyalty. Understand the role of reputation: Regardless position everyone has an unofficial "book". This is the reputation created through one’s manner of relating to management, colleagues, subordinates, customers, etc. It often has very little to do with an employee’s official performance rating. It is how others view you—team player, maverick, cynic, statesperson, employee advocate, etc. Often, it is reputation that determines opportunities. Change your reputation if it is prohibiting advancement or move. Politics is not a dirty word: Careers reach a point where merit becomes a given. It is assumed results will be delivered and the factor of corporate politics comes into play. Understanding others’ motivations is critical. Disdain versus acceptance of "political" influences in the workplace is naiveté. Acquire the skills of transition: Transitioning to a new job requires skills that can be learned. It starts with knowing what one has to offer, determining what the market (employer) needs, developing a plan and executing it. The how-to of these steps is at the heart of an entire industry and available through corporate sponsors and private purchase. You are your own master: Banish any thoughts that the government, the union or your company is responsible for you being employed. Career management is about understanding the total employment environment, building market-valued skills and having a portable portfolio. When done properly, career management enables you to walk from one company to the next with little likelihood of ever visiting the unemployment line.