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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Biggest Secret Obstacle to Your Career

Time and again, clients land in my email inbox or are on the phone talking to me, painfully recounting how the job that they thought was secure was suddenly wiped out in the blink of an eye.

What they thought was a bullet-proof company career is suddenly gone, and the employee is now left with dangling, unresolved questions:

“I did everything right, and was a top performer... How could this happen?”
“The boss and I were best pals… what went wrong?”
"Why me?”

But the truth is: There is no such thing as job security any more. It's all about employability.

And the biggest secret obstacle to your career rests on one thing and one thing only:

How complacent are you?

The people who suffer the most from being 'caught with their pants down' in their career are usually the ones who have not taken an active role in managing their career.  Sure, they have contributed a lot of good things, but something gave management pause and made them zero in on the unlucky employee.

That leads to the next question: What have you done to prove that you are not "dead wood?" That you are an active contributor in addition to being a top performer?

No method is entirely bullet proof, but when it comes down to paring down staff, it boils down to a business decision where an employer will look at who might be transferrable to another department or have demonstrated leadership or untapped career assets that might be of use to the company.

Complacency has no place in this business model. The concept of 'upgrading' is becoming more and more practiced as companies who have trimmed their staff down to the core group are now evaluating who is left to figure out how to move the company forward.

But never fear. There IS a way to overcome the perception of a person's complacency.

This is a brand-new year and what better time to actively roadmap out three areas that can shift an employer's opinion about you. Here are the 3 major focuses you need to zero in on to boost your employability quotient with your current employer:

1) Professional development. What kinds of classes, workshops, trainings, etc. can you take that will hone your ability to do your job, and bring back new ideas to the company? A well-trained workforce is important to bosses making staff reduction decisions.

2) Affiliations. How are you building your connectedness within the industry? What kinds of organizations can you join to build up your company’s profile, and keep tabs on your industry peers (and competition)?

3) Involvement. Where are you demonstrating your leadership by volunteering? This is a touchy area as you have to strike the right balance between contributing on a volunteer basis versus not impacting your ability to do your job. But by stepping up, you keep your abilities and name in the limelight, versus dropping off into obscurity.

Showing traction in your career by integrating these three career drivers, and then keeping your boss informed about them is critical to demonstrating how indispensable you are to the organization. They might lay off others, but if you are valuable to the organization by being an active contributor, you’ll have a better chance of surviving being trimmed out of the company payroll by being placed into another area of the organization.

And if the unthinkable ever does happen, you can be more confident in your job search by not being complacent about your career and engaging in active career management.  As a result, the opportunities of another employer recognizing you as top talent  and snapping you up are exponentially increased.


Samuel Dergel, CA, CPA, CPC said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Dawn.

There have been many times where we have seen candidates take new career positions because the company was ‘secure and stable’, only to be unemployed with few prospects when the cut came.

Change is a constant in our economy. It is not the 1950s anymore. Mergers, bankruptcies and technological obsolescence are key drivers of changes at companies.

The best and most employable people are those that are actively and visibly contributing to the company and the outside world. The more employable a person becomes, the more their company will work to keep them when change happens.

As an employee there are two things that you need to remember:
1) Add value – as an employee you need to add value to your employer that is a multiple of your cost. If you are not adding value in excess of your cost, the greater the chance is that you will not be kept on board.
2) Perception is reality – it is not what you actually do at your employer, it is the perception of what you do at your employer that counts.

What is the perception of you as an employee? Are you adding value?

Samuel Dergel, CA, CPA
Senior Partner & Practice Leader, CFO Search
Website : http://www.cfo2grow.com
Aboutme: http://about.me/samueldergel/bio
Blog: http://www.thefinancialstatement.com

Pathfinder Writing and Careers said...

Hi Samuel-
Thank you for the great comments- very insightful! Appreciate your willing to share your expertise and insight.