New Year, New Focus
You’re tired of the race. Tired of working tirelessly in shifting sands of corporate America as an exempt FTE. But, you do it with the hope of the BIG payday. You’ve got options in the company, and it seems that if everyone just works a little harder, the pay-off will come.
But what if it doesn’t? What if you’ve burrowed down into your cube, cranked out piles of code/ marketing collateral/ analytical models/ CRM entries, and the company still burns through the cash before IPO or acquisition? Uh, now what?
Here’s something I say often, particularly to folks that are with companies that struggle to define direction, or to execute on change initiatives: “You need to be thinking about how you ensure that there are more options when you leave than when you came here.”
Whatever else you get out a day’s work – compensation, satisfaction with a job well done, participation in a like-minded community – you need to ensure that you increase your professional options.
Here are a few simple ways to ensure that, should the time come, you have more alternatives when you hit the market place.
- Get to know those you work with at your current company. Everyone goes somewhere, and just because you aren’t currently in marketing/ finance/ sales doesn’t mean that your next big break won’t come from one of the guys you impressed while you’ve been working here. Since the 21st truism seems to be “you won’t retire from here,” everyone will eventually move on, and we all remember the talented co-workers we’ve relied on in the past.
- Participate in professional organizations in your area of expertise. If past co-workers can create current and future cross-functional opportunities, developing relationships with professional peers can increase your likelihood of getting an interview with their companies if and when the day should come. As important as what you know, who you know swings a big stick.
- Get certified where it counts. While there are a thousand and one professional organizations offering certifications, there are a much smaller handful that are truly meaningful within the various realms of expertise. While certifications are less critical when you know the autonomous decision maker, they also make it much easier for all members of a hiring team to say “yes” to getting you hired. Soliciting recommendations on certifications from your present management team or mentor also sends a clear message that you have bigger plans for yourself than you are realizing today.
So, while not revolutionary, it's well worth considering where you stand as we enter the new year. Each career cycle is shorter than before, which means that you need to be thinking about how you expand your bases of professional expertise. Being a niche specialist isn’t a long-term strategy, and gone are the days of broad generalist.
Think about the direction you want to take next, be it the one that best leverages your expertise or aligns to your passion. Just as businesses create a balance sheet of assets, now is a good time to inventory your own assets and options as well.