Regardless of where you open your briefcase or palm pilot each day – at a large corporation, a small business or the end of your dining room table – the key to staying employable the rest of your life is your own creative action. The person who is going to be successful is not going to succeed just because of good work. That is a given. It is expected. Crafting your competitive advantage is what is going to get you ahead in these crazy, changing times. Pat attention to and practice the following three tactics to not only stay in the game but to get ahead of the crowd.
Think Of Your Career As A Business.
The business of career management is that—an independent business that you manage—even if you work for someone else. In this world of downsizing, restructuring, and mergers, you, not the company, must be in the driver’s seat of your career. Always think of yourself as self-employed.
Ask yourself these tough but important questions: What business am I really in? What is my product line? What is the target market for my products? For example, if I am an accountant then, what is it that I really do that people will pay for? Can I list three features and three benefits of my talents? Do I know my current worth in the marketplace? It doesn’t matter what your title is. What matters is, if what you do has value and is needed by someone or some company.
You must start looking at your workplace with new eyes—as a marketplace of buyers and sellers—and start thinking of your career as a business. Launch your business called “Me, Inc.” by defining your a product line, targeting your customers, and having a well thought-out career strategy. Therefore, YOU, not the unpredictable winds of change, become the driving force for your career. Exit job security. Enter career security.
Have Skills, Will Travel.
What’s your competitive advantage? What do you bring to the employment table? You carry with you, wherever you go, a large suitcase or portfolio that holds all of your skills, experiences, and accomplishments. What’s in your portfolio? Is it heavy with many skills or light with only a few? Do you know if it would be valued in lots of different places or just a limited number?
To be competitive, you must periodically audit your portfolio and benchmark your skills. How do you compare with your peers in terms of education, experience, training, career progression? Are you new and improved? Or, are you just the same person you were three, five, ten years ago? Do you have the right mix of skills, knowledge and experiences to position yourself for the future? Or, do you need to repackage yourself in some way? Getting ahead tomorrow means getting better today and throughout your work life. Avoid becoming a professional dinosaur.
The key question is not where you stand on the corporate ladder. It is: “What do you know how to do; and where else can you do it.” A well honed and portable portfolio will provide you with the greatest security in today’s changing and competitive business environment.
Become Street Smart.
What will keep you in the race as the rules of the workplace road continue to change constantly? Initiative, visibility, and flexibility are the three cornerstones of success in the new career game.
Exercise leadership. You can’t afford to crouch behind your desk, buried in your everyday work, and hope for the best. Go beyond your job description and direct your energy to the top priorities of your boss, your department, your team. Make yourself indispensable.
Stand up and be seen. Promote yourself, not be your title, but by the outcomes or results of what you’re doing. Your reputation can either pave your way or get in the way of your success. You can start making a name for yourself by being involved in successful assignments that allow you to be visible to a wide range of people who could have an impact on your career. These assignments could include for example: Building a new team from scratch; or overseeing the introduction of new technology; or taking on projects that require liaison or communications between departments, functional areas and vendors?
Marcia Zidle, the ‘people smarts’ coach, works with business leaders to quickly solve their people management headaches so they can concentrate on their #1 job