While many professionals have been battening down the hatches and waiting for the economic storm to pass, smart operators have been using the time to get noticed and build for the future.
In his book Tribes, Seth Godin writes: “The easiest thing is to react. The second easiest thing is to respond. But the hardest thing is to initiate.”
It can be a challenge for even the most driven of professionals to stay motivated, positive and career-driven during difficult times. However, this could be the ideal time to take a proactive approach to your career development in preparation for the inevitable upturn and the opportunities it will bring.
Krishna De, brand engagement and social-media specialist, maintains that professionals should certainly not be putting their career plans on hold, as now is a great opportunity to take stock, re-evaluate their options and decide what they really want to do and achieve. “We need to make sure that we’re actively managing our careers. The current economy is a good example of how you can’t be reliant on any one industry or position,” she explains.
According to De, individuals need to assess their mid-term and long-term goals and identify the skills gaps they need to fill in order to achieve these. Once that’s done, she says, there are plenty of ways to upskill, even on a low budget. It’s vital, however, to be very clear about your organisation’s goals and to look at the strengths you can bring to the fore, she says.
“Most organisations have been revising their priorities, so what does that mean for how you can play to your strengths for that?” she asks.
Take on a leadership role
Occupational psychologist Kate Quinlan points out that leading oneself is the very same as being in a leadership role. She says it is vital for professionals to have a strong sense of self-reliance about where their strengths are. “It’s about self-belief, self-confidence and assertiveness,” she says. “Then, when you work on those, it’s a case of doing an inventory of what your competencies really are.”
Another strategy, says Quinlan, is for individuals to treat the organisation as if they were leading it themselves and to consider how they would tackle issues if they were in that position. “Ask yourself what would you do about it. Look at objective areas where you believe the organisation can become effective and efficient. It’s about taking the initiative and having grounded and positive ideas.”
De also notes the value of being seen as a supporter of the organisation, in the context of being helpful to colleagues, and so on. Therefore, by increasing visibility, it’s possible to project oneself as a positive employee, focused on the possibilities, rather than the negatives.
So where to start with being proactive about career management? According to De, now is a pivotal time for professionals to nurture their networks, both inside the organisation and externally, to build great connections, whether that is through increasing interactions via social networking or by getting more involved with professional networks.
“Get out there and keep connected with people – that could be face to face, or it could be re-engaging with friends or colleagues through Facebook and LinkedIn, for example.” Volunteering for a non-for-profit, meanwhile, is a way of adding to one’s skills porfolio, while also allowing for interaction with other professionals in the process.
“But I’d also look at other areas such as who can support me as a mentor,” she says. “Maybe there’s somebody inside or outside your organisation who can help you achieve your goals.”
“Read more and see if there are more courses you can do, which aren’t too costly,” suggests Quinlan. “Keep in touch by attending seminars and meeting with professional bodies to be with like-minded people.”
“Employers are looking for leaders, not just for today but for tomorrow. They are looking for people who are very clear about the company’s goals and getting people around them engaged,” concludes De.
The three Cs
Krishna De suggests three “Cs” for managing a career path in the present climate.
Be very clear on a personal level about your career goals.
Have courage. Sometimes, it is about taking a step out and taking a few risks, such as asking to go to a free event or bringing about a new idea into the team.
Nurture those connections. It doesn’t matter whether it’s online or offline, or being connected inside or outside the organisation.