Happy New Year!!! It’s a new year and time to shed the past and look towards creating a new future. With the economy not really making any progress and the unemployment rate still scary (double digits), it’s time for people to stop waiting on a savior (or the government) to come rescue them.  Many of the jobs of the past won’t be returning. So it’s time to dig deep and figure out what you need to do to move on with your life. The past is buried. No need to stay in mourning over something you can’t bring back.

As I peruse the various news sites and blogs, I see a fast growing sentiment of anger and despair from a whole lot of angry people. People have a right to be angry, I don’t take that away from them, but you cannot wallow in anger indefinitely, blaming Republicans & Democrats.  It is so much deeper than that. At what point do you pull yourself together and start seeking other options? Who’s to blame for you not learning new skills or exploring other career options? To find that answer, you need to look in the mirror. Hey I tell it like it is. We are all responsible for our own lives. Your life is what you make it to be and no government or corporation has an obligation to help you figure it out.

Everyone needs to understand that in this age of change and ever growing technology, you have to gain additional skills. It’s mandatory and this is nothing new. Look at what happened to the steel industry, auto industry, manufacturing, airlines, and on and on. Every year or so, another industry takes a big hit.  It’s inevitable. Before I understood that, I felt a deep sympathy for people who were ousted from their jobs. I would think, “wow, who’s going to hire all those people and save them?”. But as I got older, I realized myself that you have to stay versatile. It’s great to have that one special skill set that is bankable. But you always have to be mindful that skills (and people) become outdated or replaceable.  I’m not being mean or uncaring, I’m stating the facts. We can no longer rest on one or two skills. You are responsible for securing your future.

So what do I propose? Well for starters, make sure you educate yourself. Sometimes education doesn’t have to come from a college or university. A whole new industry and set of jobs were created by social media.  People didn’t go to school to learn how to maximize social media. They used their current skills and learned social media as they went along.  With the onset of new gadgets (iPhones, iPads, Blackberry, Android, etc) a whole segment of jobs opened up in App development. Take an inventory of the different things you like, what you’re good at, and what you would like to do. Then you need to figure out how you can gain the skills that will pave the way for you to do what you love.

There are tons of websites and books out there to help you learn just about anything. But let’s look beyond that. In the early 1900’s there were no gadgets or technology. It was survival of the fittest. If you had an idea, you could start a business or hire yourself out to proprietors. People had survival skills. So today, with all the luxuries of technology, there is no reason why people can’t switch into survival mode like our ancestors and find new things to do.  Not everyone is meant to be a business owner, but you can take your skills and market them to companies who are willing to pay top dollar for your knowledge. Look to continuing education and certification programs. If you’re currently employed at a company where they will reimburse for professional training or in a state where the local Department of Labor is able to pay part of all of the expense, take advantage of it. Also look into scholarship or waiver opportunities to help with the expense.

In addition to continuing your education, you should be networking with people who are where you want to be. Tap into your human resources to help you gain the knowledge you seek. People are more likely willing to share with you if you show a real interest. Be respectful of their time and don’t push them too much for knowledge. Many people won’t share everything, but will share as much as they can. How you approach them and how you ask will determine how much they will share. Also look for a few mentors. A lot of people will limit themselves to one mentor. But no one person can be all things to you. Diversify a bit. And also ask to shadow for a day or two so you an get the hang of the day to day aspects of their job. You pick up a lot by observing someone in their professional environment.

Stop looking for a JOB. Or rather, stop giving off the vibe that you’ll apply for every and anything just to get work. I think many people fall short here because it becomes a matter of survival and hiring managers can sense that. A person in a desperate spot exudes just that. Hiring Managers spook easily and will think “will this person leave my position if something better comes along?”. Nobody wants their company to be a stepping stone. I agree, we are not obligated to one position or career in a lifetime. But in a scary economy, you have to do your best to assure employers that you are legitimately interested, even if it is your intention to seek greener pastures.  If you approach your job search as a strategy in advancing your career as opposed to looking for a pay check, you will find yourself in the driver’s seat in interviews.  This is your career. You, not your circumstances, should set the tone and the course.

What am I saying? STRATEGIZE! All positions you apply for must fit into your master career plan. Don’t just apply for a job because it’s posted, or you like the company. Make sure you can actually do the job (and have a proven track record of accomplishments) before you apply. As it is, many resumes submitted through company websites and job boards are ignored. So if you don’t have the skills or experience, not only will you be ignored, but you’ll probably be deleted. Take time to read the different job postings and get an understanding of what they are looking for. Then review your resume and cover letter to see if you address those specific needs. Then research the company. We have the power of Google, Linked In and the like to get all the information you need about your potential employer. They research you so why can’t you research them? Plus you’ll get some extra points for knowing about them before you walk in the door. Finally, tap into your network to see who knows who in your target company. Ask for introductions to key people who may have influence over who gets hired. But don’t abuse the opportunity!

And finally, sit down and map out what you want. Where do you want to go with your career? How do you plan to get there? Who will you need to connect with to be successful?  What tools and resources do you need?  What skills do you need and how will you get those skills? And what are you willing to do to create your brand and market yourself to be seen and noticed? The ball is in your court. You get what you put in. Don’t let the unemployment numbers or ratio of applicants to jobs scare you. If you do what needs to be done, you will be a survivor. But sit on your hands waiting to be rescued, and you find yourself up a creek…literally.

Til Next Time,

Adrienne Graham