Job Search Tips for Disruptive Times

adviceI am constantly asked for job search advice due to myriad affiliations with social networks, past employers and schools, so I have decided to create a new category in which I will share some of the more general questions I am asked and advice I have given, so many more people may benefit.

Many of these insights will apply in general, but some pertain to the “unusual” circumstances of the difficult economy in which we find ourselves in 2009. Let’s delve into the first installment.

The Economy

As I wrote here, here and here, I believe that we will experience a prolonged period of disruption while the world transitions away from the Industrial Economy to the Knowledge Economy. This means that we will see extensive uncertainty at many levels. The Industrial Economy created and democratized wealth to an unprecedented degree, but many of its assumptions are rapidly becoming unaligned with reality.

Of course, this will continue to redefine “working,” benefits, pensions, “social security,” and other programs. Good news: online social networks give us new tools to find specific people and situations and to interact with them much more quickly and cheaply than ever before. They are fantastic tools, not only for job search, but for doing your job.

Job Search 2.0

  • If you are able to accept this possibility and make peace with it, you will have a substantial advantage over people who can’t let go of the “good old days” because attitude is paramount in job search.
  • Learning to use online social networks is the most important skill of the next decade, at least.
  • Most severe “downturns” have historically decreased employment and increased self-employment. In other words, large organizations have much more invested in their assumptions than you do, and you can adjust yourself much faster. The less you depend on large organizations, the better.
  • Realize that schools and universities are often behind the times; their value proposition is training you for certain kinds of job slots which were based on assumptions that are likely not as true as they were.
  • Try to minimize assumptions you have about the organization of employment. This means org charts, salaries, benefits, educational requirements, job requirements, etc. People who write about and advise on these things mean well, but these are often out of sync with reality because profound disruption is not in their database.
  • Rethink your career definition. During periods of stability, human resources knows they need “20 marketing communications” people with “financial services experience” and “MBAs from ‘certain schools.'” These are only general benchmarks that schools have adopted for which to train students. However, they become much less useful in periods of disruption when orgs are trying to survive. Learn how you affect their survival—now—and you will be much more employable. No longer think of yourself as a “finance MBA with 7 years MRO experience.”
  • Instead, focus on the organization’s viability. How does it make money or get funded? What events, other organizations, government decisions, market forces affect its viability?
  • Think about scenarios, business situations in which your skills and experience can add the most value.
  • Determine how you can impact the organization’s viability in the context of current short-term market conditions and long-term business viability. You need depth and breadth here. These are the keys to your rapid employment and minimizing your down time between employment.
  • When you can discuss convincingly market conditions, customer situations, operational realities in terms of organizational viability and your impact, organizations will create jobs for you. A job is merely a bundle of activities that makes the employer more money than it costs it.
  • In other words, the less you abstract away from the market, the better. Be relentless in your search for these answers.

Social Networking Action Steps

  • Start blogging about the scenarios and situations in which you want to work. Select one particularly excellent article per week, share its link on your blog, and write a one paragraph comment about why you think it’s important.
  • You need to have your professional opinion out there. Don’t think this is only for “business executives.” If you’re a mailroom clerk or a food & beverage manager, write about problems and solutions. When you point prospective employers to your blog posts, they will be impressed.
  • Search for keywords that indicate these scenarios on LinkedIn Answers, and offer solutions there. These become a part of your profile.
  • Reach out and connect with other people who care about the same or related things. Offer to help them. Many of them will be happy to return the favor. Don’t get hung up on people who take and don’t value relationship by helping you. They are in the minority.
  • <personal belief>Realize that no one owes us to have an easy time, and we happen to live in a disruptive time. Fight the urge to feel resentful and self-pitying that everyone goes through at times. It’s a huge turn-off for everybody except professional complainers from whom you want to keep a healthy distance.</personal belief>
  • It is counterintuitive, but when you are asking your friends and networking friends for help, it will be easier for them to help you when you paint a vivid picture of the situation in which you want to work. Be more specific, not less. Otherwise, you will not be remembered because you won’t stand out.
  • Join LinkedIn Groups whose members are concerned with your scenarios. Contribute news items and participate in discussions.

Parting Shots

  • Disruption merely denotes the fact that conditions around us are changing in unpredictable ways. Risk and reward always travel together, and the people who understand where things are going will do better faster. Like Gretsky’s famous remark, “Skate to where the puck will be,” you can direct your destiny better by paying attention and making yourself more valuable.
  • “Skills” are one thing, but their usefulness is enhanced or diminished by the environment in which they are applied to an organization.
  • Seize the day.

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