How to Create More Career Opportunity in 2012

Many employment or career-related discussions contain a feeling of gloom and doom, but I have noticed a paradoxical market development: that the unpredictable and volatile economy that affects all businesses and careers is actually driving more demand for expertise, but the demand doesn’t look the same to companies or workers. Here I’ll explain how this works, but even more important, I’ll give you some practical tips on using the market to your advantage (featuring social technologies).

The Economy and Demand for Workers

Many places in the world have experienced a prolonged period of economic uncertainly to which organizations have responded by laying off workers. In many cases, this trend has been increasing demand for skills. However, think about how inflexible organization is. To create a job, one part of the organization must perceive a persistent need, design the role, design how it fits within the organization, account for interdependencies (solid and dotted lines), budget the role and decide how to fill it. This process often involves collaborating with Human Resources and other departments. It is long and ponderous. Meanwhile, the need continues to increase.

How to Use Organizational Slowness to Create Opportunity

Begin by recognizing that a “job” is a recognized bundle of skills and experience that the company buys. “Consulting” and “interim placements” are alternative bundles through which companies acquire expertise. Most executives I know consult to bring in income between jobs, but they perceive a conflict between “consulting” and “job search.” If you change your approach, you can mitigate the conflict and create more opportunity.

  1. Realize that “employment,” “consulting” and “interim” are only packaging on your expertise, which you bring to bear on organizational problems or opportunities.
  2. Focus on the organizational need for your expertise rather than on its packaging.
  3. Write 2 or 3 scenarios that describe the challenges you want to deal with in your next assignment (whether job, consulting…). Include the market drivers (what creates the problem), business impact, the role you want to have and the outcomes you want to achieve. Also include the organizational context (i.e., post-merger integration, new division/product, market entry). Get excited about it. Your scenario should be about two paragraphs.
  4. Now pick out some of the more unusual words you’ve used in your scenario. Search LinkedIn Answers using various combinations of keywords. Keep playing with the keywords until you notice which combinations produce the most relevant discussions.
  5. Expand your search beyond LinkedIn by using the keyword combinations in Google. Explode “Tools” in the left sidebar and select “Blogs.” Notice which blogs write about your scenarios most consistently and relevantly. Bookmark them.
  6. Enter the discussions on LinkedIn, in blogs and in mainstream media titles, which increasingly enable readers to leave comments. Show your expertise by offering relevant advice to the most relevant discussions. Make sure to use the more relevant scenario keywords in your responses. Only enter discussions that relate to your goals in some way. Make sure to bookmark the LinkedIn Answers or blog posts to which you respond, using Pinboard, Delicious or your browser.
  7. Start blogging, and talk about your scenarios weekly. Via email, ask your friends, ex-colleagues, fellow alumni and others to add their thoughts to your posts in LinkedIn or on blogs.

The Social Business Annuity

By engaging people online, you will significantly increase your visibility and increase your insight into the context around your job search or hunt for new clients. Even better, when people look for those keywords, they will find you if you use the most specific and unusual keyword combinations in your responses. This builds up over time, so every quality response you share keeps working for you. Not only that, you can refer people to the discussions in which you’ve helped people deal with situations relevant to your scenarios. Imagine how impressive that would be to prospective clients or employers. Especially since very few people do this.

Parting Shots

  • You can make yourself easier to buy as a consultant and as an employee by entering relevant conversations online. This will also educate you real-time because you will have more quality interactions than your competitors. You can have more interactions online, and they work for you by attracting Google.
  • Even more important, by treating “job vs. consulting” as packaging, you can focus on the organizational need instead. This is more important anyway.
  • Here is a longer treatment as a slide deck, “Drive Job and Consulting Opportunities with Social Technologies.”
  • I also presented “Drive Job and Consulting Opportunities with Social Technologies” at Kellogg Graduate School, which you can watch; it includes Q&A from Kellogg alums around the world.

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