Sunday, October 3, 2010

Are You a "Pro-active" or a "Re-active"?

Who’s in charge of your career?

Most of us want to answer: “I am”, of course. And, of course, some people are. But, are you? Have you planned in advance what you want to do in your career? Do you know what your next job will be? Are you making it happen? Or, do you allow other people—or circumstances—to determine your future? More to the point, did you choose your last job… or did you take the best you could get?

If this is you, you are not alone. You see, in my nearly 20 years as an executive recruiter and career consultant, I’ve observed that many, if not most, people are re-active versus pro-active when it comes to jobs and careers in general. If things are going pretty well at work, people often just go along in the job they have. Maybe they think about a promotion, hope for one, or even apply for one. Maybe.

But people often stay with the status quo until something happens to change their circumstances. They get right-sized, down-sized or out-sized. Then, they react. When they need to find another job, these people—I’ll call them “re-actives”—typically do two things: they update their resumes; and, they respond to advertised jobs. Re-actives generally take whatever happens to come their way. They don’t take the time to think carefully about their next career steps, create a plan and take control of what they do next. By not taking the time to proactively make a clear, conscious choice about their future, they unconsciously make choices that determine their future. Not that anything is wrong with what they do. They're just not in charge of their career.

Maybe you don’t want to change fields entirely. Maybe you’d just like to find a better job in your current line of work. Or, maybe, you are out of work and desperate for anything to pay the bills. Whether you are out of work now, want (or need) to get a better job in your current field, or want to change fields altogether, the question is same: what to do and how to do it?

I had to answer that question for myself years ago. As a recruiter, I basically have to find a new job every 90 to 120 days. When a company hires me to conduct a search, the entire process usually takes about that long. If I don’t have another search lined up by the time the current search ends, I am out of work.

I learned pretty quickly that I had to constantly create new opportunities for myself. First, I determined what I had to offer as a recruiter. Next, I identified who might have a need for my particular expertise and services. While conducting the searches I had going, I still had to network, not just randomly, but deliberately, with decision makers who could potentially hire me for a new search.

I found that people were much more likely to talk to me if they perceived me as a possible solution to a problem I knew they might have. If I approached them about their problem instead of my own, they perceived me as a professional, a colleague, not just another headhunter looking for a search (read: job hunter looking for a job).

Over time, I saw that I had developed a method to generate new work for myself. If I did certain specific things consistently and repeatedly, I usually created not one, but several opportunities for myself ongoingly. Knowing that I could reliably create multiple new opportunities for myself gave me peace of mind and a sense of freedom. I was happy when others in my firm used my method successfully as well.

But I got really excited when I realized that my method works equally well for others looking to create new opportunities for themselves in their own professions. Many job seekers have used my Method with great success. It is easy to learn, duplicatable and repeatable. I’ve seen demoralized job seekers regain their confidence as they stop chasing advertised jobs and start proactively taking control of their job search and career.

Did you know that 80-90% of all jobs are not advertised? They are created and filled without the general public ever knowing about them. (That’s why it’s called the “hidden” job market.)The key to taking control of your career is to learn how to proactively create multiple opportunities in the hidden job market. Then you can choose—what you want to do and where you want to do it—rather than letting your employer or the economy determine your future for you.

Take control of your career - become a “pro-active"

1-     Decide what your next career step will be

2-     Build a list of companies you would like to work for

3-     Identify the decision makers at those companies who could hire you

4-     Establish relationships with those decision makers

Have the security of knowing that you don’t have to depend on your boss, your employer or the economy for your job and career. Join the less than 5% of the workforce who proactively manage their career and secure their own professional destiny.

Because  you are… only four degrees from your dream job.

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