Mid-career jobseekers look for positions that seem to be a good next step to develop their career path. That seems like a logical approach. And yet, their job search seems to go nowhere.
Jobseekers in their 50s or later, realize that their knowledge is comprehensive and of enormous value to a potential employer. They are experts in their field. They apply to jobs and again —nothing happens.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Definition: CareerThe very definition of “career” insinuates a progression. Wordnik defines career as:
I think these definitions reflect the common understanding that a career will be a progression that begins at an early level and as the person works in one position, it will prepare them for greater responsibility and a better salary. This process will continue through to their latter career where they will have a healthy retirement program and they can look forward to enjoying a post-career lifestyle.
- The general course of progression of one’s working life.
- A path or course
- Occupation or lifework
Are you following me on this? Does it resonate with your approach to “career”?
If so, I am so sorry to inform you that this is the problem.
The “career” realityThe definition of career has changed. It is no longer a progression. This is why many jobseekers find themselves on what feels like a slippery slide. The hard part is that no one is telling people that this is the new reality.
Here’s how it works. “Career” is no longer a progression. It is no longer a stair-step model. Actually, by the time a person settles into a job, that position is already changing. Technology is changing how businesses get work done. It’s happening faster than we can keep up. Those companies that remain flexible and take advantage of technology-enhanced productivity, will increase their chances of success. By the same token, those jobseekers who are flexible and anticipate changes in the job market will inevitably be ahead of the curve.
The new “career” modelJust 10 years ago we could look forward to a career where the skills in one position would prepare us for a position with greater responsibility and higher pay. That was a reasonable expectation for someone who worked hard and developed their skill sets.
Today, that will not work simply because technology and global economics are taking the place of many of those skills that we were developing for that new and “better” position. That’s the key! If we know which skills are going to be handled by technology and which will not, then we can capitalize on the ones that will still be needed!
Again: It is likely that only part of your current skills will be needed in your next position. The challenge will be to watch trends and identify which skills are being consumed by new technologies and which will continue. Those positions that need those skills will be the target for your “career” trajectory.
Careers in the old model looked like a set of stairs. People started from the bottom and worked their way up. They might migrate to a related area, but it was still the same set of stairs. Companies designed career paths for their employees so they would stay with the company, learn, and bring added value as their career progressed. Companies invested in their employees as part of growing the company.
The new career model will be a series of three-dimensional plateaus that are connected by stairs and ladders. Some of the skills and abilities on one plateau will be usable in the next position and some (perhaps many) will be left behind as technology and other changes change the manner in which the company does business. For many people, their career will take them into new companies on a regular basis.
For some people today, their career path began as the stair step model and now has transitioned into the three dimensional ladder model.
Career change – stairs and laddersMeet Kelly. Kelly began her career in a computer store chain. She was good at sales and made a good living. When the computer company went out of business, she moved to a big-box retail store. She learned everything she could: cash management processes, stocking products and managing the inventory. The store rewarded her diligence by promoting her to a team lead. Then she became the manager of several departments. After several years she was made assistant store manager and finally she was promoted to manager.
As manager, she was responsible for scheduling and receiving the trucks that brought the inventory, dispersing products throughout the store, training new employees and managing employee with regard to accountability. She was a fine manager and earned every bit of her six-figure salary.
When the retail chain underwent major organizational changes, she was laid off. She applied to similar jobs and didn’t receive any interviews. What Kelly didn’t understand was that big-box stores were closing down as online sales thrived. The larger chains were and are struggling to keep their stores afloat.
When Kelly and I met, we examined the sets of skills that she had. We researched the current jobs market to find which industries were growing. Logistics—the process to move products from one place to another—was on the rise. For Kelly’s next position, we crafted a résumé that combined her ability to manage a team with her knowledge and experience in receiving the products, emptying the trucks, and dispersing the inventory throughout the store. We included the software that was used in the complete tracking process.
Kelly now works as a manager in a national distribution center as an Assistant General Manager. In five years, her goal is to be the general manager. She knows that as more and more products are sold online, that logistics will be on the rise. She doesn’t take anything for granted and knows that she may need to move to a different company. She may no longer manage people, but instead manage computers. She’s watching trends and staying ahead of the curve.
One simple career skillWhat is the one simple skill? Flexibility.
Okay, there a bit more to it than that. Kelly had to examine her sets of skills, study the jobs market and trends, and be willing to leave her background in sales and retail store management. She took only two major skills with her: management and logistics (which was only 15% of her former job responsibilities).
Are you interested in how we crafted her new résumé? In the next blog, I’ll describe how we reworked her résumé to get interviews.
Master these jobseeker skills to differentiate yourself, and stay ahead of the curve.