Back in the day, jobs were for life. You put in your 30-40 years and got a pension. Maybe even a gold watch. That was then.
Of course, there’s no such thing as guaranteed employment anymore. But there is such a thing as guaranteed employability.
Learn to Earn
In most jobs, if we’re standing still with our skill set, we’re quickly falling behind. Things are just advancing too quickly – technology, cultural trends, ideas. A key to keeping up is continuous learning.
Many employers offer some form of tuition reimbursement, and yet a tiny fraction of eligible employees typically take advantage of that benefit. If your employer will foot the bill for more education, don’t leave that money on the table. The skills you learn may lead to advancement opportunities, and they will very likely help you land a new job if necessary.
Even if your employer won’t cover the cost of school, there are no- and low-cost ways to keep your skills sharp, like the software training available from Lynda.com and the lectures on iTunes U. Of course, you can check out the latest books in your field from the library, follow industry blogs, listen to audio books and podcasts, and more.
One of the best forms of professional development is being mentored. I’ve been blessed to have some great mentors during my days in corporate America (Thanks, Carl!) and in my current work (Thanks, Dick!).
To find a mentor, seek out someone in your field who’s more experienced and/or successful than you are and ask if you could connect on some type of regular basis. Very often, successful people enjoy coming alongside someone who’s at an earlier phase of their career.
When you approach a prospective mentor, though, make sure you’re ready to explain why you’re reaching out to them and what you hope to learn.
Be Great at Being Yourself
If two people have the exact same professional skill set and experience, what’s left to set one apart from the other? Interpersonal skills.
Communication skills (especially asking good questions and listening), relationship building, time management, project management, and the various facets of Emotional Intelligence can help keep you in demand. All of these skills can be honed through the no- and low-cost options mentioned earlier.
Other personal habits matter to your career as well – from grooming to your use of social media. Staying physically fit can also make a big difference. Doing so gives you energy and communicates a lot about your discipline, life balance, and self-respect.
Cast a Wide Net
By some estimates, 80 percent of available jobs are not posted. They get filled through referrals. If you find yourself between jobs, having a great network is essential.
Of course, LinkedIn is today’s networking platform of choice. When you connect with someone – a co-worker, former co-worker, former classmate, friend from church – you gain potential access to their network. At very least, you could ask your connection for an introduction to someone in their network.
Once you have a network of 100-200 people, it’s amazing how easy it is to find someone who knows someone in a company where you’d like to work.
So, build your network. You’ll be able to see your connections’ updates – promotions, new employers, and more. But stay in touch with some of your contacts via an occasional e-mail or phone call as well. Find out the latest. See if there are ways you could help them.
Keep Your Career Insurance in Force
When the job market gets tough, it’s the person who’s been taking the steps above that will make it, either with his or her current employer or another one. It’s like holding an insurance policy on your career.
Of course, you could experience times of transition between employers, but those times will tend to be far shorter than average. And if you’re following all 11 principles I’m covering in this series, you’ll be financially prepared to ride out those periods between jobs.
What other factors have helped you stay employable?
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