President Obama recently gave a speech in which he recounted the parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. He used the tale to describe how the nation must prepare itself to recover from this Great Recession. I think it’s equally as appropriate a plan for how each and all of us must ready our careers for the new world of work the recovery will bring.
The parable goes something like this: two men were given the freedom to build new homes. One built his on a foundation of sand; the other erected his on a foundation of stone. Both houses looked identical; each seemed as beautiful and sturdy as the other. Until the rains came. As the storm pelted the houses, the difference in their inner strength was revealed. The house on a foundation of sand was swept away. The house on the foundation of stone endured.
You can expect the same outcome for your career. Regardless of your field of work and irrespective of your years of experience, if you build your career on a foundation of sand, you are putting your future at risk. Conversely, if you lay a foundation of stone for your career—if you set it upon a solid base and then maintain the strength of that base—you will be able to weather whatever economic storms come your way.
So, how do you create a rock solid foundation for your career?
As I explain in my book, Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System, the attributes of a strong career in today’s world of work are very different from those that defined success in the last century. In other words, not only must you create a solid foundation, but that base must be composed of a stone that can withstand the turbulence of a highly competitive, ever-changing global economy.
Just as industrial diamonds are stronger than those that nature makes, the best stone for the foundation of your career is that which you make. It is forged with seven kinds of career strengthening activity. It is a rock-solid base that you create when you consistently:
• refresh and expand your expertise in your field of work so that you are always able to perform at the state-of-the-art;
• extend and nurture your network of contacts in your field and industry so you are always top of mind when opportunities come up;
• add ancillary skills (e.g., a second language, the ability to use a new software program) so that you are able to extend the contribution you make with your primary area of expertise:
• push out the limits of your comfort zone so you can work in the widest possible range of situations and circumstances;
• work with those individuals and organizations that will support and advance your career so you are always in an environment where you can succeed;
• volunteer to work with community, social service or environmental groups so that you apply your talent to the benefit of others as well as yourself; and
• pace yourself with appropriate downtime and vacations so you preserve and reinforce your enthusiasm and commitment to doing your best work on-the-job.
If that seems like a lot of work, it is. A strong foundation doesn’t come easy. But once you’ve created yours, it is a base you can build your dreams on.
Thanks for reading,
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