Feature: Be Your Personal Best
This is the second in a multi-part series on Career Fitness, a vital regimen for building a successful work life. To read previous columns in the series, please click here to visit the WEDDLE’s newsletter archive.
What is Career Fitness? How do you achieve it? And, why bother? What is it going to do for you?
The best way to answer these questions is to tell you what Career Fitness is not. There is a simple, but very important reason for this approach: Career Fitness is unlike anything you’ve ever been taught in the past about how to achieve a successful and rewarding career. Career Fitness is not about your ability to attain a certain position in some company’s hierarchy. It’s not a way to work yourself up to be store manager or the director of your department or the supervisor of your work group. Although that might happen through Career Fitness, that’s not its purpose.
In the old world of work, these positions were important because they would usually tell you whether or not your career was healthy and moving forward. Positions were laid lout vertically in a career ladder. You could usually tell a position’s relative importance on the ladder (at least, as evaluated by the organization) by the pay it offered and the number of subordinates it supervised. So, if you were offered a position that was higher in the organization’s structure, then you knew that your career was headed in the right direction. You were moving forward because you were climbing up the career ladder.
Today, however, corporate layoffs, downsizings, rightsizings and restructuring plans have destroyed the career ladder. There’s less security, less upward mobility and less clear direction for anyone trying to chart a career in tis binge diet era of leaner, flatter organizations. Managing your career is now much more like climbing on a career jungle gym.
I remember two things from my school yard experience with jungle gyms. First, they were a lot of fun. Unlike just about everything else in school, there was no set path, no teacher or rule to tell you which way to go. I got to choose the course I would take, the way I would move across the maze of pipes to get where I was going. It was a challenge, sure, but it also seemed to be liberating and even a little exciting.
The second thing I remember about jungle gyms was that moving forward didn’t necessarily mean moving up. In fact, moving directly up was usually just about impossible, at least for any sustained stretch across the rungs. Instead, the jungle gym forced me to find my way forward by moving in many different directions-sometimes up, sometimes sideways and, sometimes, backwards or even down. If I always kept my eye on my objective, however, I could ultimately plot a course that enabled me to work my way forward.
So, what’s all of this nostalgia mean for you? Simply this: If you were good on the school yard jungle gym, you’re going to be great in the new world of work in the Twenty-first Century!
You see, managing your career has now become a new and interesting challenge because there is no longer a fixed path for you to follow, either within a single company or even within corporate America. From now on, your work life is going to be just like swinging across that crazy contraption of twists and turns and angles and bends to find your way forward to wherever you want to go. The experience will inevitably be a bit disconcerting because it is unlike anything that you’ve done in the past. It will also be demanding because it requires a certain degree of skill and balance to do well. But, more than anything else, this new challenge will be filled with much self exploration and discovery. That’s because in the new world of work, you get to plot the course you will ultimately take, and you get to make it happen.
In the past, “up” didn’t always mean forward, at least in those terms that are most important in life: spiritual, mental, emotional, and intellectual fulfillment. In fact, the sprint up the corporate ladder to fame and fortune left many people feeling empty and leading lives that failed to enrich their sense of well-being and accomplishment. Reaching the next higher rung in the corporate hierarchy somehow failed to provide either lasting happiness or satisfaction. Instead, it left them feeling tired, tattered and, sometimes, even disappointed in themselves when they thought about the choices they had to make and the actions they had to take to get “ahead.”
Working was a footrace, and someone got to win, and everyone else had to lose. Indeed, those who didn’t make it to the next higher rung were often left feeling inadequate or unsuccessful. They viewed themselves as failures, and sad to say, others did too. As a consequence, most people ended up feeling acutely unhappy with their work lives. Work became something to be endured. It was a no-win experience. Why? Because there are lots of people climbing the ladder at the same time, and ony one person can occupy the job represented by a specific rung on the ladder at any one point in time. If you define success as moving up the ladder, therefore, everyone else not on that rung is a failure. No matter how high you climbed there was always someone ahead of you, and their position higher on the ladder robbed you of any satisfaction.
Of course, this situation was laden with irony. It made even the “winners” feel like losers. Their achievements just didn’t seem to deliver the true emotional and spiritual fulfillment they were seeking. Gaining the next rung on the ladder changed their geography, but all too often, it didn’t change the happiness they brought home from work each day. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that virtually the entire workforce has been walking around for years in a private state of gloom.
The only way out of this suffocating situation is to redefine success for yourself. In the new job market of this millennium, the key to career happiness is to measure your progress not by how high you’ve climbed up a career ladder, but by how much you’ve grown and developed as you move through a succession of positions. The importance of each job to you is the extent to which it encourages and enables you to “Be Your Personal Best”-to achieve a genuine and lasting sense of accomplishment from your work. We’ll talk more about that in my next column.
Thanks for Reading,
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Section Two: Site News You Can Use
Accountemps polled 150 executives from some of the largest companies in the U.S. and found that employee vacations help, not hurt the bottom line. Respondents were asked when employees were most productive, before or after a vacation. Despite the pressure many of us felt in recent years to forego vacations (either because our units were understaffed or because we worried about what would happen while we were away), a majority (51%) of the executives said that employees worked best after a vacation. Less than a third of the executives thought employees performed better before a vacation, and the rest couldn’t see any difference. In other words, taking your vacation is not harmful to your employer, but not taking it could potentially be. If you have a boss who makes it difficult to take time off, show him these study results and explain you can (and will) be at your best when you’ve had a chance to rest and recuperate.
CareerBuilder.com released the results of its latest “Quarterly Forecast on Hiring Trends and Job Changes.” It found that 49% of the recruiters and HR professionals who responded to the survey expect to increase hiring in the fourth quarter. Almost four-in-ten are filling their openings within two weeks and over two-thirds are filling them within 30 days. To make sure you don’t get left out of the action, use several job agents to notify you of the openings you want, the minute they’re posted. I recommend that you sign up for an agent at one or more of the Big Three job boards (i.e., Yahoo! HotJobs, CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com) and at those niche sites that specialize in your career field and in the geographic area where you live or to which you are willing to relocate.
CareerJournal.com from The Wall Street Journal announced the results of its rankings of MBA programs. The top five national programs were at the University of Michigan, Carnegie Mellon University, Dartmouth College, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Chicago. The top five regional programs were at Purdue University, Vanderbilt University, Ohio State University, the University of Maryland and Brigham Young University. The top five international MBA programs were at IMD International, the University of London, ESADE, HEC School of Management and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Dice, an IT and engineering recruitment site and WEDDLE’s 2004 User’s Choice Award winner, announced its acquisition of ClearanceJobs.com. The acquired site will operate as a stand-alone entity that is linked to Dice. ClearanceJobs.com pre-screens both candidates and hiring companies in order to provide a restricted-access Web-site where candidates who have active U.S. government security clearances can safely connect with authorized government contractors and qualified recruiters. Individual resumes are annotated with clearance and polygraph level so that candidates can be identified by employers with appropriate opportunities.
Sterling’s BestPlaces offers a reality check for those contemplating a move to a different part of the country. That’s important because the average price of a house in Mobile, Alabama is $180,575, but in Springfield, Massachusetts, it’s $291,666, and in Riverside, California, it’s a breath-stopping $348,600. To see how far your paycheck would go in another city or state-or to find your dream homestead based on climate preference, marital status and the records of local sports teams-click on the “Cost of Living” tab on the site.
Section Three: Site Profiles
Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?
1. You’re an experienced geologist looking to get into the research being done on Mount St. Helens and other active volcanoes. Which of the following sites would blow a hole in your job search?
2. If you’re a quality control supervisor searching for an opportunity with a successful manufacturing company, which of the following sites would likely provide leads that are out of tolerance with your requirements?
3. You’re a compensation and benefits manager who needs a new challenge. Which of the following sites will give you access to top ranked opportunities in your field?
Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2004 Guides and Directories
IEEE Job Site
The Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers
A WEDDLE’s 2004 User’s Choice Award Winner
Post full time jobs: Yes
Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: No
Distribution of jobs: International
Number of jobs: 174
Salary levels of jobs: $101-150K/year
Offer a job agent: Yes
Resume database: Yes
How long are resumes stored: Indefinitely
Restrictions on who can post: Those in a certain industry
Other services for job seekers: Confidentiality feature in the resume database
Answers to Site Insite
1. GeoTop.com, the site of a company that provides positioning instruments.
2. QPeople.com, the site of a company that provides HR solutions to the printing and copying industry.
3. IFEBP.org, the site of the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans.