Feature: Career Guardianship

Feature: Career Guardianship

Feature: Career Guardianship

In a perfect world, we could buy insurance to protect us against sudden staff reductions, unexpected layoffs and the elimination of whole categories of jobs from the American workplace. In the real world, however, we are forced to take care of ourselves. How can we do that? One way is to practice all of the steps in my 6-step plan for “career guardianship.” For an overview of this plan, please visit my newsletter archive at WEDDLE’s and read my feature column dated November 1, 2003.

The Career Guardianship plan is based on a simple premise: no one else-not an employer, not a mentor, not a boss who really likes you-will take care of your career. Only you can do that. You are its guardian. Only you have the interest and perspective to ensure its health and well-being. And, if you ignore this responsibility, you are throwing your career to the mercy of an indifferent and often times cruel business world.

So, career guardianship involves proactively taking steps that will:

  • insulate you from the damage that can be caused by unexpected interruptions in your career,
  • identify opportunities to advance your career toward goals that have meaning for you, and
  • let you decide when change will occur in your career so that you can prepare for and control it.
  • The first of these steps is to look for career advancement opportunities every day for the rest of your worklife. Now, I realize that such a commitment immediately raises the issue of loyalty. Some organizations would have you believe that keeping an eye on the job market is disloyal. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. Loyalty does not mean that you will stay with an employer forever; it means that you will give that employer your best work. In other words, loyalty is not about longevity; it’s about performance. Every organization that hires you has the right to expect that you will exert your best effort to contribute to its mission. It does not, on the other hand, have the right to expect that you will stay employed at the organization until it decides you must leave.

    So, planning ahead is not only entirely appropriate, it’s also smart. Looking for career advancement opportunities enables you to:

  • evaluate your situation and your options in order to determine what direction your career should take in the near, mid and longer term future (e.g., is your career field healthy and growing or is it threatened by technology? Are jobs in your field moving offshore or are they likely to remain here at home?);
  • determine if you are competitive for the next job you would like to have and, if not, acquire whatever education and/or experience is necessary to correct that deficiency;
  • spot and compete for a job (inside or outside your current employer) that will enhance your skills and knowledge in your career field; and
  • avoid having to start your job search from a dead stop, should you be laid off unexpectedly.
  • But here’s the rub: how can you look for career advancement opportunities all of the time and still hold down a job and have a life? That’s where job agents come in. These free features are now available at about 40% of all job boards and career portals. Basically, they act as a personal shopper for your dream job. You fill out a brief form online describing what kind of job you want, and the job agent will compare your objective to all of the openings posted at its site and notify you confidentially whenever it finds a match. In other words, you don’t have to spend any money, you don’t have to do any work and there’s no risk-your privacy is protected.

    Which job agents should you use? Here are my suggestions:

    To ensure the maximum range in your search, sign up for the job agents at HotJobs.com, CareerBuilder.com, Monster.com and FlipDog.com. These sites give you the broadest access to employment ads posted online, published in newspapers around the country and listed at employers’ own Web-sites.

    To ensure the maximum depth in your search, sign up for any job agents that are offered at the sites of your professional association(s) and/or trade group(s). Because of their focus, these organizations often post a greater number of the specific kinds of jobs in which you are likely to be interested than even the larger, general purpose sites.

    Two notes of caution are appropriate, however.

  • First, job agents are not perfect, so you should expect to see some jobs that aren’t really what you want. Ignore them. On the other hand, a job agent is only helpful if you take advantage of it. When it brings back opportunities that match your objective, check them out. Go through the mental exercise of considering their potential benefit and/or downside to your career.
  • Second, using job agents is not a substitute for other, traditional methods of searching for career advancement opportunities. Don’t ignore networking, print publications and other ways of tapping into the job market.
  • The first step in being a good career guardian is commitment. You must continuously devote the time and effort to evaluate the health of your career and look for ways to strengthen it. Do that and your career, in turn, will be much more likely to give you the financial security and fulfillment at work you seek.

    NOTE I hope you’re finding my newsletter to be an interesting and useful publication. I try to ensure that each issue offers both an uncommon slant on the challenges facing job seekers and career activists and genuine “take home value” that you can use right way. If that approach works for you, please tell your friends and colleagues about the newsletter and encourage them to sign up.

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    Global Insight has released its projections for which career fields will grow and which will wither in 2004. Overall, they expect the U.S. economy to add an astounding 2.7 million jobs next year; that’s equal to all of the jobs lost in the U.S. since March, 2001, the beginning of the recession. The picture’s not completely rosy, however, so here are the key results … good, bad and ugly:

  • Employment services (+511,000 jobs)
  • Healthcare and social assistance (+389,000 jobs)
  • Professional, scientific and technical (+338,000 jobs)
  • Transportation (+200,000 jobs)
  • Plastics and rubber products manufacturing (-17,000 jobs)
  • Motor vehicle and parts retailers (-18,000 jobs)
  • Printing and related support activities (-31,000 jobs)
  • Food manufacturing (-31,000 jobs)
  • The Creative Group has studied employers and found that many are now requiring job candidates to endure a growing number of interviews. They found that 44% of candidates now go through 3 job interviews before an offer is extended and an additional 19% are requiring 4 or more interviews. While the Creative Group’s investigation focused on the advertising and marketing fields, it’s likely that this trend is occurring in other fields, as well. What’s it mean for job seekers? Expect a long evaluation process, and fortify yourself to be patient, consistent and always engaged.

    The job search, itself, is also getting longer. DBM, a human resource firm, has released the results of a survey of executives in transition. It found that those looking for senior level positions in today’s job market will spend more than 12 months in the hunt, up from 7 months in 1998. Why is it taking so long? In part, it’s due to the caution being exercised by employers (hence, the increasing number of interviews); another factor, however, is that the competition is more intense. DBM found that 18% of executives were in transition from 2001-2003, almost triple the 6.1% who were in transition from 1997-2000. How can you minimize the impact of these trends on your job search? Practice the habits of good career guardianship, described in the Feature Column above.

    Section three: Site Profiles

    Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?

    If you are a packaging specialist with experience in medical products, which of the following sites would leave you all wrapped up with no place to go for a new position?

  • CanMed
  • Composite Can & Tube Institute
  • Association of Industrial Metallizers, Coaters & Laminators
  • Technical Association of the Pulp & Paper Industry
  • If you were a tuba player looking for a new gig in Colorado, which of the following sites would leave you breathless in Boulder?

  • CareersColorado.com
  • HighCountryHelpWanted
  • MusicintheMountains.org
  • RockyMountainJobs.com
  • If your spouse was a distribution specialist looking for a position in business service delivery management, where would she likely come up empty-handed?

  • JobsinLogistics.com
  • Labor-Delivery-Jobs.com
  • LogisticsWorld.com
  • SupplyChainRecruit
  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2003 Guides and Directories



    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time/consulting jobs: Yes – Part time, Contract

    Distribution of jobs: National: USA

    Number of jobs: 12,000

    Salary levels of jobs: Hourly, $14-19K/year

    Offer a job agent: Yes

    Resume database: Yes

    How long are resumes stored: 90 days

    Restrictions on who can post: Those in a certain industry

    Other services for job seekers: Career/job search information, Links to off-site resources, Confidentiality protection for resume submission

    Answers to Site Insite:

    1. CanMed, the site of a Canadian healthcare staffing company

    2. MusicintheMountains.org, the site of a music festival in California

    3. Labor-Delivery-Jobs.com, a recruitment site for labor and delivery nurses