Feature: HeadsUp: The Cure for the Common Career

Feature: HeadsUp: The Cure for the Common Career

Feature: HeadsUp: The Cure for the Common Career

It’s become a cult sensation. A homeopathic migraine headache medicine has launched a television ad that is … well, more than a little strange.

The ad opens with a women rubbing what looks like a glue stick across her forehead. Then, a bright yellow arrow appears and points at the spot while a voice intones “HeadOn. Apply directly to the forehead.” “HeadOn. Apply directly to the forehead.” “HeadOn. Apply directly to the forehead.” The metronomic chant is followed by a brief explanation that the product is a non-prescription headache medicine that’s available at retail stores. And then, it’s over.

The ad is so off-beat and so out-of-the-norm that it’s become fodder for late night comedians, the subject of a blog frenzy, and even the lyrics of a rap song. All of which got me to thinking. If such a simple format can catch people’s attention for physical headaches, maybe I could use something similar to catch their attention for career headaches. So, here goes:

HeadsUp. Apply directly to your career.

HeadsUp. Apply directly to your career.

HeadsUp. Apply directly to your career.

This message is a non-prescription cure to what ails the common career. Career malaise affects every field of work, every salary level and level of experience, every industry and every location in the country. Its symptoms, unfortunately, are familiar to many of us; we experience them as sudden and repetitive job loss. Basically, we lose our immunity to unemployment. Our careers suffer from a lack of job security.

So, here’s my HeadsUp: Don’t try to cure what you can’t control. Jobs are the property of employers. They create them, and they can (and do) change, combine, relocate, and eliminate them at will. You can be the best performer and the most loyal employee in your organization and still find yourself experiencing career cardiac arrest or what the world calls termination of employment.

What, then, should you apply to your career to protect it and you? What will cure the ache in your work? My simple formulation has only four components:

  • First, focus on protecting your career, not your job. Your career belongs to you; your job belongs to your employer. Jobs may come and go, but your career is yours forever. Moreover, your career is as fragile or as robust as you make it. You can strengthen it, increase its endurance and enhance its capacity to reward and satisfy you. Or not. The choice is yours.
  • Second, don’t outsource the protection of your career. You decide who’s going to be in charge of the health of your career. You can cede control of that effort to employers or you can accept the responsibility. The only way to ensure protection, however, is to do the job yourself. You must go to work as your career’s primary care giver. Why? Because only you truly care about what happens to it. Your employers care about what happens to others-their shareholders and owners-but you have a clear and vested interest in a healthy career.
  • Third, building career health is not a second job; it’s your first. We’ve all been told that it’s up to us to manage our own careers, but we often treat that responsibility as a part time or seasonal job. We get around to it only when our “real” job-the one that belongs to our employers-permits us to do so. And that has it exactly backwards. You should take care of your own career first. You should make it your #1 priority to hone your expertise in your field. Strive always to be the best you can be in your profession, craft or trade. That won’t prevent employer-instigated layoffs and job changes, but it will ensure that you are always employable, always able to bounce back and find a job that meets your needs.
  • Fourth, a healthy career is achieved through contribution, not capability. Capability, your expertise in your occupational field, is absolutely essential to continued employment. It does not, however, guarantee it. Why? Because, employers care about not only what you can do, but how well you actually do it on-the-job. They look for performance as well as potential. You can have state-of-the-art skills in your field, but if you don’t transfer that expertise to your work, you won’t make much of a contribution. And, it’s that contribution that gives you your value as an employee or employment candidate. Deliver a meaningful and generous contribution, and you’ll enjoy a robust and generous career.

    There’s no patent pending on the above formulation, although I have given it a name. My HeadsUp for a more satisfying and rewarding work-life is called Career Fitness. It’s the cure for the common career.

    Thanks for reading,


    P.S. Don’t keep WEDDLE’s to yourself. If you like our newsletter, please tell your friends and colleagues about it. They’ll appreciate your thinking of them. And, we will too!

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    Consulting firm Accenture recently published the results of a survey of middle manages in the United States, Europe and Australia. In yet another indication of the discontent in business organizations today, fewer than half of the 1,025 respondents were either extremely or very satisfied with their employers and a third described their organizations as “mismanaged.” Among the chief complaints was a lack of support from and communication with senior management and the absence of developmental programs below the executive level. If you’re a mid-level manager looking for a new or better job, how can you avoid finding yourself in the same predicament with your next employer? Use your interviews and research to probe for answers to the following questions:

  • Do the executives in the company you’re considering get it-do they recognize and value the contribution of middle managers?
  • Do the executives talk about it-do they provide one or more communication channels to facilitate a dialogue between senior management and middle managers or do they provide only a soliloquy or, worse, silence?
  • Do the executives walk the talk-do they provide direct education and training and/or support for it outside the company to help you strengthen your capability and performance?
  • Do the executives encourage cross-talk-do they provide one or more communication channels to help middle managers share information and solve problems, solicit advice and capture lessons learned from their peers?
  • The AirPower Wiki made its debut as a site where business travelers can find and add to a listing of those rare and often hidden electrical outlets in airports. With the power available in computer batteries still limited, knowing where you can plug-in can often mean the difference between a productive layover and a waste of time. For example, wouldn’t it be nice to know that you can find all the juice you need at the base of the fire hoses in Spain’s Madrid Barajas Airport or behind the automatic teller machines at Chicago’s O’Hare International? Sure beats wandering around with your laptop in hand and a frustrated frown on your face.

    Career and job search advancement company Execunet reported the results of a survey of the candidate research practices of executive recruiters. It found that 77% use search engines (e.g., Google, Yahoo!) to learn more about prospective employees. Of those that did, 35% have eliminated a candidate based on the information they discovered online. How can you prepare for this “cyber reference checking?” Conduct your own cyber-check first. Enter your name into several of the leading search engines and see what you find. If anything negative turns up, don’t waste your time trying to erase or correct it. You can’t, at least not on the Web. Once it appears online, it will likely be copied and recopied so many times that even a court judgment in your favor won’t eliminate it. The best you can do, therefore, is be proactive; don’t wait for the recruiter to uncover it. Instead, tell your side of the story in whatever information you submit to the recruiter. Eliminate the surprise and you will reduce or even eliminate the likelihood of an adverse action on their part.

    Research site Salary.com estimated that a stay-at-home mom’s contribution to her family enterprise-from transportation management and facility maintenance to food preparation and social facilitation-would rate an annual salary of $134.121 in 2006, up from $131.471 in 2005. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the job demands 91.6 hours per week. Where’s the work-life balance in that?

    The Society of Hospital Medicine launched its SHM Career Center, which it describes as “the nation’s first full-service, online job bank and recruitment Web site exclusively targeted to hospitalists.” Now, that’s a career field even my dictionary doesn’t recognize. Anyway, the site offers a job data base, a resume database and a job agent. Members can use all of the services, while non-members are limited to searching the job database and applying for jobs.

    Section Three: Site Profiles

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

    1. You’re an experienced utility technician looking to relocate to the northeast. Where could you go online to generate some high powered employment opportunities?

  • EnergyJobsPortal.com
  • PowerPeople.com
  • UtilityJobsOnline.com
  • EnergyCentralJobs.com
  • 2. Your daughter just left for college, and you’ve decided to go back into retail sales. Which of the following sites would help you build up an inventory of prospective jobs?

  • TopSellers.com
  • MegaSellers.com
  • Number1Sellers.com
  • BestSellers.com
  • 3. You can’t get along with your supervisor so are looking to find a new employer. If you have several years experience as a bank teller, where could you go online to find a large deposit of openings in your area?

  • TalentBank.com
  • jobsinthemoney.com
  • BankJobs.com
  • CareerBank.com
  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2005/6 Guides and Directories



    The Boston Globe

    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes – All

    Distribution of jobs: Regional/USA – Greater Boston, MA

    Number of jobs: 22,633

    Salary levels of jobs: Up to $200K+/year

    Offer a job agent: Yes

    Resume database: Yes

    How long are resumes stored: Indefinitely

    Restrictions on who can post: None

    Other services for job seekers: Assessment instruments, Career information, Links to other sites with resources

    Member, International Association of Employment Web Sites: Yes

    Answers to Site Insite

    1. All but PowerPeople.com, the site of a Web graphics design company.

    2. None of them. TopSellers.com announces the top salespeople in a Washington real estate firm; MegaSellers.com is the site of a German merchandising company; Number1Sellers.com is the site of a real estate consultant; and BestSellers.com connects you to the merchandise sales area on Amazon.com.

    3. All but TalentBank.com, a site that posts casting calls for actors.