In today’s turbulent economic environment, organizations are turning a critical eye on every aspect of their business from cutting all but the bare necessities to eliminating less-than-productive staff —everything is up for review. Because of rampant layoffs, changes in the global marketplace and technology innovations, those with jobs are looking to career development professionals to provide help in keeping those jobs. Tell your clients that there are ways to maintain and even enhance one's career. For every person who loses a job, there are thousands who don’t. During tough times, organizations choose to keep, and often promote, those who are viewed as essential to the company’s prosperity. Your client's key to success in today’s market is to build a reputation for delivering value, on time, every time. Tell your clients to follow these keys now so when the company makes decisions about who goes and who stays, there is no doubt who is indispensable.
First, be a problem-solver, not a problem: Yes, the squeaky wheel gets the oil, and during difficult times it is often the squeaky wheel that gets the pink slip. Develop a reputation for solving problems. It is good to notice problems; it is even better to identify solutions. When you go to your manager with a problem you run the risk of taking the fall as the messenger. However, if you go to your manager with recommendations for solving pressing business problems you are likely to be viewed as a hero.
Be a sales person for your company. In addition to problem-solvers, every company is looking for good salespeople. In today’s global economy, everyone works in sales, whether they realize it not. Promote your company’s products and services at every opportunity. Earn a reputation for being the company’s # 1 cheerleader.
Take time to go the extra mile. During a conversation with one of my business clients, we discussed the importance of hiring people who are committed to the organization’s success. My client commented that before she owned her company, she worked for a number of other businesses; in each case, she worked as if she owned the business. That attitude helped her build a positive reputation, but more importantly she felt like she was making a meaningful contribution to the organization. It was a win-win situation. She learned a lot about business and the organization benefited from her commitment to doing a good job. Employers want and need people who work like they own the business. Make your employer glad that you were hired.
Be generous with your ideas and suggestions. One of my clients, Chi, a thirty-something accounting manager for a software company, is fielding opportunities during this time of economic uncertainty. Why? Because she has earned a reputation for looking out for the best interests of her employer. When she noticed a drop in sales, she brought it to the attention of the Vice President of Sales then worked with him to cut costs, improve efficiencies and identify revenue-producing opportunities. During the last five years, Chi has consistently earned recognition and regular salary increases, sometimes on a quarterly basis, because of her ongoing contributions.
Track the results of your ideas and suggestions. As important as it is to contribute ideas it is equally important to make sure your boss is aware of and appreciates the value of those suggestions. In the case of Chi, she offered ideas that made the Vice President of Sales look good and in the process provided the executive team with backup data which supported the new sales strategy. Chi makes it a point to jot down her ideas and meet with her boss frequently to keep him in the loop. Label a file in your desk drawer “Accomplishments.” Once a week add something to it. Review the contents of the file every six months; while not everything in it will be a noteworthy gem, you will have specific examples of your recent contributions. Prepare a list and share it with your manager on a regular basis. If your manager isn’t aware of your achievements how can she demonstrate your value to the organization when asked to make cost-cutting decisions?
Become the “go to” person for your area of expertise. What? You don’t have an area of expertise? Sure you do. You just don’t recognize it for what it is. What do you do that is like breathing? What do you do that amazes and astounds co-workers? Why do others come to you for assistance? These are questions to consider when looking for examples of your expertise. Share your knowledge with your colleagues – it’s great to be seen as the expert and it only serves to enhance your reputation when you share what you know.
Become a people connector. In “The Tipping Point,” Malcolm Gladwell talks about the power of connectors. These are individuals who make a point to connect others for their mutual benefit. Connecting, or networking as it is better known, is about opening a dialogue, making a friend, and looking for ways to give before you get. A network is, at its heart, a circle of friends. People who take the time to network and facilitate personal and business introductions are viewed as valuable resources and are rarely at a loss for opportunities, whether inside or outside of the organization.
The 21st-century workplace has changed, and with it, the rules for career success. Simply doing the job is not enough to stay afloat during challenging economic times. Teach clients to take control of their career by building a reputation for delivering value.
Mary Jeanne Vincent, MS, Career Expert & Strategist, is the author of Acing the Interview, Beyond the Résumé, and Career Success Discovery cards. She is the career columnist for the Monterey County Herald and publishes a monthly online career newsletter (www.careercoachmjv.com). Mary Jeanne has a private coaching practice in Monterey, CA. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.