Lee Fields, pre-recession, is a confident corporate guy. He is feeling good – happy with his title, pay and the credibility at the blue-chip companies on his resume. He takes risks in his career (including a couple of corporate relocations). Even that turns out alright, buying and selling his homes at exactly the right moment. Life is good.
Heads down, intermittent job search
With his career firing on all cylinders, Lee keeps his head down. There is no need to get involved with local professional organizations, no need to take calls from headhunters and certainly no need to participate in networking meetings.
Instead, Lee continues to handle potential job changes as he has throughout his career:
- Wait for a search firm to call with a perfect opportunity
- Respond to monster.com email alert
- Listen for job leads from his exceedingly small, but tight-knit network
He doesn’t realize it at the time, but he isn’t managing his career at all. Whenever he gets that feeling it is time to move on, then he will kick into job search mode. He will make some inquiries, apply for more jobs and call a few search firms. Voila, he will land another position in his industry. Part of his success is due to the economy, and part due to the upward trajectory of his career. This start and stop approach may work for Lee in the past, but not anymore.
Characteristics of an intermittent job search
- not networked
- not volunteering (professionally)
- short-term focus
- start/stop mentality
When the recession hits, many of Lee’s pals get hung up in corporate downsizings. Still, ever confident, Lee continues to keep his head down, like an ostrich with its head in the sand, hoping and praying that the bad times will blow over.
Lee still doesn’t change his approach as layoffs at his company grow closer and closer. His once large organization continues to shrink and shrink. At one point, he has a team of twenty-five employees. A year later, the team is down to five. No matter, Lee figures he has dodged layoffs many times earlier in his career so why would this time be any different?
Well, times are different. The recession is unlike anything he has seen in his professional life and it finally takes its toll. During the third round of layoffs, Lee prepares to take on more work from the others around him who lost their jobs. Except this time, for the first time, Lee is on the receiving end of the layoff. After a numbing car ride home and a very supportive conversation with his amazing wife, Lee decides that the intermittent job search techniques he has been utilizing are a thing of the past. Instead, he starts practicing on-going career management from that point forward, and promises to himself that he will continue to do so even after he lands his next big corporate position.
Heads-up, on-going career management
Lee conducts an all-out campaign to find his next role. Through the help of a wonderful new mentor, he joins a couple of well-regarded professional organizations in his field. As he networks with many of the Board of Directors of one of these organizations, he expressed an interest in contributing significantly to one organization in particular. Within a few months, he is elected to that Board.
He also starts on a networking “mission” to speak with power connectors in his field including executives, leaders, recruiters and heads of business development.
He creates a blog, a newsletter, publishes articles for other on-line communities and is featured in a book. Lee becomes a keynote speaker to groups large and small, from college-age through the executive ranks.
As it turns out, in a few short months after his displacement, Lee latches on with the same employer and lands a new role in a different capacity. More important than the end result is the lesson that Lee learns: intermittent job search techniques do not suffice in this new economy. One cannot be caught flat-footed. One must practice on-going career management.
Characteristics of on-going career management
- actively network
- attain volunteer leadership positions in your profession
- write articles
- give speeches
- continue your education
- understand your competition
- keep your career documents (bio, accomplishments, resume, etc.) up to date
Today, Lee is doing very well in his corporate job. He is well-regarded and is dedicated to exceeding his boss’ and clients’ expectations. However, a few years later, Lee continues to do all of the things required of a heads-up career “manager.” For example, he is vice president of his professional organization. He takes networking calls almost every day on his way to or from work. He writes articles on a regular basis and he gives many speeches to professionals and students on career management. He has become a power connector in his industry.
Lee works hard at being a valuable, pay-it-forward networker and professional in his industry and community. He leads a more rewarding life now because he continues to help many more people than he did when “his head was down.” In the future, he will also likely benefit from more significant career success due to his new approach of on-going career management.
Ask yourself; are you actively managing your career utilizing these techniques? If not, now may be the time to start.
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About the Author
Matthew Levy is a well-rounded HR professional and career coach with fifteen years of broad experience in both specialist (e.g., recruiting) and generalist (e.g., HR business partner) roles at blue-chip companies, including Merck, Amgen and Johnson & Johnson.
Currently, Matt works full time as a Senior HR Generalist for Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development. Prior to J&J, Matt relocated his family to Southern California to take a position with Amgen, the world’s largest biotechnology company, where he led the talent acquisition function for Amgen’s commercial operations and corporate staff groups. Before Amgen, Matt spent several years at Merck, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. There, Matt held a variety of positions in both recruiting and generalist capacities.
In addition to his full time work, Matt founded a career coaching practice, Corner Office Career Coaching. Matt works one-on-one with professionals and executives providing them with customized solutions to their career challenges. As a 20-year corporate HR professional with a large network who has also successfully conducted his own effective, cutting-edge job search, he is well qualified to help others reach their career goals.
Matt graduated cum laude with a B.S. in Business Management from Ithaca College. He is an actively engaged member of several professional organizations including the Philadelphia HR Planning Society where he is on the Board of Directors and the Greater Philadelphia Senior Executives Group. He also regularly gives presentations on HR issues as well as how to manage one’s career using social media.
Matt lives in Doylestown, PA with his wife, daughter and son. He jogs through the Bucks County countryside to stay fit.