CAREER 2014: How to create a successful career no matter what happens
Published Thursday, December 26, 2013 8:00PM EST
The old rules for career advancement don’t work anymore – which frees you to create a career that works on your terms.
Dan Schawbel, author of "Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success," says change is constant and you need to prepare for it.
"There’s really no way around it but be excited for it because change is good,” Schawbel says. "Who wants to be stuck in the same thing every year?
"Either you will get bored or you'll just remain stationary in your career so I think it’s a positive thing to push yourself in that direction."
Q. What do you mean by “promoting” yourself?
Schawbel: Pushing yourself forward, taking your career in your hands, being accountable for your own life. Not relying on anyone or anything to make things happen for you because if you do that, you’re going to be in bad shape.
Be the driver. Companies aren't just going to take care of you; opportunities are not just going to come to you because you have a website. You have to go and grab them. And the change in this economy now, it’s a trend that’s going to be for the rest of everyone's lives. Everyone is kind of on their own now.
[In the past] the way you found work was you could submit to job boards. You could read classified ads, and that doesn’t really work anymore. So many people are submitting resumes to those that you’re just a number. And if you don’t have the right keywords, if you don’t have the right type of resume, you’re not even going to have a chance at any of those roles anyways.
Those are all black holes now and the only real true way to get jobs now is to already know someone who works at that company.
In fact, if you don’t know someone who works at that company it’s almost impossible to get a job there because of the amount of competition.
There are 3.9 million job openings right now (in the U.S.) and not enough talent or not the right talent to fill those openings.
Q. Many college-level job opportunities are in IT, financial, engineering and healthcare. How can you find jobs if you don’t have that skill set?
Schawbel: I think that's a really good question. Colleges need to start paying attention. It’s all about “stem” talent now -- science, technology, engineering and math -- those are where all the opportunities are. Those are the skills that all these companies need.
For people who have a liberal arts degree they need to pair that with a business degree. In fact, I think that at some point every school will become a business school or have business classes to supplement other classes, liberal arts-type classes, because if you don’t have that business acumen it’s very hard to succeed today.
You shouldn’t be able to graduate without an internship … because if you don’t have an internship …you’re going to have internships after you graduate and that delays your ability to build a career.
If you graduate and you aren’t positioned to work in those types of companies or fulfill the jobs that are open then you have to analyze and see what you need to do to be able to fulfill those roles.
The good news for people is there are a lot of free educational services online. Coursera is one, the Khan Academy is another one. There are lot of free videos on YouTube, there's tutorials on anything you can think of computer-related online, there's books you can read and there’s experts you can email.
Theres really no excuse and anyone can really develop the skill set and then practice that skill set by using a site like oDesk.com. It’s a freelance marketplace and you can work with one client on one specific project, test out those skills, do a good job, get an endorsement and build that way too.
Q. Why should you focus on enhancing your strengths rather than improving on your weaknesses?
Schawbel: You can only improve so much with your weaknesses. I also believe that if it’s a weakness that’s affecting your ability to advance then it’s something you need to concentrate on -- but for the most part, you really build up your strengths and become the best at what you do for a specific topic or skill.
Then people will search you out, especially if that skill or topic is in demand. It’s what I’ve done in my career, it’s what a lot of really successful people do is they become subject matter experts. In the book, we found out that 65% of managers are looking for these subject matter experts, people that they can count on to fulfill specific needs.
Q. From your research, what are the top two or three things that hold people back in their careers?
Schawbel: I think, especially millennials, they have a lot of obstacles because they have to beat the stereotypes of managers thinking that they’re entitled and narcissistic and lazy and not focused. And on the other side, millennials have a positive view of their managers; they see them as their mentors. So everything’s a two-way street in the workplace.
Managers need to ease up on the stereotypes and let millennials prove themselves, and millennials need to work harder which gets the lazy piece away. They have to focus on providing value to their coworkers and making their manager more successful and making their manager’s job easier and that gets rid of the narcissistic piece. And for the entitled piece it’s taking a step back, being more patient instead of thinking you’re going to be the CEO tomorrow.
Q. You say in your book that by 2015 60 per cent of jobs will require skills that only 20 per cent of people have right now. That’s pretty overwhelming. How can we prepare?
Schawbel: It is overwhelming. What everyone needs to keep in mind is it’s an ongoing process. You're not going to graduate from college and everything is going to work out for you. It takes time to learn, develop, make mistakes, connect to the right people and build a foundation of skills. All of this doesn’t take two months.
It takes about six months to even get trained at a company so you can’t just leap immediately. You have to focus on how you make the best of your current situation using the resources that you have, develop the skills that you need and the network that you need to rise up and if things don’t go as planned, assess your situation.
If you want to continue with such a career, maybe go back to school. If you don’t think it’s a good cultural fit, maybe work at a different company. There are a lot of different things that happen. My goal was definitely to lay out all the options for people because it’s going to be different for everyone.
Schawbel’s top tips:
Find improvements or opportunities
You notice something that your company could be doing better, or you notice an opportunity that your company could take advantage of -- those are the two main ways.
You do the research and you say, what’s the market opportunity or what’s the problem that needs fixing? What’s the potential solution to that problem? How do I pitch this new opportunity for new products, or new social media platform, whatever it may be, to the company? What resources do I need? How much money could my company make from this or save from this or both? Who do I need on my team in order to make this happen? What’s the budget?
Create a business plan
You create a presentation based on a business plan and you present it to your manager once you’re confident about it. And this is after work hours, this is not part of your typical day. Then you go to your manager and say, ‘this is what I’ve come up with, let me share it with you.’ If they like it then maybe they help you get the resources … then you could potentially start doing the project.
Intrapreneurs often become entrepreneurs
A lot of people who are intrapreneurs end up becoming entrepreneurs too because they have taken a low risk way to learn entrepreneurial skills; they’re using the company's resources to learn how to be entrepreneurial within the company. And it helps them get a track record … they can leverage those experiences in order to start their own company.
Corporations encourage innovation from within
Things are happening so fast and it’s much easier for a company to say, let’s look from within and find people who can help us stay competitive in the marketplace. Innovation from within, that’s becoming a huge trend in corporations -- at least the forward-thinking ones -- and definitely the ones in the tech industry.
Work at many different companies
I worked at eight different companies before I graduated, plus I had my own business … I'm all about making up projects. Sometimes I will literally make up projects just to get the experience, to see if it's something that I really want to pursue.
Do your homework
You just have to realize your place in the world. That's what it comes down to so based on what am I really interested in, what have I experienced so far, and based on what I think I’m really good at, based on what other people think and based on where I see opportunities right now, you make a decision. It’s all about doing your homework.
It’s the same thing before you go into a job interview – do your homework. Or if you're asking for a promotion, do your homework. The ability to research and come to better conclusions is much easier these days -- so you don’t want to shy away from doing that. And there’s an expectation, especially if you’re trying to get a promotion or you’re trying to get into a company, that you’re doing your research and if you’re not, you’re really missing the boat and it’s going to prevent you from getting opportunity.