Securing your career while navigating the winds of change

UPDATED! As a member of Career Collective–a community of resume writers and career coaches, this article is one of many responses to Quintessential Careers “Job Action Day”. I encourage you to visit other members’ responses, which will be linked at the end of my article on November 2nd. Please follow our hashtag on Twitter: #careercollective.


There is no denying that the winds of economic change have had a significant impact on the job market. In order for college students and recent graduates to be successful in securing your careers, you will need to learn to effectively navigate these and future job market changes. Fortunately, there are career lessons we can garner from the characteristics of the wind itself.

Lesson 1: When faced with obstacles, wind finds a way
Last winter, I noticed that my basement was feeling particularly drafty. The culprit? Cold drafts were flowing through the electrical outlets! It’s really quite amazing how the wind always finds a way to navigate over, under, around, or even through obstacles, (large or small), that may stand in its path. More interesting still is that it won’t necessarily follow the exact same path every single time, even when faced with the same obstacles. When it comes to establishing your career, having the flexibility, like the wind, to adjust to a variety of obstacles is vital.

Practically speaking, that means being willing to combine non-traditional forms of work, such as interning, working part time, freelancing, contracting, temping, job sharing, telecommuting, and volunteering. On the surface, non-traditional forms of work may not appear to offer the type of stability that traditional full-time employment had offered in the past. But today, career stability is very much based on your ability to keep your skill set current, network effectively, and remain flexible. Non-traditional work cultivates all three. For example, if you are interested in marketing, a marketing firm is not your only option. Perhaps you could work virtually as a social media intern to keep your skill set honed, while also networking broadly within multiple industries. Simultaneously, you might work part time in the marketing department of a small non-profit organization, allowing you to expand your skill set, thus improving your flexibility within your field.

Adjusting effectively to obstacles also means being willing to consider different geographic locations, salary ranges, and industries. In doing so, you keep yourself competitive while still maintaining focus. For example, network with professionals from across the country – you will develop a much wider picture of your field and will stand to gain from the expertise of counterparts working all over the United States. Likewise, network with professionals in a variety of industries. If you are a computer science major, don’t pigeon hole yourself into just the technology industry. Network with professionals in the public sector, education, healthcare and non-profit where technical expertise is equally desired.

Lesson 2: Under the right circumstances, the wind does marvelous things
We’ve talked about the wind’s flexibility, but that’s not the only characteristic of the wind worth

examining. On its own, the wind is certainly interesting and capable of accomplishing a lot. But, under the right circumstances, the wind can do some pretty spectacular things. If you’ve ever played with a kite on a windy day or watched a bird soaring through the sky, you’ll know what I mean. Similarly, when your career development efforts are combined with the strong support of loyal colleagues, experienced professionals and caring family and friends, your career will soar. Too many people forget this important component to career success and hope to stumble upon the right circumstances rather than actively seek them. In truth, you have a lot of control over the creation of the right circumstances for your career. Practically speaking, this means surrounding yourself with people who support your career efforts. Talk to trusted family members and friends about your plans. Reach out to faculty members and alums in your field. Seek their advice, bounce ideas around with them, and request networking leads. Identify industry leaders whose work you respect. Even if you choose not to connect with them personally, (though personal contact would be preferable), follow their careers as a source of inspiration.

Creating the right career circumstances also means avoiding people whom you do not trust, who are unprofessional or whose negativity pulls you down. Take a long hard look at the people with whom you interact, both in real life and online. For example, if there are individuals whose favorite past time is bad-mouthing their current employer or complaining about why they cannot find employment, you may want to begin to limit your interactions with these so-called friends. This may sound harsh, but the reality is that the career development process, especially in a difficult job market, can be challenging enough on its own. You do not need the extra burden of dealing with people who may be detrimental to you or your career. Remember that the wind, under the wrong circumstances, can lead to a major crash.

We’ve examined the analogy of the wind to learn ways to manage the changing job market, but there is one last characteristic of the wind that we cannot neglect – its potential for destruction. True, the job market has changed and you may feel overwhelmed by the obstacles ahead of you, but never allow yourself to take on those destructive characteristics of the wind that we’ve seen literally destroy homes and lives. As challenging as the job market may be, do not allow yourself to harm yourself or others as you traverse the ever-changing waters of the job market. Fortunately, unlike the wind, you have much more control over the way you react to your career development and job search. So, be flexible as you encounter obstacles; create optimal circumstances by ensuring you are well-supported; revel in the changes that have taken place and allow yourself to soar.
(Image courtesy of Family Day Kite Festival.)

Other posts from the Career Collective for Job Action Day
Meg Montford: Job Action Day: Finding Your “MOJO” After Layoff
Debra Wheatman: Plan B from outer space; or what do you have in case your first plan doesn’t work out?
Heather Mundell: Green Jobs – What They Are and How to Find Them
Erin Kennedy: Cutting Edge Job Search Blueprint
Hannah Morgan: Career Sherpa– Why Our Job Search Advice is the Same but Different http://hannahmorgan.typepad.com/hannah_morgan/2009/10/why-our-job-search-advice-is-the-same-but-different.html
Gayle Howard: The Enlightened Jobseeker
Laurie Berenson: Making lemonade out of lemons: Turn unemployment into entrepreneurship
Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter: You Can Thrive In, Not Just Survive, an Economic Slogging
Rosalind Joffe: Preparedness: It’s Not Just for Boyscouts http://workingwithchronicillness.com/2009/10/preparedness-its-not-just-for-boy-scouts/
Rosa E. Vargas: Are You Evolving Into The In-Demand Professional of Tomorrow?
Dawn Bugni: Your network IS your net worth
Miriam Salpeter: Optimize your job hunt for today’s economy
GL Hoffman: The Life of An Entrepreneur: Is It for You?
Katharine Hansen: Job Action Day 09: His Resume Savvy Helped New Career Rise from Layoff Ashes
Martin Buckland: Job Search–The Key to Securing Your Future Career
Chandlee Bryan: Where the Green Jobs Are
Heather R. Huhman, Take Action: 10 Steps for Landing an Entry-Level Job
Barbara Safani: Where the Jobs Are 2009 and Beyond
J.T. O’Donnell: Actions that got people jobs in this recession

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11 comments to Securing your career while navigating the winds of change

  • Erin Kennedy, CPRW

    Grace,

    Nice, positive post! When something stands in your way, move past it and move on to something new.

    I think of wind in a whole new light now! :)

    Erin Kennedy
    http://exclusive-executive-resumes.com

  • Dawn Bugni

    Grace –

    Loved this post. Spot on advice all around –especially the part about distancing yourself from negative individuals. Moving away from or jettisoning completely acquaintances who steal your energy is never wrong.

    Exercising control over that which can be controlled during a job search is vital. Who gets your energy is definitely controllable.

  • J.T.

    Grace, my favorite way of learning is to be given an analogy. Your use of the wind in this post really spoke to me – thanks so much!

    JT
    CAREEREALISM.com

  • Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, MRW

    As a sailor, I was drawn to the impetus of your post, Grace! Wind is essential for a sailboat's movement; as well, it often has a mind of is own. As with certain aspects of change during our career, we don't control the wind; we simply respond to it, and often are able to harness it for forward propulsion.

    Other times, when winds get wild, we simply have to release the wind from the sails and let it pass of its own accord.

    We must always remember that flexibility is key to weathering the winds of change, and that "sometimes in the winds of change we find our true direction." ~~Author Unknown.

    Great article, Grace!

    Jacqui

  • Heather Mundell

    Great post! I especially like your point about being open to non-traditional work arrangements as a way to keep your skill sets current and active. Flexibility is so key!

  • Sweet - aka Grace Kutney

    resumeguru, Barbara and careersherpa, thanks so much for your comments!

    GL, I agree, it's quite despicable that many job boards, and others, for that matter, are trying to fleece the many desperate people out of work today.

    Rick, I agree with you, too! We do have much more control over our careers. This is why I mention that people have "a lot more control over the creation of the right circumstances for [their] career" and again, "fortunately, unlike the wind, [people] have much more control over the way [they] react to [their] career development and job search." I'd love to hear more about "The Leap."

  • ricksmithauthor

    never heard that analogy. My only issue with it, as an author of career books, is that it implies that there is so much out of our control.

    Ok, so there is, but that doesn't mean that our furtunes are tied directly to it. There are so many things within our control (the subject of my newest book, The Leap).

    No matter what the climate, you can make your own destiny!

    Rick

  • Barbara Safani

    Grace,

    Lovely analogy. And I agree with you 100% about surrounding yourself with positive people during a job search. The negative ones can be toxic!

  • careersherpa

    Grace, this was a great post! Wind does serve as a wonderful analogy. I enjoyed reading!

  • Anonymous

    Grace,
    I couldn't help but think of another metaphor for "wind" as I was reading your insightful post. Since I am in the employment media business, the term is "blowhard"–a term I would give to those job boards that rip off employers and then job seekers with scam ads, duplicate listings or jobs from questionable third parties. (Commercial: Job seekers should try http://www.LINKUP.com-only real jobs from company websites).
    I love your writing style and am glad that we share a common connection with Jacqui and Miriam.
    best,

    GL HOFFMAN
    Minneapolis
    http://www.whatwoulddadsay.com

  • resumeguru

    Wonderful post Grace. Let's hope your clients use your wonderful advice to navigate the winds of change and land a new position quickly and safely!

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