The good folks over at The Personal Branding Blog have been writing a series of tips on recession proofing your career through your personal brand. While they are titled from the point of view of personal branding, I’ve found most of the tips to have broad applicability and just make sense.
The tips, currently at 10, are written to be a very quick read, just a couple paragraphs. They make a lot of sense and have got me thinking a bit more in depth on most of them. So with full credit given to the team over at The Personal Branding Blog, I’d like to add my two cents worth to the discussion. I’m not sure anyone can really make your career truly recession proof, but the spirit of these tips is to focus back on key activities that can play a big part in making sure you are on the “A” list when hard decisions come in your company.
It would be great to make this a collaborative effort, so if you have a thought on one of the tips please add a comment. My thoughts follow the break.
#1 Bolster your Brand
The point made here is when corporate belt-tightening comes it’s even more important to display why you are unique, innovation and valuable to the company. Written from the point of view of personal brand, which tends to focus on creativity, innovation and thought leadership, you may be left thinking this tip is only for the folks in R&D and Marketing. Don’t overlook that phrase early on where a “diverse workplace” is mentioned. From the maintenance crew to the purchasing clerk, to the President, every employee adds their own special value – don’t overlook or sell yours short.
The point as made speaks to making sure you work extra hard at making sure your special value is front and center in hard times. If cuts do come, then any incremental value, uniqueness or extra talent you have to offer, if it has been showcased appropriately, could be that something extra and keeps you employed.
#2 Build Bridges
This tip is always a good one. The point made here is that if you have a situation in the near future where you are laid off, or need to find a new employer due to deteriorating work conditions, you want to have fresh, up to date connections with all aspects of your network. This includes not only former bosses, co-workers and colleagues, but also groups and associations you were or are a part of. Don’t forget those social networks either. If you’ve recently joined LinkedIn, Facebook, or some other social network but haven’t put any time into it, learn the options available for building an active, current network.
What I’d like to add to this discussion is you need to approach this “bridge building” naturally, without betraying a sense of urgency. We all have a business colleague or two that you only hear from when they are in-between jobs or need a referral. Don’t be that person. Hopefully, you’re managing good active networks as a everyday activity – the point here is to both take a review and make sure all your critical bridges are in good working order and consider widening your network just in case.
#3 Grow your Google Quotient
Maybe it’s because I’m in the Midwest or maybe I’m just not at an appropriately high executive level, but the recruiters and HR folks I talk to tend to downplay this one. While many of them do perform a cursory Internet search on applicants they are serious about, it is more to make sure nothing unseemly is found than to see which applicant has the most impressive online identity.
Surely having a strong online identity could be of great help to some professions, and could function as a tie-breaker when competing against strong competition.
A valid point is made that it takes time to grow your online identity. Even if you don’t aspire to have an “online” presence per se (blogger, website, etc.), for many business leaders it does make sense to have a complete, active and representative profile that can be found online. For business professional I recommend LinkedIn and/or VisualCV. Facebook is an option, but care must be taken as it is very hard to keep work and play separated on Facebook. Whichever platform(s) you choose, it will take time to get all your information in, it will take time for the search engines to find you, and it will take time to keep it up to date. Invest this time now.
#4 Walk to the Water Cooler
If those around you don’t know who you are or what you do, management will think they don’t need you when it is time to start preparing the layoff list.
It doesn’t get much more straight forward than that. Networking within your organization is an activity that most smart managers I’ve met along the way were not only very good at, but made a priority. Not only does it get you out meeting your fellow employees, but it also gets you plugged into the informal communication channels, making you privy to information your colleagues that aren’t out walking around will never hear. A slight advantage, but one I’ve found indispensable from time to time.
#5 Get Active
This tip talks about getting out and joining some groups and associations as I mentioned above. An excellent follow on point is to join fewer organizations and give them more of your time and energy versus joining several organizations. I am on the Board of a small local organization and definitely see that the connections made on the Board versus those made in our monthly meetings are definitely more meaningful. I have been on that Board for 5 years now along with several of the other Board members. Together we have grown membership in the group from around 30 to now over 100. The relationships and mutual respect developed from that process is invaluable.
My build on this tip would be to consider looking outside your profession when considering where to get involved. There are lots of groups that can use your help and you can still get valuable relationships from. One of my fellow Board members from the group I mentioned above is also on the Board of a regional park district along with several other area executives.
#6 Create Career Karma
The tip here is to help others recession proof there career. Helping others is never a bad thing and you never know when you’ll need help. Having a solid brand of being helpful will net you a lot of help if / when you may need it.
I’d like to expand this tip also to suggest that karma doesn’t stop at the company front door. I’ll take good karma wherever I can get it. Volunteer, help the neighbor rake their leaves, go to a couple of those charity events you always get invites for but never attend. You never know where when, where and from whom you will need a little help, so spread your karma wide (and thick).
#7 Start Counting
This is just a quick tip to remind us all to be active in documenting the value we add to the company and figuring out ways to get that information in front of our boss (and onward up from there). Maybe you have official metrics you or your department are measured against. Make sure those are documented as a minimum and communication.
I think this is really only the basics on this tip though. Start thinking of other ways you have added value to the organization or created opportunities. Maybe you can suggest a new initiative that fits right into your talents that bolsters an existing metric. Better yet, maybe it creates a new metric or goal for your area of the company and you have something truly unique you can point to.
In general I think a lot of us are hesitant to communicate our results on a regular basis. Whatever your reason if this is you – get over it. Every successful leader I have ever seen does not hesitate to accurately, consistently and sometimes boldly communicate their results to their management and anyone else who will listen. This is true lifeline to continued employment and career progression.
#8 Redo your Resume
No need to belabor this tip. The point as made is to make sure you put your resume in top order at least six months before you’ll need it. I truly think that misses the point. No matter how comfortable or happy you are in your present position, you should always be managing and updating your resume. If you have a reminder system, add a tickler to review and update your resume. I would suggest this is a quarterly activity and certainly should take place anytime a major career event takes place (major project completed, new employer, etc.)
It is recommended that you need to stand out from the crowd and even suggests hiring a professional resume writer. I would be very interested if anyone out there has ever used a resume writer. What was your experience? Would you recommend it?
#9 Invest in a Career Coach
This tip tells us to invest in a good career coach before the pink slip arrives, and I have talked with a couple career coaches that had obvious value to contribute. I think this decision needs a bit more introspection than just “do this”. Obviously, if things are clicking and you are on top of your game, then an excellent executive levelcoach can help take you to the next level.
All of us however, are at different places in our career, and may have widely different issues impacting our ability to move forward. Examine your long range plan, take a good hard look at yourself and ask yourself what is keeping you from taking that next step. It could be education, it could be life situations, it could be you are limited where you are at. So don’t just fall into assuming you need a career coach but do some honest evaluation of where you are at. There are lots of different types of coaches out there.
#10 Reconnect with Recruiters
I love this tip and the suggestion made for implementing it. I’ve always known the value in staying top of mind with the local executive recruiters. I have though struggled with how best to stay plugged in with them without appearing too self-serving. I was a fellow Board member with one, and developed a solid relationship, getting information on regional opportunities I’m sure others were not privy to.
The tip here is to reach out to recruiters from time to time to get their input on what is happening in your industry and seed advice. They are basically consultants and the number of folks they talk to make their observations highly valuable. These conversations should help develop a decent relationship and may even help cement your brand in their minds.
I’ll keep this post updates if The Personal Branding Blog adds any more. These are great tips and I think there’s something in here for everyone. I think the real point is that with the economy making everyone just a little nervous about their continued employment, the best thing all of us can do, is continue to do our best. If we weren’t just a little better at what we do than the next person, then we wouldn’t be here at DCO, now would we?
Comments, as always, welcome. What are you doing that you don’t see on the list? What can you add to any of the tips above?