Use Your Job To Increase Your Own Value!
Such are the imperatives of today's hyper-competitive workplace. Sacrifices like these are commonplace. But what about the flip side: what have you taken away from your employer lately?
I'm not just talking about office supplies or the occasional 'mental health' day (don't worry, I've done that sporadically too.) What I mean is, how are you making yourself more marketable while still giving your employer its fair shake?
I'll illustrate with a recent example. Bella and Nathan had been managers at the same pharmaceutical firm for close to five years. Then the company was acquired by a competitor.
Six months later, headcount was slashed dramatically. Both Bella and Nathan were downsized--along with more than 50 others.
It ended up taking Nathan nearly six months to find new work at his level. Ultimately he settled for a position that was farther from home than he'd have liked, but by that time he was grateful just to be gainfully re-employed.
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Meanwhile, Bella fairly breezed into an excellent position after a mere three months: half the time it took her colleague.
Outwardly this disparity was puzzling. Both of them were strong performers and had strong track records. They had spent extra hours at work to show that they were giving their best efforts. Each had dedicated themselves to the task of job hunting after the layoffs. And neither one had trouble presenting themselves to prospective employers.
So what was Bella's secret? Simply this: she had leveraged the resources of her former employer to build up her skills and contact base as part of her job. That raised her perceived value in the eyes of potential employers.
Here are some of the ways Bella did it.
Soon after starting she joined an industry association which her company gladly paid for. She attended monthly meetings, heard leading edge speakers share their ideas, and met dozens of colleagues at competing firms.
When it came time to network after getting let go, her Rolodex was bursting with names of relevant contacts who already knew and respected her.
Here's another thing she did. Whenever the company offered in-house training on new software, Bella was the first to sign up. This kept her technical abilities current and she was able to boast about this on her resume.
Yet another tactic? Back in her second year with the firm, Bella had sought out a mentor from the company's executive ranks. The two of them met regularly.
At one point the mentor suggested that Bella take on a cross-functional assignment in a different department. He even recommended her for it.
This expanded Bella's skill set and led to a posting in a different department than the one she had started in.
After the downsizing the mentor was helpful too. He introduced Bella to many of his peers at senior levels in other companies.
Now back to Nathan. He too had worked hard and had done well at the company. But when the layoffs came, he found himself with few external contacts.
Sure he knew lots of people from his former company, but many of those were jobless now themselves.
Moreover, he had allowed his computer skills to get rusty, and recruiters were trying to pigeonhole him because he'd only worked within one division during his entire stint at the pharmaceutical firm.
As for Bella, employers and recruiters consistently commented on her initiative. They told her that they were impressed with the breadth of experience.
Plus she was referred in to potential jobs time and time again by her contacts, placing her squarely into the heart of the hidden job market.
Nathan ended up struggling with published ads and the meager openings from recruiters, two areas where competition for attention is most fierce.
Bella's strategy proved to be foresighted. She knew from the outset that she couldn't rely on her job sticking around forever.
That's why she went proactive.
By taking advantage of opportunities within the firm itself, she managed to increase her marketability and broaden her base of contacts.
Best of all, she was able to do much of this during the workday itself, leveraging the resources of her company.
Was Bella happy with the results? She's since told me that while it did take extra work and planning, she ultimately felt much more in control of her own destiny.
And while she did have to cut back for a while on her outside hobby, choral singing, she could still make time to be with her family.
Not a bad trade off, seeing as it made the difference between a successful transition and a drawn out, frustrating one.
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