Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Social networking and job search 9 – taking an entrepreneur’s approach to building and managing a career

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on October 21, 2009

At one time, it is said, you would finish school, get a job and simply stay with that first company or organization throughout your career. You would learn and grow professionally and advance in their organizational system over the years, and then retire and that would be it, eventual gold watch and all. That is a very nice and comforting image but it is no longer true and in fact it was never really even an approximation of reality for many people. Today we face a very different work environment that is increasingly shifting towards a different basic social contract between employer and employee. And if we want to have a career, we have to build and manage and maintain it ourselves rather than turning to others to do this for us. We have to be the creators and owners of our own future, and that means taking an entrepreneur’s approach and following an entrepreneur’s path. When we are looking for work we have a job already and that is CEO of Ourself Inc., and when we have a position with another business or other type of organization we have two jobs – that job and our CEO position in managing our own career too.

So far this is simply a nice label, but if calling ourselves entrepreneurs in building our own careers is just that, it is not very helpful. A consultant’s mindset is a key to more effectively managing and pursuing job searches when you are looking for new opportunities. An entrepreneur’s mindset and set of tools plays a similar defining and optimizing role in connecting together all the rest of the steps and stages with that one and with each other. Here, I want to focus on a crucial area of any career that does not necessarily directly connect to the job search stage but that probably will lead to it if you do not take an entrepreneur’s approach. To set the stage for this, consider the following brief scenarios:

• You are working for a business that is well positioned in the market, somewhat undervalued and an attractive target for merger and acquisition.
• You are working in a department or division that has just gotten a new leader who is looking to do some empire building, with new strategic goals and priorities, and new decisions as to what is best done in-house and what should be outsourced.
• You are working for a company that is losing market share and/or that might be operating in and focusing on a shrinking market space.
• Your direct supervisor and you do not agree on some really basic issues as to team management and effective communications.

These and a great many more scenarios that could be added to the list all have one really important feature in common and that is the simple fact that they can all limit your career opportunities and your job security and even if you are performing to an exemplary level, meeting all your performance review goals and your stretch goals as well. An entrepreneur’s mindset is all about taking ownership of your career and in not simply closing your eyes and going with the flow. Its tools are there to help you decide if you should:

• Stay with your current employer and stay where you are in that organization.
• Stay with your current employer but look for a career move within and perhaps even to the same level but in a different area of the table of organization.
• Begin looking for a new position outside of that employer.

The one option you do not and cannot realistically have in any of these scenarios is to simply pretend and rationalize, and hope for the best. Building and maintaining, and growing a career that can really satisfy you and give you a sense of meaning and accomplishment means taking control of it and actively and proactively making it happen. And as an exercise I would ask that anyone reading this posting try a simple self-test. Look back to your own career and the transition points where you have had to look for that new job and look to what preceded them.

• Were there signs and indicators that you could have picked up on that would have helped you manage your path forward?
• Where there skills and certifications that would have made a difference in your managing your career that you could have gone for?
• Did you continue to business network effectively so you would have an ongoing ability to manage your career? This means better understanding the marketplace and your company and industry, and it means maintaining the contacts base you would need if you do decide you should start looking elsewhere.

More than any other single factor, it is a failure to be a career entrepreneur that brings the most people to an unwanted but immediately necessary job hunt. In this, a good job search strategy with good tactical resources has to include the ones that help you avoid having to look when you are not planning to do that on your own.

Will the unexpected and undesirable still happen and leave you out of work and looking? Yes, of course, this is always a possibility and especially in a job market like we face today. But you can take proactive steps to limit that to the truly unavoidable. Good entrepreneurial tools help keep you prepared to get up to speed with your job search tools and approaches and they help keep your career assessment current and valid so you are looking in the right places for the right opportunities if that happens.

This is a long posting but it is a crucially important one as it deals with an area not generally covered in teaching job search skills per se. The next segment in this series is going to deal with another generally overlooked area – connecting and coordinating letters and resumes with online marketing resources like social networking profiles.

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  1. […] search and career development by Tim Platt on November 7, 2009 I wrote in part 9 of this series: taking an entrepreneur’s approach to building and managing a career about career as an ongoing process with job search only one element. That is a very important point […]

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