Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Offering a unique value proposition as an employee 9: best practices for positioning yourself for early stage advancement along the right career path for you

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on July 5, 2013

This is my ninth posting to a series on offering defining value as an employee, and on presenting yourself as the answer to problems faced while doing so (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 311-318 for Parts 1-8.)

So far in this series I have been working my way through the process of landing a new job and starting in it effectively, and with a goal of building a solid foundation for further career development and advancement. As a part of that progression, I have focused in Part 7 and Part 8 on first steps for after the completion of a new hire probationary period. My area of focus here for this posting continues that progression, but it also breaks away from it to go back to the first days on a new job and to your job search leading up to that too. And to clarify that, I begin with the lead-in note for this posting that I added to the end of Part 8 where I stated that I would:

• “At least begin to examine the issues of finding and pursuing your right career path next steps, as you settle into this new job. In anticipation of that, I note that this type of analysis should be solidly and systematically grounded in your reasons and reasoning for applying for this position in the first place, but be at least as strongly grounded in what you have been learning while there. Did you initially approach this position, for example, as a dream job or as more of an umbrella position to help pay the bills while you look for something more desirable and in keeping with your longer range career goals? Once there, have you reconsidered your initial reasoning or goals and if so how and why? You have this new job now and have successfully transited its new hire probationary period. What comes next and what should you be doing next, and for reaching both short term and longer term objectives?”

And I want to begin that with the two perhaps extreme case scenarios that I cited in that note for how and why specific job openings would be pursued for next employment steps: dream jobs and umbrella jobs. And I begin here with the second of those seemingly opposite search choices.

I think that the first time I mentioned the umbrella job as an employment option in this blog was on October 12, 2009 with my posting Social Networking and Job Search Part 2 – building a foundation. This blog first went functionally active and live a month or so earlier on September 14, 2009 so I have at least noted this type of career step option here for as long as there has been a “here” with this blog. And as noted back then, an umbrella job is “a position that helps you keep the rain off your head while you look.” It is a job you take to help pay the bills while you look for a longer term position that would more directly and fully meet your longer term career plans and needs.

“Dream job” probably sounds a lot more clear-cut and a lot less in need of any explanation. But think about what this actually means here too. If you have worked for any length of time in pursuing however loosely, a career path, then you have probably held a succession of visions as to what your “dream job” would be. And looking back from you’re here-and-now perspective at them, some of those one-time dream jobs would probably not even qualify as umbrella job options for your active consideration now, unless you felt yourself really hard-pressed.

• Dream jobs and umbrella jobs are all a matter of context and timing, and your understanding as to what would constitute one or the other, or any other job or career goal prioritization in between can and will change with time, as you and your needs and overall goals do.

And with that, I specifically address the lead-in note from the end of Part 8 that I added there in anticipation of this posting.

• Take on any job or possible job that you would apply for as if it were in fact a possible dream job. If you cannot find interest or enthusiasm for it in yourself, of any sort, you will convey that when and if you apply for it. And then you will only find yourself hired to it if it is a very time limited part time or temporary job that the hiring manager does not expect anyone to actually want long term, or if they are desperate to just hire anyone.
• Make a genuine effort when applying for any job, and when working at it if hired. And seek to make it as much of a good job for you as you can and no matter how much a temporary-only, umbrella position you start out viewing it as.
• Make it a good job for you, and as a good and even great employee who seeks out opportunity and who fulfills whatever opportunity is presented.

And this brings me to the crux of that preview note:

• A job that starts out looking to be a dream job and a significant career step in and of itself, or even a career goal, can turn into an umbrella position that you primarily seek to move on from with lessons learned.
• This can happen for any number of reasons, but the bottom line for all of them is that you might find the dream realized was not what you expected and that this is in fact a career dead end position for you and one you cannot be happy in.
• But it should also be noted that what you initially perceive as a probable umbrella job can turn out to be a great job and even a career path defining job for you. I write of innovation and of disruptively emergent opportunity in businesses. This is a place where that same principle and the same types of outcomes and eventualities can arise for the individual in their career development too.
• You may have a wonderful, inspiring boss and great colleagues and co-workers, and find yourself loving this job and working with this business. You might find it opening your eyes to new possibilities and to considering types of career paths that you had never thought of but that would lead you to deeper levels of satisfaction and fulfillment than you would have expected.
• “Dream job” and “umbrella position” are both mutable. If you forget that and for either, you can find yourself loosing best opportunities. And this applies during the job search and during the new hire probationary period if hired. And it applies beyond that too, and as you consider next moves for developing yourself professionally and as you plan out and carry through on your career path goals.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next installment where I will reconsider a basic set of issues that I first wrote about in my series: From Peer to Supervisor (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, postings 105 and loosely following for Parts 1-15.) I will focus in that upcoming series installment on positioning yourself as a recognized best candidate for advancement into positions of greater responsibility, and into a first supervisory and management position. And in anticipation of that, I note that I will begin that discussion with one on the issues and processes of deciding whether management is in fact a good goal for you, or whether your best path would be to advance as a progressively more senior and experienced hands-on worker who may train others but who does not explicitly lead and manage organized teams as laid out on the table of organization. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and at my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.

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