Where are the opportunities?

Thanks to constant change, competition and pressure, complacency is not an option when it comes to job security. How can you stay in the driving seat of your career? Career coach Lynda Aurora advises and guides you on these pages every second week

Just a few years ago, only older workers were worried about job security. Now unemployment carries across all age groups and education levels.

Unfortunately, some people find themselves over-educated and under-skilled. What they learn at school and university is, at best, a lever to get a job. It does not necessarily provide the knowledge and skills to operate successfully in a business environment.

In most organisations, the constant demand for change is "white water" territory. New bosses initiate change as they put their personal and professional imprint on their organisation. Investors put pressure on everyone and every product line to produce improved results at every reporting period. Global competition keeps everyone on their toes. Everyone is looking for unserved market niches to profitably exploit.

Consequently, there is no time to become complacent about the security of your company, your job or your profession.

The key is to ensure that you are employable. Should you be a generalist or a specialist? There is no right answer. At certain times, generalist skills are needed and, at other times, specialist skills. It is essential that you are in the driving seat of your career - this is not optional.

So where do you find those jobs? Be an avid reader of leading business publications and those in your profession. Meet leaders in your field, attend relevant conferences and ask questions to find out the trends in your industry/profession. Be persistent.

Continue your professional education in a focused way that supports the direction of your industry/profession, so you are ideally positioned for changes - which are guaranteed.

It is estimated that at least 80 percent of jobs are not advertised. Many employers are so frustrated with the volume of applicants and the low quality of the respondents that they are forced to turn to their contacts and business networks for recommendations.

You must therefore network, network and network. Build a network. Not any network, but one with the movers, shakers, leaders and the up-and-coming leadership of your profession and business in general.

Develop interests that you really enjoy and that will add to your portfolio of skills and your network.

Stay in touch with former colleagues and bosses and update them on what you are doing.

This is where the real opportunities are. It always surprises me where they turn up! Often I am told that someone a person knew years ago recommended them for a position or that they heard about a suitable job opportunity through a friend of a friend!

"But..." I hear you say. "With the time I spend on the job, my family and friends, on doing some exercise, there's no time for this stuff." The good news is that almost everyone is in the same situation.

The bottom line is that, if you want to have a long career, YOU have to manage it. No matter what the economic situation is like, there are always opportunities for excellent, appropriately-experienced people. Be prepared to be geographically mobile and take a sideways move from time to time as you reposition yourself for the next thrust in your career. And, if necessary, reinvent yourself!

Lynda Aurora FCCA ACA CPA MBA MA-HRM PCC is a career coach partnering with people who want to reassess their career options, get strategies to improve their work performance and employability or are in career transition. She is Asia's first and only Professional Certified Coach Member of the International Coach Federation.

Taken from Career Times 03 October 2003
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