Can you risk not having a career strategy?

Why strategic personal branding  is vital to career management
At the end of last year, I wrote about my experience adapting to a dramatically changing culture and new methodologies in my own field of executive search and career coaching. Although the central  theme,   slightly egocentrically, focused on my own challenges and frustrations of dealing with the concept of  high on-line visibility, now a.k.a.  Personal Branding, there was actually a key, underlying core message. The need for strategic forward thinking and preparation.

What is clear now is that we all need to develop and maintain on an ongoing basis, a personal brand and career strategy, regardless of our current age or place in our careers.

The recent recession has highlighted not just unemployment trends, but shifts in workplace employment and recruitment practises. Some companies have been forced by economic circumstances to re-engineer their policies to reduce their salary bills and employment costs, just to stay afloat. Other organisations have simply used the downturn as an opportunity to introduce workplace  flexibility to instantly enhance bottom line results .

Job loss has slowed down going into 2010, but job creation still lags  behind. Permanent positions in companies have been reduced and are unlikely to return to previous levels. Fringe activities such as outsourcing to low-cost employment areas  and the reduction of  a permanent workforce to what Business Week calls “Perma-temps”  is on the increase and now becoming mainstream . The growth in interim assignments at a senior level is also rising, attracting not just the early retirees who wanted to do a “spot of  consulting,”  but senior professionals with no other source of income.

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In 2009, according to the UK Office for National Statistics there was a 31.5% rise  in unemployment for people over 50,  so at this age, there is a one in six chance of being out of work, compared to Gen X  where  the unemployment rate increased by  21.6 %. However, even  if you do have a job  David Autor of MIT , suggests that the chances of older, more highly educated professionals  being employed in  lower skill level positions has  also  increased. At the  other end of the spectrum, Gen Y struggle to get even unpaid internships. Their unemployment figures have hit 18% with predictions  that they will not be fully integrated into the workforce until 2014 with all that implies.

This means that competition for permanent positions in strong, stable organisations will  continue to be fierce, long after the recession is officially over. At all levels. The need to raise our visibility and generate a personal brand as part of a  planned career strategy will be more important than ever.

Be strategic
Brian Tracy  suggested ‘ Invest three percent of your income in yourself (self-development) in order to guarantee your future ”  The reality is that most people don’t do that in terms of their career.  They might take golf lessons or learn to paint,  but  the average person probably spends more time planning an annual vacation  and invests more money maintaining  their  cars, than  planning their careers.  So because they are unprepared,  any crisis (redundancy, firing , lay-offs, promotion disappointments) produces a flurry of activity, not  specific or focused, but usually frantic  and urgent. Deadlines  become short-term, limited to weeks or months, rather than anything longer term. CVs are dispatched and uploaded, networks contacted, headhunters emailed  and sometimes  in extremis,  even career coaches sought out. We would never think of taking off  on a  road  trip in  an  un-maintained car ( at least not once out of college), yet we constantly look for jobs with un- maintained careers and wonder why there are difficulties!

Avoid brand prostitution
@TomYHowe:    suggested in response to my post “I think therefore I exist…Wrong , think again”   that on going brand managemen could lead to   “Life as sales”  and he is indeed correct ,  if not applied strategically. There’s no reason why it should involve on- line soul selling and become brand prostitution. That would come dangerously close to some of the publicity stunts  I mentioned required to market celebrity scent.

Return on Relationships
Nor does it necessarily mean as  @wpbierman:   amusingly quipped  becoming ego related: “I am being followed – therefore I am”.  Behind that funny one-liner there is for me  an excellent thought, that once again comes back to strategy. I am definitely in favour of return on relationships and for me the key message is what Rory Murray   describes as  “maximising your reputation in the marketplace through the effective use of your network of contacts for mutual benefit“.

Measuring success only by the volume of connections/ followers/friends can be misleading.  Lisa Brathwaite covers this concept beautifully in her post  suggesting that some  of the so-called on line experts can be some of the poorest users, simply because they do not engage.

But for job seekers and headhunters alike there  is a great deal of strength in a weak network. It is the new, global Rolodex and  why I think it’s important to start developing that visibility and personal brand as wisely,  strategically and as early in your career as possible,  as the competition for permanent jobs hots up .

Why? To stand out in a crowded market place

  •  to make sure you appear in on-line searches run by people like me. That’s how you get noticed
  • To build up a strong on-line presence and reputation. This is what differentiates and extends your reputation  and how you get those calls from people like me.
  • Build up  a strong  network as part of an ongoing career management  plan.

 That’s how you avoid crisis and improve your job search chances.

Thanks to WP Bierman,  Lisa Braithwaite,   Rory Murray    and Tom Howe


14 thoughts on “Can you risk not having a career strategy?

  1. Dave Carpenter


    Love the strategic focus of this post.

    I could not agree more that above and beyond the health of the overal economy, there are fundamental shifts occuring that will impact all careers. These shifts call for new new strategies for those desiring to prosper in 2010 and beyond. In fact, just to survive (vocationally), will require new strategies and disciplined implementation of well thought out strategies.

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Thanks Dave for your comment. I think in these times of rapdily changing employment practises, failing to strategically manage a career as well our own professional development, will be a high risk activity. No one can afford to be complacent and take anything for granted any longer.

  2. Monica Diaz

    Hi, Dorothy!
    I thoroughly enjoyed your post and the links to previous writing by you. I believe this is an issue that needs to be put up in front of professionals very much these days. I know I wrote about branding recently in my blog, with strong reactions from many of my clients. It is not about inane self-promotion, it is about the long-term thinking you describe here, about valuing your expertise and being able to articulate it, about being comfortable with constant learning and with weak-link relationships using online tools. Thanks for your thoughtful post and your great blog!

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Hi Monica – thanks for your insightful comment. Employment practises are changing at incredible pace to temporary contracts, interim assignments and self employment. We will all need to be prepared and adjust to those differences in the job market by taking on a new perspective to our careers and working lives. Waiting and simply responding to events beyond our control will become high risk.We have to treat our careers like our cars and make sure they are road worthy – all the time!

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  5. Kriss Akabusi

    Dorothy I love the thorough way you do you blogging with links to your past work as well as to quoted sources while giving away so many gems to the avid learner or job seeker. I’m fortunate to have a personal brand that is closely related to who I am (authentic) but the idea of continually developing on the brand (drawing our other aspects of my personality) has come to mind while reading your post.

    Thank you


  6. Dorothy Dalton

    Hi Kriss – Although higher profile than the average job seeker I think you are a great example of someone whose brand has evolved over the years , while remaining true to yourself. It’s about preparing for and adapting to change !

    Thanks for your comment.

  7. LorenaHeletea

    Great points Dorothy.Also love how you use words.
    ‘ Invest three percent of your income in yourself (self-development) in order to guarantee your future ‘ – Absolutely – reality is that to grow as a human being is necessary in order to grow your business – that requires adding new Habits and challenging old Beliefs. Self Image dictates what we believe we can achieve therefore self-development and understanding self is irreplaceable .

  8. Dorothy Dalton

    Lorena – thanks for your thoughts! I agree that that personal insight is key to any form of develoment whether as a job seeker or a business person and generally involves some sort of change from us all for any progress!

  9. Jacqui Poindexter, Executive Resume Writer

    Love this post, Dorothy – and the message is increasingly valuable to careerists. Proactively manage and guide your career versus hyperventilating about your career during crises.

    Your analogy to an un-maintained car is spot-on, as endeavoring on a road trip with such a vehicle is akin to venturing out on a career search with an un-maintained career. Many still do, unfortunately, and as you say, ‘wonder why there are difficulties.’

    In my role as a career communications (resume) strategist, I witness an unfortunate number of folks running out of career oil and enduring career vehicle breakdowns in job search with a whipped together resume vs. an introspectively crafted career positioning document that smoothly and safely transports them throughout the search.

    Thank you for tweeting your ‘reprise’ of this great post!



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