In Tough Times, Keep Your Career Above Water

In Tough Times, Keep Your Career Above Water

Peter Weddle

Warren Buffet describes the impact of the down economy this way: "You only learn who's been swimming naked when the tide goes out." It's an instructive image – a high tide covers up mistakes, while a low tide makes them visible for all to see. The same is true for your career.

Why? Because when times are good and employers are hungry for new hires, you can get away with a lot of weak spots on your resume. When the economy goes south, however, and employers get much pickier, those career shortcomings can lead to unemployment.

So how do you protect yourself in today's low tide economy? Simple – make sure you're swimming with something on, something that will protect you from the environment and enable you continue through the waters ahead. All that's required is that you take two fundamental steps.

Career Fitness won't give you job security – in fact, there's no such thing in today's job market – but it will enable you to achieve genuine and lasting "career security."

Job security is something an employer controls, and depends entirely on their financial health. We all know how it works: when times are good, you've got a job; when times are bad, the job disappears. In short, job security isn't within your control. It's about the security of the job, and for employers, jobs are simply boxes on an org chart, to be added and removed as needed. The workers involved are just collateral damage.

Career security, on the other hand, is something that you control. It's your ability to find employment consistently, and get a job and with a company that allows you to use your best talents. It's not about settling for the first job you can find, but instead successfully landing the right job, with the right employer for you. Basically, career security is a way to be a "consumer" of job opportunities, finding your ideal position at every stage in your career.

Of course, career security doesn't just happen by magic or wishful thinking. It's not some inalienable right given to all job seekers. Being secure in your career requires effort on your part, and a constant drive to improve your credentials. What's the best way to do this? By building and maintaining your career fitness.

Career Fitness is a relatively simple idea, and the "exercises" needed to establish career security aren't especially difficult. However, they do require an investment of time and effort on your part. And while each "exercise" should be tailored to your job, they can apply to everyone, whether you've got thirty years or thirty minutes of experience in the workplace.

  1. Learn the principles of building a healthy career, or Career Fitness.
  2. 2: Put Career Fitness to work by building strength and endurance in your credentials.

So if you're tired of waking up each morning wondering if there's a pink slip in your future, try these tips to whip your career into shape:

The heart of your career is your occupational expertise, not your knowledge of some employer's standard operating procedures.

The bigger your network, the more you can spread the word about your abilities and career goals.

Developing a more versatile skill set allows you to work on a broader array of assignments – and qualify for more new jobs.

Career progress is not always a straight line, nor does it always look as it has in the past or stay the same for very long.

Successful companies and coworkers can help you accomplish your career goals. Avoid people or places that hold you back.

A healthy career is about more than just helping yourself. It's important to serve others by doing good works as well.

A successful career depends on getting the rest and replenishment you need to do your best work every day. Push too hard and you'll start suffering from job fatigue.

  • Pump Up Your Cardiovascular System
  • Strengthen Your Circulatory System
  • Develop All of Your Muscle Groups
  • Increase Your Flexibility & Range of Motion
  • Work With Winners
  • Stretch Your Soul
  • Pace Yourself

Understanding what's involved in these exercises and performing them on a regular basis is the foundation of a "system" for building career fitness that can withstand any economic conditions. But given that the tide is already out, isn't such an effort too late? Aren't you already at the mercy of your employer?

Yes and no. If you find that you've been swimming without something on, the year ahead is probably going to be tough. However, you can make the best of a bad situation. The tide will come back in eventually, and when it does you can make sure that you're ready to seize new opportunities. All you have to do is prepare yourself by building a fit career.

Formerly the Chairman and CEO of Job Bank USA, Peter Weddle is an HR consultant, recruiter, author and commentator with an international reputation. He has authored or edited more than two dozen books, including "Recognizing Richard Rabbit: A Fable About Being True to Yourself", "Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System" and "WEDDLE's 2009/10 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet". In addition, he oversees WEDDLE's, a print publisher specializing in the field of human resources. WEDDLE's annual Guides and Directory to job boards are recognized for their accuracy and helpfulness, leading the American Staffing Association to call Weddle the "Zagat of the online employment industry." Peter Weddle is also CEO of the International Association of Employment Websites.

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