Career Management Is Something We All Need To Do!
By Rich Miller
“Where do you see yourself in three to five years?” Often, that is a difficult interview question for many people to answer. It’s tough because you haven’t thought about it. But, it is one question to which you need to know the answer. Not only is it important to answer that interview question, it is critical to know in planning your professional life. Knowing this will help you to plan and guide your career. Your answer may change as you gain more experience, your knowledge increases, and your preferences change.
Over the past 20+ years, I have helped several thousand clients develop their resumes. Sometimes, they do not understand the importance of their choice of words on the resume. Not only should the words on your resume tell the prospective employer want you have done, your words should be designed to get you the job that fits your career plan. What are the right words to get you where you want to be? I want to give you a few things to think about before you approach the task of writing your resume.
Are you looking for a career or a job? When I talk to people, most say “I’m looking for a job.” Companies have “job fairs.” Sometimes many companies will be organized into a large, collective group at a “job fair.” Often, we don’t plan our next career move. We might get contacted by a recruiter for a job that pays more and/or is in a better location. Or maybe the new boss and you don’t get along and that causes you to look for a new job. Whatever the case, a job search is often started because we want to get out of a bad situation and we take the first thing that comes along. It may not be a strategic move, just a reactionary move. You should always go to something, not run from where you are. A career is a progression of deliberate choices, and a job is just one of those pieces that are a part of a career. Make sure you know the difference when you are seeking an opportunity, otherwise telling your story later on down the road may be a little more difficult to set you up for whatever you want to happen next!
Changing jobs vs. job hopping. Should you consider changing jobs? Staffing firm Robert Half found that 75% of people ages 18-34 think it’s possible for “job hopping” to be good for their careers. Independent research firms surveyed companies in more than 20 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas and more than 1,000 American adult office workers. Workers define “a job hopper” to be someone who’s had five positions within 10 years and companies say it’s someone having six within that span of time.
Sixty-four percent of employees think job hopping can help their careers, 36% don’t. The most popular answer for “job hopping” was “higher compensation” at 37%. “Gaining new skills” came in second at 28%. The least popular answer of “it looks better on a resume to have multiple employers” at 3%. In the negatives category, “being perceived as a flight risk” was the most popular answer at 46%. “Being perceived as unstable” came in second at 23% and “being perceived as only interested in a higher title” came in at 3%.
Just 20% of companies surveyed would be “likely to hire the candidate” with “a history of job hopping.”
What are the advantages and disadvantages of changing jobs? If you do change jobs, where do you look? What are your goals in making a move?
As I said before, people often change jobs because they are enticed to a new position. After doing this several times, their resume paints them as a job hopper. At that point, many companies will eliminate them on that basis alone. I suggest that you project forward and then look back. Will your resume make you look like a job hopper? If so, maybe you need to have a better plan for your career.
Plan for the unexpected. You never know when you will be laid off, or even terminated. If there is a mass layoff, you will be given at least 90 days’ notice under the WARN Act. Sometimes, you won’t have any notice and may be “walked out.” On the positive side, a recruiter may call you unexpectedly for a job that is very interesting. How long will it take you to update your resume? You should update your resume on a regular basis. Make a practice of copying your performance reviews. Document all of your awards and recognition. Take them HOME with you and keep them in a folder. That way, if you are unexpectedly asked to leave, you will have them with you. These are important to have when remembering what your accomplishments are for your resume. You need to be able to tell your story in a way that is enticing, engaging, and proves that you have been deliberately managing your career. It can be that your values, or a life change, or something else has dictated a series of horizontal (or vertical) moves. That is fine! However the worst thing you can do is come to an interview giving the impression that you have only taken what has come along because it was conveniently in front of you.
Utilize your resources. Michigan State University offers many resources to you through the Career Service Network while you are still a student, and just after graduation. However you may not be aware that if you have already graduated (even if it was back when the Vietnam war was the thing students were protesting on campus), the MSU Alumni Association has not only created content like this blog post to help you, but they have also cultivated a network of alumni who are professional Career Coaches from all over the country. Hiring one of these professionals is an investment that can help with the same kinds of things you may have received help with while you were in school, but with a much more focused perspective that can lead you to those next steps beyond “the basics.”
The Alumni Association has also made it easy for you to find Spartans who have made themselves available for informational interviews regarding their occupations and places of employment. Connect with one of these people and ask them questions; it’s super simple and they’ve already said yes to your request for information and may be able to share insights that you may not have thought of. One of the “Millerisms” I am “famous for” is, “I know what I know, but I don’t know what you know.” What does that mean? It means ask questions and you will find much more information than you ever thought you would. Ask about Industry trends, company success, what industries are expanding what industries are contracting, what careers are expanding/contracting e.g. teaching, data processing. Keep the names/contact information of these people and use them for networking contacts when you are ready to find your next opportunity. And don’t forget to pay it forward to others, often you’ll find that pays you back more than what you put in!
Another way to stay on top of the game is to stay informed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, and ONET, can help you research the fastest growing jobs in the U.S. and also the fastest declining jobs. As you plan a career path at the onset, make sure that there is the likelihood that there will jobs available in that occupation in the area in which you want to live. However, as you become more established you are going to want to stay on top of trends that could affect your current occupation, industry, or geographic area. For example, the need for teachers changes often. In that example, if someone invested a lot into to becoming a teacher, and then finds that the job opportunities have shrunk, it may be wise to start thinking about the next CAREER move to make, before considering the next JOB. That might mean a different occupation, but doesn’t necessarily mean starting over from scratch. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of rethinking what you already have to offer, and retooling yourself, as you position yourself for that next step. Perhaps that means shifting into a different sector, moving to a new geographic location, taking a class, meeting people in different industries, etc. There are myriad ways in which you can manage your career, but the point is that YOU should be the one taking the lead on this, elsewise your career path can shift without your realization, leaving you perplexed and reactionary instead of confident and purposeful, and that is NOT the place you want to be when you find yourself sitting in front of a prospective employer!
Regardless of where you are right now, you should always be asking yourself on a regular basis, “Where do I want to be in three to five years?” One day, you might surprise yourself by having a different answer. It’s to your benefit to not get surprised by that answer while you are sitting in front of an interviewer! Start out with these tips, but feel free to call me, or one of the other fine Career Coaches MSU has connected you with.
Rich Miller is an Executive Coach with over 10 years of experience in career transition consulting and an additional 20 years of employee relations and labor relations experience. He has been a vice president of human resources with Fortune 500 and international companies. He was also the managing consultant for a 5+ state area with the career transition firm Drake Beam Morin. Before all of this work experience, he proudly graduated from Michigan State University.