How to Control Your Professional Destiny

By Martin Yate Apr 5, 2017
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Times have changed in our working lives, and loyalty, hard work and sacrifice are no longer sure pathways to success. Yet traditional wisdom has not changed with the times and is crippling the professional advancement of many—even those in the HR community. The traditional advice that blind loyalty, hard work and sacrifice will earn you job security and a comfortable retirement is an outdated myth. Because corporations focus solely on profitability (as they must) and have little interest in your continued well-being, holding onto such a belief is nothing short of suicidal.

In Knock 'Em Dead – The Ultimate Job Search Guide 2017, I offer a fresh approach to managing your career that puts you back in control of your destiny. Now in its 31st edition, the book has been substantially updated to address the modern realities facing anyone making a strategic transition. It acknowledges what we all secretly know: The old approach of pledging blind loyalty to a corporation that might, at any moment, replace us with a piece of software or someone cheaper completely ignores our reality.

Adopting effective job search and interview strategies starts by positioning your economic stability and well-being in a way that sparks your professional growth. In my book, I provide a career management blueprint by outlining a plan for your long-term success, stability and fulfillment.

Taking a more businesslike approach to your career development requires recasting your professional identity into "MeInc.," a small business that anticipates challenges, faces them squarely and makes decisions with the objectivity of a corporation. Research shows that our professional lives include job changes about every four years (tenure is declining rapidly) and three or more distinct career changes. Yet most of us have never developed the skills that are critical to survival and prosperity amid such changes, including how to:

  • Build your career like a business with you as the CEO.
  • Write a resume that gets results.
  • Leverage professional networks.
  • Quadruple the interviews you get.
  • Turn interviews into job offers.
  • Negotiate effectively.
  • Anticipate layoffs.
  • Fight age discrimination.

Successful careers don't happen by accident. The key to success is preparation. To keep yourself employable, you must stay in tune with the new skills that employers are seeking when they hire people like you.

Twice a year, collect half a dozen job postings for the job you have now and the job you would likely pursue in the event of an unexpected layoff. Review those job postings to identify the skills employers are seeking. Consider adding any skills you do not have to your professional development program.

It may be a sunny day, but you know the deluge will come—and your survival and success depend on your being prepared.

Martin Yate, who writes SHRM's career column, is a New York Times best-selling author and an expert on career management. His company, Knock ’em Dead, delivers professional resume and coaching services.

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