Looking for a Job? Adapt to New Rules

By Kathy Gurchiek Jan 25, 2010

With the unemployment rate hanging at 10 percent in January 2010—and weekly jobless claims rising to a seasonally adjusted 482,000 in the week ending Jan. 16—employed and unemployed people alike need to heed today’s changing career rules, according to a variety of employment insiders.

“What it means to have a career was changing even before the recession began” in 2007, said Annie Stevens, managing partner for ClearRock, in a news release. ClearRock is a Boston-based outplacement and executive coaching firm.

“But the large numbers of jobs eliminated and people laid off have changed the career rules even more,” she added. Careers are going to be more portable and that portability means people will be working at more employers, according to Stevens.

She pointed to a 2008 U.S. Department of Labor calculation that both wage and salaried workers spent a median of 4.1 years with an employer. With the loss of 7.3 million jobs since December 2007, she estimated that the average duration on the job likely has decreased.

“Expect to change jobs more frequently and have careers with more employers than in the past, including part-time, freelancing, or consulting work in-between full-time jobs,” she said.

Eric Winegardner, vice president of client adoption at Monster.com, doesn’t see a trend toward people acting as their own temp agencies or an increase in project work.

“The momentum we had for that type of work has been interrupted,” he said. “There’s this need to get payrolls back up.”

Others, such as reCareered President Phil Rosenberg, disagreed.

“Many full-time jobs are projects, where employees will be replaced by new workers who already have training and experience in the new skills needed, rather than retraining existing workers. U.S. workers see this and realize the new career stability is building a demand for their services.”

Playing by New Rules

Marc Lawn has been playing by the new rules for two years since he took voluntary “redundancy” in 2007 from his “safe job” as marketing director for a company based in England.

Lawn, who eventually launched his own business, The BusinessGP, had worked in HR, operations, sales and marketing for such organizations as McDonald’s, Honda, Pepsi, Dubai World, Whitbread and BP.

“I can tell you things have changed and many people are behind the ‘curve,’ ” he told SHRM Online. “People realized jobs weren’t forever anymore and it was perfectly acceptable for employees to keep looking around as long as they were acting professionally in the course of their day job.

“It was important,” he added, “to keep yourself in the marketplace and keep looking [for the next job] all the time and building up [your personal] network.”

That requires being in charge of your own public relations rather than simply submitting a resume.

“The whole recruiting process has become far more personal. More emphasis is on personal relationships, the person behind the qualifications” and making oneself memorable.

While that may not sound new, “the newness of it is that it was only ever done at very senior levels previously … what used to happen is a friend of a friend would say ‘there’s a job going at my place,’ or ‘I know Burt around the corner. He’s a good guy,’ ” Lawn said.

The big change, he noted, is the need for the job candidate to take greater control by constantly marketing him or herself, even when employed, by getting to know people at other companies by meeting them for lunch or coffee.

“Traditionally people get a [job] and then stop thinking about marketing themselves; with the ever-changing and dynamic nature of business today I recognized we should not do that.” Instead, people should “constantly be ‘in the market,’ ” he added.

Lawn may be on to something, Winegardner told SHRM Online.

“[Job] stability is a figment of our imagination and the stigma attached [to] losing your job … however that happens is lessened,” he said.He would like to see more people marketing themselves within their own organization.

“Why do people feel as if they need to go outside to progress,” he asked. He believes that the talent at an organization belongs to the organization, not to the worker’s current manager. It falls to HR practitioners to figure out how to make the new career rules apply within their organization.

“We’re so hungry for talent and skill sets and getting new blood …. The new blood is sitting [one] floor down. If we manage our talent as if they had a choice, as if they could go anywhere anytime …. We’ll start to see we had all these people on the payroll all this time.”


It also falls to employees to make themselves known in their organization, Winegardner said.

“Don’t let your branding strategy just be external,” he advises workers. “People need to understand who you are,” because the old notion of “head down, do a great job, someone will notice” doesn’t cut it anymore.

“In a world of mass media, we need to be more personal than ever in the way we manage our careers,” he said.

That entails personal branding, according to some, but Winegardner said that doesn’t necessarily mean blogging. It does mean employees have to have opinions.

“You have to have thoughts on things that matter and the ability to share those thoughts with others.”

It also entails letting others know of your accomplishments, according to ClearRock’s Stevens.

“One of the reasons people feel unappreciated at work is because they don’t share compliments and praise they receive from customers and co-workers, such as positive letters and e-mails. Spread the word, but in a discreet way,” she advised.

Personal branding allows a person to develop a reputation apart from his or her organization, says Jeff Altman, managing director of concepts in staffing for a New York-based company.

Altman, who brands himself as the Big Game Hunter, is the author of books such as Get Yourself Hired NOW, free e-zines on career advice, and has his own web site. He pointed to himself as an example of personal branding.

“You have an impression of me apart from the [New York] organization,” he told SHRM Online in a video. “What personal branding and social networking allow you to do is develop an image of being an expert.

“It’s not a matter of if you leave your company, it’s a matter of when,” he said. “Be open to the possibility of another job. Given the labor markets as they exist today, you’ve got to be open to other options because you’re the CEO of your organization.

“You have to think in terms of what you can do to protect your circumstances, and frankly, advance them.”

Social Media

But how to get one’s brand in front of an organization when it’s the resume that’s likely to be the job candidate’s introduction to an organization?

LinkedIn and social media are the methods most recruiters plan to increase in 2010, according to a survey of more than 100 HR and recruiting professionals. JCSI Corporate Staffing, a recruitment consulting firm with an emphasis on social media, conducted the survey in November and December 2009.

Todd Lempicke, president of OptimalResume.com that began as a sister company of The Hunter Group, says those who don’t use social media as a major part of their job search miss 30 percent or more of available opportunities.

“At The Hunter Group, we estimate that we sourced just under 500 candidates (for all clients, including Optimal Resume) using LinkedIn vs. about 200 using the job boards over the past two years. Our sourcing trend for LinkedIn is more like 75 percent currently,” and that percentage is growing, he said in an e-mail.

“Business connections have become social media connections and more of your future success is based on the company you keep than ever, even though more of it is online,” he said. “Better hiring decisions will be made because of online sourcing and personal branding. The more an employer can learn about you, the better your chances of getting hired.”

And like a resume that needs periodic updating, it’s important to keep one’s brand current, according to Heather R. Huhman, founder and president of Come Recommended, an online community connecting internships and entry-level candidates.

“In this new age, you need to keep your online brand consistent,” she said in an e-mail. “Evaluate what is already out there about yourself. Decide what should be public information and what can be cleaned up. Use the same name or picture in each of your online profiles—making an employer’s search easier,” Huhman noted.

When completing an online profile, be precise so potential employers know who you are and what you are looking for. If tweeting, stay on brand by keeping tweets professional; stay relevant by keeping up with applicable blogs and sharing your knowledge about your industry; and vary tweets by sharing links and commenting on other’s posts. Include links to your LinkedIn account, blog or other professional networking sites on your Twitter feeds. Occasionally evaluate your brand by doing an online search for yourself.

“If you don’t like what you find, try to fix it. Keep up with your profiles and update them whenever necessary,” Stevens advised.

As Monster.com’s Winegardner noted, “the transparency in who you are and what you think is important for the long term.”

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor of HR News.

Related Articles:

Obama Administration Initiates Job-Search Challenge, SHRM Online Staffing Management Discipline, Dec. 4, 2009

Develop a Personal Brand to Minimize Job Search Woes, SHRM HR Careers, Dec. 1, 2006


Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You
Post a Job


Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies

Search & Connect