I spend a lot of time speaking with technical professionals, both my direct clients through ITtechExec and NoddlePlace and my connections across social media, on LinkedIn and Twitter in particular. When we talk about their careers, especially when I talk with tech leadership and more experienced professionals, here are the most common phrases that I hear:
- “I’m just trying to hold out with my current company a little longer even though there’s little room for growth. Eventually, I know I need to make a move. I’m not sure when is the right time.”
- “Companies don’t want to hire me because I’m older. I’m planning to hold out where I am until retirement, if I can.”
- “Recruiters keep trying to fit me into jobs I’m overqualified for. It’s irritating. I’m waiting for the right one to come along.”
- “When I’m ready to start my job search, then I’ll get my resume together. I don’t want to do anything until I’m ready.”
- “I’ve talked with a few people who have some possible opportunities for me. I’m going to hold off on doing anything more with my job search until I hear back from them.”
Perhaps some of these phrases sound familiar to you too. Perhaps you’ve said them yourself or some variation of them.
In my mind, they all have one common message:
And they all share one common emotion:
There’s a general sense behind the words that we are all waiting and hoping for something to happen, for things to get better at work or for the market to improve or for opportunities to arise…some type of intervention.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes any one or all of those things do happen. But more often than not, especially in today’s market, they don’t.
Either way, though, waiting and hoping do very little to protect the tech career you’ve worked so hard to build. Instead you’re just kind of out there…
It’s a bit like the old dilemma of being stranded on the deserted island. Are you going to wait and hope for rescue (doing your best to stay alive until then), do whatever it takes to build a boat and get off the island (you’ll get off or die trying), or hunker down and start a new life on the island (you might as well make the best of it)?
With each option, it’s a question of survival. How do you plan to make it through? And inherent in that is the issue of protection.
Maybe you can’t control the storms that come your way, anymore than you can control job markets that have gone a bit insane or discriminatory hiring practices, but you can decide how you are going to fight for your survival and what you are going to do to at least try and protect yourself from the next storm when it comes.
Now let’s say you aren’t alone on this island. Loved ones are there with you. Some might be injured; others might be children. Either way they are dependent on you to do something. How does that change your outlook?
Protecting careers protects those who depend on you. And when you put it into perspective, the “waiting and hoping” tactic is the most risky.
Listen. In today’s uncertain job market, you really can’t afford to wait, unfortunately even when you’re happy with where you are. The landscape keeps changing too much to think this job or the next will be there until you decide you no longer need it.
Therefore, you need an “ever ready” attitude, and that requires preparation. At ITtechExec, we have a saying:
Protection begins with preparation and continues with maintenance.
It means that as exhausting as it might seem to be in constant career management mode, it is worse to be caught off guard and unprotected. Starting a job search from scratch is not like it used to be. It requires more than just tossing together a basic resume and calling a few network connections. It’s more than just answering a few job postings.
That might have worked before, but it isn’t likely to work the next time at least not in the time frame you would like it to.
Really, you need to be nurturing and updating your materials, cultivating leads and opportunities, watching the market, and building networks. Or, even better, you need to build a team to help you do all that.
It’s funny. We’ll invest in that for other things, like our retirement, investments, or even our fitness training, but when it comes to our careers, we act like they are a solo effort. Maybe that’s why we’re stuck waiting and hoping.
If we dig our heads in the sand long enough, maybe it really will all just get better.
Too bad hope is not a strategy, my friends!