Build Your Career Marketability

Dawn Rasmussen is a frequent speaker on the topic of career management — she has been quoted in the Chicago Tribune, CBSMoneyWatch, Christian Science Monitor, and Careerbuilder.com on career-related topics, and she is a recognized career expert on Careerealism.com. She is also the author of the new book Forget Job Security: Build Your Marketability, which aims to provide career management strategies in easy-to-understand terms — to help readers prepare for new employment opportunities or to handle unplanned job transitions. We spoke to Rasmussen about her new book and her advice on career management.

Monster: Your book talks about “career management strategies.” For or someone who hasn’t been proactively managing his or her career, what are some first steps to developing a strategy?

Dawn Rasmussen: Career management is all about transforming your thinking about your working life.  Developing a career management strategy means grasping and understanding the tools around you that shape your career destiny — this includes knowing what your career goals are and having an updated resume that has compelling, quantifiable results; building a vibrant network of meaningful contacts; volunteering and giving back as a generous expert; honing your value proposition to current or future employers; cultivating a strong personal brand; creating a vibrant online presence; and fostering an understanding of your career options. It’s all about how your next move will be a bridge to your desired career goals.

Monster: What would you say to someone who thinks she doesn’t need career management — someone who just wants any job?

DR: Anyone who decides that they don’t need to target or focus runs the risk of doing the shotgun approach — firing away blindly and hoping that, eventually, they hit something. Instead, think of a career management strategy as your laser-guided scope.  With so many companies using applicant-tracking software (ATS) to scan resumes, it’s critical to create a concentrated strategy that is targeted to a specific theme area — this is the best way to match what you offer to an employer’s needs.  If you aren’t focused, you cannot possibly build a path towards a goal because you are too generalized.  Knowing where you want to go and then developing the road map that gets you there is what career management is all about!

Monster: How has career management changed in the past 10 or 15 years? What do people have to do now that they didn’t have to before?

DR: It used to be that people held one job over their lifetime. But things have changed — and workplace loyalty is gradually dying out. Now people stay with an employer only until the next better job offer comes along. And similarly, employers keep people on board only as long as they are useful.  So now the focus has changed from being a passive employee to being a career activist who demonstrates value to not just a current employer but also future ones.  Put yourself in the boss’s shoes: What are their pain points and how are you going to solve them? Understanding this perspective can help you build your career management plan around being an employee that delivers value to a company.  Another important thing to know is that in order to show how you solve problems, you need to keep track of your current work. Create a career management file that includes performance reviews, staff reports, company reports, or any other metric that can measure on-the-job progress.  And never, ever, stop learning — strategically plan out what classes, workshops, and conferences you are going to take in the coming year so you keep adding to your on-the-job expertise. In short, it’s all about keeping everything in motion all the time, versus only paying attention to it only when you have to.

Monster: Your book also discusses “unplanned job transitions” — what are steps someone should take after being unexpectedly laid off from a job?

DR: Before anyone is ever handed a pink slip, having a resume that is updated every six months at the minimum will put you ahead of the game in the event that you do lose your job. You won’t be scrambling at the last minute to try and pull something together; instead, you’ll have some minor tweaks to make, but you’ll be confident that your credentials are up-to-date and demonstrate value to employers. Then you can get right into focusing in on potential job targets and applying.  Additionally, by being an active career manager, you’ve build up a robust network and strong online presence that are your “go-to” connections to start probing for potential employment opportunities. Maintaining professional industry memberships is key to having access to the types of connections that can provide “back door” introductions to hiring decision makers.  Being able to hit the ground running after a layoff or termination is going to be crucial to how fast you find your next job.

Monster: What is the primary thing — whether it’s a new skill or a new way of thinking — that you want readers of your book to take away?

DR: You can’t coast along and expect things to land in your lap. You know those people who always seem to have headhunters calling them? They are the people who have managed their careers so carefully that they attract opportunity to them versus having to search for it.  The secret to success like this is if you aren’t thinking about your next career move right now, and understanding the things that can lead you to achieving it, you’ve become complacent.  Be mindful that every single thing you do every single day adds up into the bigger picture of your career brand and who sees it.  That’s what this book covers: the meaty “how-tos” of building this mindset and orchestrating opportunity in your direction.

>> For more tips, read “How to Decide If You Need a Career Change.”

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