Monday, November 24, 2008

When Was the Last Time You Made a Career Deposit?

When I was a child, my mother often talked about living through the Depression. As the oldest child, she was sent to live with relatives when her family could no longer afford to feed all three children. Even though her time away from the family only lasted about a year, it greatly affected her life.

She hated antiques. She thought of them as old, and old stuff meant poverty. She wasn't a tightwad, but neither did she spend money she didn't have. She carefully monitored the family finances every month, and was meticulous in balancing the checkbook and making sure that something went into savings every month.

She never forgot the lessons of such a difficult period in her life, even though she was only about 6-years-old.

I've been thinking of her stories about what she learned from the Depression as I've watched -- along with everyone else -- the devastation many people are experiencing because of this economic mess. And what I see makes me realize that when we have gotten past this difficult time, we will not only have learned economic lessons that will govern the rest of lives, but career ones as well.

How many of us have kicked ourselves for not being better networkers so that when the layoffs came, we didn't have many places to turn for help? How many of us have regretted that we didn't promote our skills and abilities better so that when bonuses were scarce, we didn't garner one for ourselves? How many of us regretted not attending those seminars or training sessions or take advantage of tuition reimbursement from our employers that might have helped our chances of landing a better position during these tough times?

Of course, hindsite is 20/20. But I do think that when we pull out of these difficult times, we need to learn important financial lessons just like those who survived the Depression did. We need to learn those financial lessons -- and those career ones as well.

Specifically, it's time we all stopped living just for the next promotion or title and started putting something in our career "savings account." For example, career investments should include:

* Going back to the early days of your career and re-establishing contacts. You might be surprised that the guy who washed dishes at your first job now owns his own company, or that the girl who was an intern with you now is a top executive. Check out online sources to track people down and start investing in these contacts.

* Fix your burned bridges. Sometimes in the heat of the moment we say or do things that we regret. Now is the time to start making overtures to those who may think you'd run them over with your car given half a chance. Your reputation is the most important commodity you have -- you don't want anyone thinking less of you because you never know who they're influencing.

* Get a second opinion. Have someone you respect in your industry review your current resume. Even if you're not currently looking for a job, get some ideas on where they think "holes" exist, and what you can begin to do to patch them.

* Help someone. Every day, try and do something on the job that helps another person, whether it's pitching in with a project, making a recommendation for someone on LinkedIn or writing an article for an industry newletter. It's a way of saving a little bit all the time in your career "bank."

What are some other lessons we can learn during these difficult times?


Anonymous said...

These comments are so right. It's not fun to get a call from Jane when you know that every time she's going to want something - a connection, a referral, an endorsement - without giving. Nice post, Anita!

Anita said...

Even the nicest person can get burned out when they feel they're nothing but a rung on your climb up the career ladder.
Thanks for adding your comments!

Anonymous said...

I love the title of this post, Anita!

Great topic. So many of us take the things we have for granted, right up until the moment we lose them. Whether it's friends, a job, financial security or whatever... your post is an excellent reminder to appreciate what we have, and do what's necessary to hold onto it!

Thank you!

Anita said...

Thanks for your comments. I hope what people will take away from this is that even though times are difficult, they are not powerless. There are many things they can be doing every day to improve not only their situation now, but in the future.

Anonymous said...

One option for senior exec for career deposit is to hire other senior exec(s) as consultants / advisors. In time, they may do the favor back to you -- either pointing you to your next job or giving you consulting work when you are between jobs.

Anita said...

Great point. At any stage of your career, you should always be reaching out to your network.
Thanks for posting.