I have many young friends who ask for my personal advice on long-term career strategies. Of course it seems that today almost everyone dreams about becoming an entrepreneur and having his own start-up company. But as a Plan B, if you can’t become a millionaire, it is quite nice to have a good job. Let’s start with some definitions:
Employability = The ability to find a new job.
Successful Career Path = A career path in which your Employability is always increasing.
Most professionals are afraid that as they get older it may become difficult for them to find a new job. Indeed, this happens quite frequently. For this reason, after a certain age most people start looking for more stable workplaces. Their goal is to reduce the risk that they will be fired.
However I don’t believe that this must be always the case. I think that, with proper planning and investment, many professionals can actually increase their Employability as they get older. Below I will describe the three stages of such a Successful Career Path.
1st Stage: You actively look for a new job
When you are a fresh graduate or when you do not have much experience, you must actively look for a new job. The less experience you have, the less differences when compared to other candidates. Thus your employability at this stage depends mostly on your performance at job interviews. And to be invited to job interviews, you must have a good CV. At this stage you don’t even have many friends working for other companies who may recommend you.
2nd Stage: You are approached by head-hunters
At this stage you are approached by head-hunters because you have special experience and skills which are highly in demand and hard to find. It will not help you if your skills are not in demand, or if there are many other professionals with similar experience. There is a reason they are called head-hunters and not hands-hunters. In general, head-hunters will offer you jobs which are better than your current one.
How to move from the 1st to the 2nd stage:
- Work for companies which have a reputation of hiring only highly-qualified professionals. For example, if you land a job at Microsoft or Google it’s just a question of time until you start being approached by head-hunters offering you better jobs in other, smaller companies.
- Make sure you are acquiring experience and skills in fields which are highly in demand and that do not have enough supply. For example, today it would be a smart move to work on projects related to Big Data using technologies such as Spark.
- Keep a rich LinkedIn profile containing detailed and relevant information so that it will be easy for the head-hunters to find you.
3rd Stage: You are invited to join a company
At this stage you are invited to join a company because of your unique reputation, because you have proved achievements besides your experience and skills. You may be contacted by a friend or acquaintance who is a C-level executive or a VP in another company. Or you may be invited to be a co-founder in a seed-stage start-up. In any case you will be offered a leadership position with greater authority and responsibility than your current job.
Note that when you are approached by a head-hunter, they want someone like you. The head-hunter will say: “You have the exact profile we are looking for.”
In contrast, when you are invited to join a company, they want you. The invitation will be: “We want you to come work with us.”
When you are approached by a head-hunter you still need to make formal interviews, there may be other potential candidates, and you may not be hired.
When you are invited to join a company you still need to talk to other managers or co-founders so they will know you, but in general you are currently the only candidate for this role, and you will be hired unless someone really dislikes you.
How to move from the 2nd to the 3rd stage:
- Build your reputation by making your achievements visible. This may include being a public speaker at conferences and meet-ups, writing a book or a professional blog. You must become a recognized authority in your field.
- Build your network by connecting to all the people you have been in any kind of professional relationship. This may include friends from College, co-workers, customers and new people you should regularly meet in conferences and meet-ups.
- Achievements mean results. People must be aware of your contribution to the companies you’ve worked for. They must know that you had a central role in the creation of new products that were successful in the market and that drove significant revenues to your company.
The number of opportunities that appear to you will depend on both your reputation and the size of your network. Even if you have a very big network, most people will not remember you if you don’t make your achievements visible. On the other hand, it is not very useful to have a very strong reputation in a small network. For example, you may be considered the topmost expert inside your company, but this would not help you get job offers in other companies.
Our goal should be to develop strategies to have a Successful Career Path in which our Employability is always increasing.
- In the 1st stage you need a good CV. The only goal of the CV is to be invited for an interview when you apply for a job.
- In the 2nd stage you need a good LinkedIn profile. The goal of your profile is to make it easy for head-hunters to find you and offer you a relevant job.
- In the 3rd stage you need your name to be a brand. You need to have an active presence both virtually and in real-life events, so that people will remember you.
What do you think? Please share your opinion in the comments below.
Bravo! Clean and useful advice. I’m currently between 2nd and 3rd stage. I’m building my brand, rep, all that good stuff. Thank you Hayim!
I’m glad you enjoyed it, Jose, good luck!
Well written guide. If your career objectives are to reach managerial roles, how would this fit into employability/career path? It seems the guide is mainly focused on finding better jobs as a programmer/designer. Thanks.
Thanks Gabriel. I think that the ability to find a new job as a manager depends on the industry. Certainly many companies prefer to grow their own managers instead of hiring people who may not fit their culture.
Terrific post Haim. The three stage structure is very helpful in thinking about this.
I have a question – How does one make people aware of one’s “contribution to the companies you’ve worked for”? Often times companies are reluctant to let you share publicly the nature of your work at their employ.
Thanks Uri. I think that if you go to meetups and conferences you will find lots of people sharing details about the projects they are working on. Of course we may avoid giving all the information about a particular algorithm, but we can always talk about the architecture and the technologies being used, for example. A speaker may also decide to give a talk about one particular aspect of his project, such as how he improved the system’s scalability or robustness. If you take a look under the Yahoo category here on my blog, you will find papers, slides and videos describing real projects I’ve worked on.
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