Master Career Counselor

Carla Hunter, President of Career Span, Inc. is a Master Career Counselor (MCC) by the National Career Development Association and a Certified Career Coach by the National Board for Certified Counselors. She is an expert in writing resumes, effective job search strategies and interviewing success. Most recently, with over 20 years of navigating the complexity of today's world of work, she published "Finding Your Place in the World of Work", a career interest inventory (2014) and CareerView, an iPad app. As a private practice career counselor and a workforce development consultant, this blog is Carla's trove of ideas, trends, forecasts, and career tips for finding meaningful work.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Heritage or contemporary: which employee are you?

I think it's safe to say no one is safe in a job. 

The unemployment numbers are high and it will take a minimum of three to five years for a return of early 2008 employment levels.  Even with the economic metamorphosis taking place, the job market's cocoon is a force to be reckoned with as it awakens everyone to the tenuous reality that job security is dead. 

However, there are several strategies you can incorporate that may increase your likelihood of remaining employed.  These strategies may also assist you if you were to lose a job through no fault of your own.  As I share these strategies in the weeks ahead, start by answering this simple question:

What type of employee am I?

There are two basic camps of thought to this question.  Let's take a look at both and see which one you identify with most.

THE HERITAGE EMPLOYEE: The stalwart, loyal and devoted worker

The heritage employee went to the school of hard knocks that open its doors post depression era.  The curriculum was based on the following tenets:

1. Loyalty to an employer is the primary focus of one's career.
2. While employed, looking at other career opportunities is equivalent to adultery.
3. Considering a career change is nothing short of crazy behavior.
4. Typical mindset: so what if work is miserable?  Its just a job.
5. It's all about building a retirement fund to enjoy life AFTER work is finished. 

Typical activities heritage employees strongly dislike:
  • Anything to do with technology
  • Working in a team that collaborates and debates
  • Conflict resolution (nothing short of the plague)
  • Setting goals and rewards that are performance based
  • Seeing skills as a work in progress
Heritage employees work best in government agencies, thick bureaucracies (where they get lost), most but not all scholastic institutions (although they do encourage technology) and in an ancient company no one can figure out why it still exists.

Does anything you read resonate with you?   Keep reading for the second camp of thought.

THE CONTEMPORARY EMPLOYEE: The adaptable, flexible and transparent worker

The contemporary employee is perpetually enrolled in the school of constant learning that opened its doors post technology era. The curriculum is based and updated on the following tenets:

1.  Productive satisfaction and personal accomplishment is the primary motivator of career success.
2. Professional development is central to a continuous learning mindset that adapts to a changing workplace and customer.
3. Looking for and openness to other opportunities is a mandate for progress and sanity.
4. Dedication to enhacing, developing and branding a professional identity that focuses on meaningful outcomes in work is central to satisfaction.
5. Living a flexible life in the moment placing family and community at the top and living life outside the company walls is imperative.

Typical work activities contemporary employees strongly dislike:
  • Anything to do with office gossip and politics
  • Working in a silo disconnected to the company mission
  • Clocking in the hours rather than being evaluated upon end results or deliverables
  • Having a boss that is threatened by new ideas and solutions
Contemporary employees work best in start up firms, owning a business and beginning an entreprenurial endeavor.  Any company that promotes a culture of diversity and openness is a match.

Are you a heritage employee that needs to adapt to your new contemporary environment?
Are you a match to your current company culture?

Heritage employees are becoming the dinosaurs of today's workplace.

The job market today and tomorrow will demand a contemporary employee that appreciates, adapts and is open to change in the workplace.  After all, isn't change the most consistent factor in life?

More than likely you are striving to become contemporary or you wouldn't be reading this blog.

Let's discuss in the next post, a strategy that most contemporary employers believe is non-negotiable.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Dismantled career ladder and a beautiful emerging trellis

In a previous post, I explained the importance of putting our current conceptual framework of "networking" to rest.  It needs a new life, a new branding and certainly a new identity. Most people are uncomfortable with networking's unspoken rules of "small talk" and the seemingly wasted time and energy it requires.

Thus, the formation of interpersonal routing, the concept of purposeful connection to and with important information, people and places.  Interpersonal routing is the axis of healthy colleagial relationships that give and take in an interdependent manner of trust, respect and reciprocity. It is not a one way relationship with each party thinking "what can I take from this encounter?" 
Rather it is an exchange of "what can I help you accomplish?" promoting the principle of mutual benefit.  Networking in its current form feels like you are being robbed or worse, are robbing people of important currency: their time.

If this concept of mutual exchange continues to progress and the bureaucracy of corporate America continues to flatten,  the proverbial career ladder may also be dismantling. In the wake of flat companies there may be increased options of flexibility, decision-making and the collaborative exchange of information (interpersonal routing).

What would be a likely result?

Imagine a trellis of intricate relationships cultivated over time that harness your energy and talent.  The exchange of ideas and collaboration weave you to otherwise unknown options to consider: a new job, updated training, an engaging colleague or an organization that increases your skills and equips you for success.

A trellis requires co-mingling and over time it provides mutual opportunity for small shoots to become very big plants growing in parallel directions that incorporate a new idea or innovative solution.

A ladder provides you with one way up and when swiped from underneath, it can cause a devastating fall.

Today's job market contraction may ease within the next five years, but will continue to demand that we inventory our career development tools. Do we stay on the ladder or do we invest our time in developing the beauty of a trellis? 

In the end, a trellis gives you more flexibility, freedom and choice.  A ladder may appear to be the more encompassing metaphor of how to get from one job to another but my clients are saying very loudly,

"Who moved my ladder?"

They're left hanging in uncertainty, fear and joblessness because the career ladder they were on wasn't suppose to fall apart.  And it did.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dear Mr. President

In your SOTU speech, I appreciate your enthusiasm for science fair winners like no other parent!  I believe in the importance of the scientific method and getting our children's hands dirty and full of respect for mother nature and her ample sources of energy yet to be harnessed.

Yet, you really didn't address the fundamental issue that plagues us: the parents of those science fair winners who may be out of a job since last week, or month or year.  These parents are my clients and they have brought me to one very stark conclusion: not even a college degree will ensure us with a stable or viable future.  Degrees are meaningless without substance that is relevant to the changing demands of a global economy and a serious problem with our job market infrastructure. For some reason I can't explain, economists seem to be blind to it.

The greatest need and demand we have today is finding workers who want to get their hands dirty.  If only you had emphasized the critical demands of our workforce for people who can fix an air conditioner, unstop a toilet, repair a broken down car or connect power lines to each other. Wall Street only notices this crisis in a meeting of brokers when the office air conditioner stops working.  What MBA will fix it? 

As a nation, we have undermined and even revoked the importance of vocational education for our children who just may want to do it.  Parents seem to think now that without a college degree their children will not succeed in life.  Until we face this reality, I hypothesize that our economy will continue to remain stagnate.

Today's consequences: College educated kids have moved home, can't find a "job" and have debt that could have purchased a starter home.  Their parents aren't much help because they too recognize their current skill-set is becoming quickly fossilized or even worse, they lost jobs with a college education.

So yes, I'm with you applauding science fair winners.  Please also remember that college education is not our only hope for the future.   The kids who didn't win but learned all about electrical currents or how an engine works may be our key to a brighter future.

Working with our hands is a lost art in the world of work.  If only parents could understand how important it is to using your brain.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Interpersonal routing: The new branding and image of networking

I vote we lay the concept of networking to rest.  Let's bury a negatively perceived word and replace an outdated concept with a new way of connecting to people.  The reasons for such an idea include:

1.  Networking is a word rooted in the pyramid schemes of the 1970's that translated to: "Get as much out of people as you can without giving anything in return."  It was all about taking without any regard to giving.

2.  Many today see networking as a fake, "schmoozing" type of ineffective means of connecting  to others that feels totally awkward at best and humiliating at worse because there is no direction or point to the "small talk".  It is embarassing to those who aren't proficient in establishing quick rapport.

3.  Networking is viewed by many career experts as the key to success but those who need it most completely balk at doing it.

4.  It is an overused, undervalued term that needs rebranding.  It needs a new identity and buy in from 99% of the American population.  Networking makes people break out in hives.

So, are you ready for the new concept that must replace it?

Interpersonal routing

This new career term and way of life is vital for your success both professionally and personally.  When approached in a healthy manner it is painless, carefree and very powerful.

Let's take a look at where the words originate:

Routing is a word derived from technology and the computer age involving the process of moving information from one place (the source) to another (the destination). Routing is usually performed by a device called a router. Routing is absolutely essential to the Internet because it provides the means necessary for messages to pass from one computer to another and eventually reach an intended target. Each individual computer routes data by passing along the message to the next computer. The goal of routing is to determine the best path of how information travels and reaching a destination.   Now, take what I've written about the router to your daily life and how you take in and give out information and energy.  We are routers for one another. 

Isn't that how it is suppose to be with humans?  Shouldn't we be intentional about connecting to one another and exchange information?

Thus we get the word interpersonal.  This word indicates a connection to another based upon several key components:

  • mutual respect built over time
  • kindness extended
  • positive regard shared with others
  • the opportunity to help another when possible
Interpersonal relationships are vital to our wellbeing.  When we combine the words "interpersonal" and "routing" we've coined a new approach to the importance of developing relationships with people that involve the exchange of information leading everyone to a destination or path that is best for the whole rather than only an individual.  This is the central tenet of interpersonal routing. 

In my next post, I will give specifics on how to integrate interpersonal routing in your life.  For now, let go of the overused and misunderstood word, networking.  It is time to put it out of its misery and bury all the negative feelings it leaves behind.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Independent Contractor: That is you!

In the future, we will work.  But, not necessarily have a job.

What in the world of work does this mean?
Well, it's complicated!  Basically, this statement is influenced by the following:

1.  Work is changing so rapidly that employers are trying to do more with less and that means contracting work out rather than in house employees.  Thus, opportunity is available but not the way we used to think.
2. Each worker in the future will have a core skill-set that several employers contract to complete projects rather than fulfill job descriptions. It is so much cheaper.  Independent contractors have perks with this relationship considered imperative such as flexibility and more autonomy to focus on life beyond work.
3. Depending on what happens with health care (if employers continue to pay more), the employee numbers will shrink and people will have to become self-employed 1099 workers forming the independent contractor mode of survival.  They will have no certain collar color.  Blue, white, green, whatever!  Actually, maybe even pajamas.
4.  The 21st century workplace will require this mindset because it is a global marketplace.  China and Japan on your neighbors.

This work place model of the future demands that everyone be a continuous learner and adaptable to change.  There hasn't been this much drama in the workplace in years.  The industrial revolution is dead and technology has replaced the former paradigm.  It will be all about how you can complete the deliverables list for a company in a timely and efficient way.

So what does this mean for you?

Don't get comfortable in your job ever. 
Don't think your career field won't be affected by this new revolution.

Do learn new skills and update your business portfolio.
Do stay awake and alert to what is happening.  So many people are sleeping right through the window of opportunity to learn. 
Do be ready at a moment's notice to acclimate to the ever changing demands of the world of work.  It is the chameleon of today and your future viability depends on how well you know it.  Right now, it is shaping up to be an independent contractor's paradise.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The classroom today looks different

My grandparents and parents would say that all that mattered was being loyal to an employer. "Give them all you got!!!"

That is history.  The class of job security has been cancelled.

Today, it is a whole new world. 

Now, everyone with a job and those who would give anything to have one are in the classroom of economics.  Trying to follow the syllabus of scarcity, demand and even game theory has made the world of work very complicated.  No one can get by with only loyalty.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ask a career question and I will answer it

If you visit the blog and have a career related question, please take a moment to ask by emailing me: or by leaving the question in the comment section.

As a career counselor, I know there are many questions out there regarding resumes, interviewing and job search strategies.  So, feel free to ask at any time and I will do my best to answer.

Thought for the day: Since the word "career" originates from the French word meaning "racetrack", just what race am I in?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Me, Myself and I: The Independent Contractor

In the last few posts, we have focused on several career realities:

1. The job market is seriously contracting. This is primarily due to technology and its HUGE effect on the way we do business (just ask any newspaper company).
2. We can no longer depend upon an employer for work! This sounds really odd, but is completely true. Each of us must develop a set of core skills that individuals, companies and organizations find indispensable. Those skills are contracted on a weekly, monthly or annual basis. In essence, you may be working for several companies at once. What I am writing about today, will be the primary means of employment in the future workforce. Definitely within the next 15 to 20 years. Possibly, a lot sooner.
3. We cannot be passive about our career development. No employer is going to tell you what to do to enhance your skills. You are in charge of keeping on the forefront of your industry and field of expertise.

With those main points in mind, here is a list of important questions for you to consider:

Do I see myself as an independent contractor?
If asked today, what would I say are my top ten skills?
What have I done in the past month or year to develop interdependent relationships with colleagues?
What classes can I be taking to improve, enhance and develop new skills necessary for a global economy?
What goals can I determine to reach that will engage my brain to take me to the next level of my expertise?

Most people are way too stressed out by the job market to be asking the questions I just posed.  The irony is that they should be focused solely on answering those questions because of it. 

We will look back in a few years and say, "Oh, my!  Those years between 2005-2020 were the most agonizing years for job seekers, the unemployed and underemployed of all time."  Yet, they are also the most exciting because a new worker emerged in the rubble of change, redirection and new industries:
The independent contractor. 

What exactly does it take to become one?  What are their hallmarks?
That will be my next post.  And, we will also look at what I meant by "interdependent relationships with colleagues." Every independent contractor has them.