The worst career mistake you can make, though, is a mistake you won’t realize you’re making! It’s the most common as well as the most deadly career mistake you can make.
I’m talking about falling asleep on your career and forgetting about the world outside the walls of your job. When you fall asleep, you start to believe that you don’t have to think about your career, because you’re working right now.
You start to think that your job is secure and that you can depend on it. You get lulled into complacency and let your network fall away. You don’t update your resume or read job ads because you think you don’t need to. You don’t think about the rest of your career.
While you’re falling asleep on your career, the value of your resume is degrading. Unless you are always learning new things, your resume gets weaker over time, not stronger! The longer you stay in a trance. the more the real world changes and the more you fall behind.
That’s why people who get laid off suddenly come blinking into the sunlight, freaked out and panicky about finding a new job. They’re out of step. They don’t know what kind of Business Pain they solve for employers. They’re not thinking of themselves like entrepreneurs, the way all of us need to do — even kids who are just finishing college. We are all entrepreneurs now.
We have to stop thinking of ourselves as employees and start thinking of ourselves as business owners. Your career is your business!
Have you fallen asleep on your career? Here are 10 questions to answer:
• Can you list eight to 12 organizations you’d approach right now if your job disappeared — organizations that employ people like you?
• Do you know what your talents are worth in the talent marketplace (not just what you’re getting paid now)?
• Does your network include at least a hundred people who know you well, know what you’re capable of and who are not your current workmates?
• Do you have a consulting business card — something we all need — and an awareness of the kinds of consulting projects you could take on for clients (either part-time alongside your current job or full-time if the need should arise) and what you’d charge for your services?
• Are your skills up-to-date? Are you comfortable with the latest methods and technology in your function?
• Are you continually accumulating Dragon-Slaying Stories about times when you made a difference or saved the day because of your ideas and actions?
• Do you have six professional references who can be easily reached and who are willing and able to talk about your talents?
• Do you have a current and robust LinkedIn profile with a great photo, a clear description of what you do professionally and at least a half-dozen thoughtful recommendations?
• Do you have visibility into the plans, goals, forecasts and challenges of your current company — such that you’d have plenty of warning if you needed to get a job search going?
• Do you keep an eye on the job market by reading job ads, talking with recruiters and staying close to your network to hear about consulting or employment opportunities?
If you’ve fallen asleep on your career as many working people have, now is a great time to wake up! The working world has changed and it’s not going back to the long-term employment model anytime soon. We are all floating on shrinking ice floes and realizing that our best career bet is to learn how to swim.
Now is a great time to dive in!