The New Rules of the Job Game

Okay, so we’ve all figured out that tube televisions are a thing of the past and that our kids (and grandkids) may somebody view items like printed books, CD-ROMS, and landline phones with wistful nostalgia — or possibly even just a blank stare.  Times change, and they change fast, as I talked about at length in my last article here.

So let’s build on that earlier discussion and talk about “what’s changed” in the job market, specifically, and how the average candidate can adapt to these realities.  What are the new rules of the game?  What are the keys to ensuring steady career success in the world today?  What are certain ahead-of-the-curve professionals doing that is leading to multiple job offers, at a time when many folks are still playing by the “old rules” and struggling to turn up even a single opportunity?

When I asked a networking group to brainstorm a bit around this issue, here’s what they came up with:

#1. Always be networking; relationships are key
#2. Be more open and prepared to do contract work
#3. Maintain current profiles on multiple social media sites
#4. Keep your skills current via regular professional development
#5. Prepare financially for gaps/breaks to happen in your career
#6. Enjoy any time off you get when you get it; make the most of breaks
#7. Don’t hide or isolate yourself; stay plugged in
#8. Let go of shame around unemployment; that’s an outdated concept
#9. Be clear about what you do and what sets you apart
#10. Maintain a positive attitude at all times
#11. Be mindful of your online reputation; manage it proactively
#12. Reach out to companies even when a job isn’t available
#13. Manage your career; don’t expect it to “just happen”
#14. Build relationships with a handful of appropriate recruiters
#15. A one-size-fits-all resume doesn’t cut it anymore; customize it
#16. Focus on your bright future, not your past
#17. Don’t stop networking, even when you’re working
#18. Focus on the solutions/results you can provide to organizations
#19. Practice your interview skills; get better at selling yourself
#20. Stay current with trends in your industry
#21. Stay current with technology/software/tools in your field
#22. Stay current with terminology and new buzzwords
#23. Be more patient and persistent
#24. Don’t be blindly loyal to an organization; always have a plan B
#25. Enjoy the journey; try not to take things too seriously

Honestly, there’s not a single suggestion about that I’d argue with.  I think the group did a great job of pulling suggestions together given the relatively short timeline of the 15-minute “crowdsourcing” exercise we went through!  And if I had to pick out what I felt were the MOST critical and significant items to focus on, from the list above, I’d probably select #1, #4, #9, #10, #13, #16, and #18.  But heck, they’re all pretty good.  Again, it’s hard to argue with any of them.

As for my own top list of “new rules” suggestions regarding the job market, based on how I’ve seen things change out there over all the years?  The short list of pivotal suggestions I’d throw out there would probably be along these lines:

#1. Take ownership of your career; embody the word “professional” and accept full responsibility for maintaining the qualifications/marketability you need to earn a living

#2. Know your value proposition; be crystal-clear around the specific types of problems you’re able to solve for companies/consumers in today’s instant-gratification world

#3. Don’t just network in a casual sense; actively manage your social capital, following an ongoing communication plan/system for keeping people updated on your goals, interests, and expertise

#4. Don’t fall behind your peers; whatever it takes to stay at the forefront of your field in terms of skills, trends, and terminology

#5. Embrace job hunting as a critical “life skill” you need to master; it’s statistically likely you’ll go through this process multiple times in your career, so don’t treat “marketing yourself” as an afterthought, periodic activity, or necessary evil

I’m sure we could all quibble with some of these suggestions if we tried and I’m equally sure most other experts would have their own “top 5” or “top 10” list of what they’d tell their clients to do differently given the job market today!  But off the top of my head, in terms of helping people understand the new mindset and habits that lead to success out there, these are the things I’d put forward.

Let me know if you agree/disagree with any of these “rules” in any way or have further suggestions to add to the list!

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4 Responses to “The New Rules of the Job Game”

  1. Laura: Much thanks for your validation of some of those recent “points” I raised in my article — and keep up the good work with your client base! 🙂

  2. Matt- I work with 50+ age group in helping them assess whether they even want to go back to their prior industry or position, especially after being out of work for 1, 2 years or more. What you’ve posted here is what everyone, but especially “Boomer-bracket” job seekers should have been doing since 2008, but they (and I’m a Boomer myself), just didn’t have a clue! A lot of time was wasted in “wandering the wasteland” of the unemployed, without the insights that your brainstorming group have developed here. Thank you for the posting.

  3. Jenny: Much thanks for chiming in and I certainly can’t argue with the worthiness of YOUR suggestion, as well, as a “new rule” people should be following out there — both when they’re job hunting as well as throughout the course of their professional lives, in general!

  4. Matt–This is a very helpful post, as usual! I would add that reciprocity is essential for career management. I’ve often found that unemployed people feel at a disadvantage for reciprocity–like they have nothing to offer to anyone at this time in their lives. The reality is, they have tremendous skills and gifts to offer in exchange for help gained along the way. Examples: 1. Someone has helped you with a job lead. His/her daughter is going to Spain for a school exchange program. You are fluent in Spanish. Offer to give lessons. 2. You are an expert at loading music onto various devices. Someone who has helped you in your search is not. Give them your music downloading time. 3. A job seeker gets an introduction to a hiring manager from a previous co-worker. That co-worker is in a Rotary Club that is collecting toys for low income children. Donate toys to the drive. There is no limit to the creativity you can deploy when thinking of how to reciprocate. And don’t forget the oft ignored THANK YOU card or email.

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