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Advancing Your Career

Reason #1 - A career is a passage and should begin with a destination in mind.

There is truth in the notion that if you do not know where you are going, no wind is the right wind. One of the most valuable lessons I learned through the years is that both your destination and the oceans you are sailing keep moving, so you must be able to adjust your course with agility and confidence.

As you consider a career move, it is wise to remember some logical principles. The most important is based on Economics 101: You are required to make a sale to succeed in your search. Start by determining what you have to sell, why someone should buy it, what it is worth and who is in a position to buy it.

Reason #2 - Don’t even think for a moment about picking a new career or advancing your present career based on current headlines.

Instead, ask yourself what you can get passionate about.

While the headlines on recent layoff announcements are pretty shocking, a glance at the fine print should offer relief. Most reductions won’t be achieved by widespread layoffs but will rely instead on attrition or early retirement, and most reductions are being spread over a number of years. On top of that, layoffs reflect various factors, not just a lagging economy. Some firms, such as Motorola, are responding to the slowdown, but a great many, like GE, are positioning themselves by expanding in new markets and pulling back in others. Then there are firms like DamilerChrysler, for which restructuring was long overdue, and AOL Time Warner, which has just merged and is looking to eliminate redundancies.

The dot-com sector also continues to evolve. And even though Web firms have taken on a larger-than-life presence in the news and capital markets, their actual impact on the labor market is quite small. By one estimate, 900,000 people are currently employed in the sector, which means that if every dot-com in the country disappeared overnight, the unemployment rate would jump to a mere five percent - still far below what was considered full employment only five years ago. If there is one marketed change that I have witnessed in the last year, it is this, job seekers and employers are less impulsive. Both sides are taking a closer look at what they are doing. A year ago, job candidates where jumping to new jobs and taking such big risks. Not now. There is a lot of due diligence going on. And there’s something else to consider. While layoff announcements at big firms have been making headlines, thousands of small and medium-sized firms across the country are still hiring.

Reason #3 - Anyone thinking about starting up an office romance needs to go into it with their eyes open and may eventually have to decide whether they value their lover more than their job.

Even if an employer never says anything about the relationship, it may undermine the employees’ opportunities for advancement. When a young bay area attorney had a yearlong fling with a legal assistant in his office, he didn’t think much about the effect it would have on his career. But after the affair ended, he discovered his dalliances didn’t do much to move him through the ranks.

“I found out years later that the partners definitely looked down upon it. It was looked at as most inappropriate,” he said. “They said, “Is this guy an idiot? Doesn’t he have any sense?”

Reason #4 - Prematurely disclosing to your current employer that you received a new job offer is just plain stupid.

When trying to advance your career, you must know when not to speak. Ethically, employees have absolutely no responsibility to prematurely disclose a new job offer. Too often, we confuse ethics with guilt. For many employees, companies become like families, we spend a lot of our time there, and we rely on them to fulfill many of our financial, intellectual, and emotional needs. But prematurely disclosing to your boss that you are considering a position outside the company will always place your loyalty in question. As long as you don’t lie, cheat or steal, it is perfectly professional to take necessary steps to advance your career.

Reasons #5 - Ships operate the way people ought to.

Why? Because ships always have a destination. How many people do you know who can say the same thing? The notion of “keeping your options open” is a misguided approach to job-hunting, managing a career and, especially, resume writing. A prospective employer should know in the first two to three lines of your resume, what type of position you’re looking for, and in the first 10 to 15 lines, the greatest benefits you can bring to the position. Having two or three resumes with different targets still allows for an effective, manageable search. If you’re unable to narrow your target, focus on assessing your skills and career research, not writing your resume.

Reason #6 - Entrepreneurship is not always viewed as a positive.

Job seeking candidates are often screened out at the earliest stage of the hiring process if they list on their resume that they have been entrepreneurs. Many employers distrust entrepreneurs because they’re the type of person who is extremely self-willed. They’re accustomed to giving orders, not taking them. Many are viewed as wanting to impose conditions, not submit to them. Employer’s wonder: Why are you coming to us? Did you fail to make it on your own? Oh, you made a lot of money, did you? Then you’re no longer driven. How can we trust the quantified achievements on your resume if you reported them yourself? By changing a few titles and making other edits, you can let readers of your resume assess your worth without triggering a bias towards you

Reason #7 - Work to an agenda, not a schedule.

Over time, the most important skill for advancing your career is learning how to work to an agenda than to a schedule. A successful businessperson always kills more than one bird with one stone. Figure out what needs to happen on a broad scale, and then find ways to make it happen.

Reasons #8 - Careers need consistency.

A career needs consistency, especially when the world around you is changing so fast. Most companies change priorities with the financial winds. Don’t be surprised or take it personally when their goals start to diverge from yours. The key is to reconnect with a group of like-minded people. Consistency brings you industry-wide respect. And as you mature through different phases of your career, it opens new and unexpected horizons. Jumping from fad to fad to get promoted quickly is neither satisfying nor sustainable.

Reason #9 - Follow your heart.

No matter how high your career registers on the conventional charts, you’ve got to listen to your heart. Almost anyone who devotes themselves to a given vocation, and who pours their love and energy into that activity, develops a certain expertise in the field: The vocation opens itself up to him/her in terms of its truths and principles, bends itself to your imagery and ideas, becomes your friend, building up the person as they invest themselves in their chosen work. Any work can serve this purpose, so that whatever it is one chooses to do, if done with the right attitude and proper affection it becomes a joyful activity that has the potential of becoming a long-term career.

Reason #10 - Be willing to pay the price that success demands.

There is a principle at the heart of humanity: Life is not what you find; it is what you create. And so it is with you. You are given an intellect; you can use it or let it stagnate. You are given a body; you can keep it fit or let it deteriorate. You are given 365 days in a year; you can use them or waste them. At work, you are given an opportunity; you can turn it into an adventure or let it descend into drudgery. You can succeed, or you can fail. The choice is yours. The one thing you can’t do is succeed without effort.

- Joe Hodowanes, Career Strategy Advisor

J.M. Wanes & Associates

Joe Hodowanes, M.P.A., SPHR, is a nationally recognized career coach, syndicated columnist, and president of Tampa-based J.M. Wanes & Associates, J.M. Wanes & Associates is a career coaching, outplacement, and executive search firm specializing in executive-level opportunities.