I've always said there's no such thing as job security. Whether we realize it or not, most of us are essentially independent contractors, working at the whim of our customers, assured of employment only as long as we are able to add value in some way.
This weekend I started thinking about ways to become a "career untouchable." That is, how do we position ourselves so that we are always providing value to our customers, whether they are an employer or some other kind of customer. I came up with 5 key questions that I think we need to ask ourselves and be able to answer yes to:
1. Am I doing work that I'm passionate about?
Usually this is the work we tend to throw ourselves into and that passion shows. People who are intrinsically motivated tend to far out-perform those who are motivated by external things, such as pay.
2. Am I doing work that plays to my strengths?
There's the stuff that we can do, but it's not a strength, and then there's the stuff that we're REALLY good at. We are most likely to be adding value when we're doing work that plays to the things we're strongest in, rather than when we're doing work that isn't where our talents lie. Knowing what we're good at and building our skills to capitalize on those strengths will take us further than building a career on skills that we struggle to develop and maintain. Now Discover Your Strengths is a great resource for doing this.
3. Does my work involve one or more of Dan Pink's six key competencies?
Dan Pink, author of A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, argues that we've left the Information Age and moved into the Conceptual Age where the key to adding value is by utilizing 6 "right brain" competencies:
- Design – Design--creating simple, elegant ways of doing things--is difficult to outsource or automate.
- Story – The ability to construct a compelling narrative
- Symphony – Seeing relationships between diverse and seemingly separate elements.
- Empathy – The ability to truly understand where another person is coming from.
- Play – Good salary and benefits are not enough to keep a team working with you. They must be able to enjoy and have fun at their work.
- Meaning – Understanding and embracing that people are spiritual beings and when we help people find meaning we are adding value in ways that machines cannot.
(NOTE--You can download a great mindmap of Dan's book here)
4. Am I continually monitoring trends in my field and upgrading my skills to be ahead of the curve?
So many industries and occupations are being transformed by new technologies and new structures. These trends require us to adapt and acquire new skills. If we aren't on top of these trends and doing what we can to develop ourselves, we could easily be left behind. That's why we need to develop a PLE.
5. Have I set up a passive online marketing plan that includes an online portfolio and active management of my reputation so that I'm communicating a positive personal brand?
To be a career untouchable, we need to keep our options open, both within our organizations and outside of them. We need to be aware of and communicating about our passions, our strengths, the ways we want to develop and add value. Tools like online portfolios, blogs and social networking profiles, (such as on LinkedIn) can help us keep our networks active and our talents out there. They help us establish our personal brands and maintain a positive professional reputation.
Answering yes to these questions suggests that you've positioned yourself well for your future. If you answer "no" to one or more of these, I think it might be time to do some career fine-tuning.
What do you think about these questions? Can you think of others we need to ask in order to make ourselves "untouchable"?