Find a new career by thinking outside the square

Find a new career by thinking outside the square

Recently, Industry Minister Kim Carr gave a bleak assessment of job security, declaring that in the present environment, “I wouldn’t say anyone’s job was safe” .

Despite the predictable media outcry and swift clarification, his statement has a certain ring of truth.

Welcome to the new labour market, where the belief “I can always get another job” has been replaced with “I should review my job prospects, just in case!”

The real danger lies in doing nothing. Now is the time to take control, review career goals and personal values, and reinvent yourself to match the changing labour market.

Reinventing yourself is something most people do each time they change their jobs, repackaging their experience to meet their new career goals.

The key difference is that, in this economic climate, a mere addition to experience or another qualification will not necessarily guarantee a job.

However, reinvention need not be a daunting task. The following practical steps will make the process easier and help you to think clearly about your future.

Step 1. Relax. Take a breath and make yourself comfortable with pen and paper or your laptop. Now you’re ready to start.

Step 2. Ask probing questions. Confront reality. Be honest, specific and take notes. Your answers will provide insights into your values, goals and priorities.

  • What do I enjoy doing? List both work activities and personal interests, and the skills required. For example, for sales jobs, key attributes include relationship building, communication, being results-oriented.
  • What are my strengths, weaknesses and greatest achievements, professional and personal?
  • What motivates me? Taking on new challenges, problem solving, working with people or influencing decisions?
  • What would be my ideal job? Specify activities, responsibilities and income.

Step 3. Get feedback. Identify three people who know you well, are honest in their responses and whose opinions you respect. Explain that you are adapting to changing circumstances and would value their honest feedback. Ask them:

  • What do they like and admire about you?
  • What do they see as your strengths and weaknesses?
  • It may not be easy to hear their answers, but don’t get defensive. Take notes. Review, sort and prioritise your notes in order of personal values, interests, skills, experience, attributes and weaknesses.

Step 4. Compare and contrast. Take your lists from steps two and three. Match your interests and values with your skills, personal attributes and experience. Identify gaps in knowledge or experience. Having a clear picture of your transferable skills is essential to identifying new opportunities.

Step 5. Spot trends and gaps. We all absorb lots of information through reading, the media and interaction with other people. Use this information to note changes in the labour market and spot opportunities. Some guiding questions are:

  • Which industries are retrenching, creating jobs or have skill shortages? For example, in recession, insolvency is a growth area as well as some sections of community and public sectors. Note skill shortages still exist in engineering, IT specialties, nursing and trades.
  • Which industries will benefit from government assistance packages in the short, medium and long term? In the short term, it will be industries involved in planning designing and building infrastructure. There will be a flow-on effect to other industries, though this will also depend on the global economy.

As the economy improves, which sectors will be the first to expand?

Step 6. Mix and match: time to assess your resume. Does it clearly reflect the skills and experience essential to a changing market? Do you need additional training that will assist you to meet new demands? Do you need professional guidance (a careers counsellor or recruitment consultant) to help you identify opportunities?

You will of course have transferable skills and expertise to offer a prospective employer. However, be prepared to think outside the square and don’t discount any sectors including the voluntary or community sector.

The reality is that the industries that will emerge or survive the current economic crisis will require a new approach, different attitudes and will operate in a fundamentally changed economic landscape and, while your core skill set and attributes are transferable, the mind set approach to work and salary expectations may need to be adjusted.

And you need to be prepared.

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