Career, what career, Big Red Car?
Big Red Car here in the ATX on a gloomy, wet day. Ahh, it is still good, y’all. Will be 80F by afternoon and maybe, just maybe, the sun will burn through.
Today, in our new gig economy, it is almost impossible to get the word “career” out of one’s mouth and not have it drown in your smile. Companies don’t provide career opportunities; and, companies in or around the tech space, the startup ecosystem, make no bones about it. They are all headed to the pay window and one can only hope to have a few stock options with which to enjoy the trip and then find another gig on the flip side.
But, in spite of this, YOU still need to take care of YOU.
That’s what we are going to talk about today — you managing your career in the day of the gig economy.
A career is fiction, Big Red Car?
Today, the idea you can settle in with a company and work there for an extended period of time is a pipe dream.
It is a two way street as individuals use their latest position as a launching pad for their next opportunity — growing professionally, personally, and from a compensation perspective.
Hey, a big part of this is getting paid for your work and skills. Pay is important.
There are no more careers with individual companies.
So, Big Red Car, how do we maneuver? Huh?
You have to brush your teeth, look in the mirror, and say, “I am the CEO of Me, Inc.” You have to approach your career like a startup business.
If you cannot take charge of you, if you cannot approach life as the CEO of Me, Inc — stop reading and go play some computer solitaire.
You have to develop a Strategy, Tactics, and Objectives just like a startup.
Strategy — the view from 30,000 feet which answers the question, “Where do you want to be in 5, 10, 15, 20 years?”
Tactics — the view from 10,000 feet which answers the question, “What do I have to do to accomplish my strategic objectives?”
Objectives — the view from the ground which answers the question, “What do I do today?”
That’s it, Big Red Car? Yes, dear reader, that is the big picture. Let’s delve into the details.
This is you when you begin this process.
A lot of life is reduced to “Monkey see, monkey do.”
To begin on strategy, identify the monkey you want to be. Who is your ideal monkey and what are their personal characteristics and the professional characteristics of their position?
This may, actually, be 3-5 monkeys as you are exploring new frontiers here. More than 5 monkeys is not enough focus. I like 2-3 monkeys as a limit.
Write down the skills, character traits, tendencies of your favorite monkey. You will compare those to yours in the future.
Before you get too far down the road, identify the constraints on your career management endeavor. Constraints can be geographical — not leaving San Francisco (Austin, New York, Boston).
Constraints can be compensation driven. You can only eat so much Ramen, right?
Constraints may also be skill related. Skills, of course, can be improved, learned, broadened. You cannot become a ballerina if you are a 6’4″, 250 lbs guy. Sort of a crude analogy, but you get it, right?
Make a list of constraints.
Skills, character traits, tendencies
Inventory your skills, character, tendencies. I like y’all to do this after you have identified our monkey and listed the target monkey’s similar attributes so you can stay position-focused.
Take a look and see if the comparison of your skills and the target monkey’s skills overlap sufficiently. Identify any voids or weaknesses. Give 5 minutes of thought to how you might shore these voids or weaknesses up.
Once you have identified your favorite monkey, make a list of specific jobs which you want which would be “similar” to your strategic, favorite monkey.
Now, you are getting specific, tactical.
The deliverable is a list of jobs. A list of jobs.
With the list of jobs in hand, identify the industries in which these jobs exist.
Identify companies within that industry you would like to work with.
[Cautionary note: This exercise is about you running Me, Inc. You are driving your own dream. Think big. It costs the same to think big as it does to think small. Go with the large economy size of THINK BIG.]
You have done a lot of work:
1. Now, you have a list of monkeys you want to “monkey do.”
2. You have a list of the skills, character traits, tendencies of your favorite monkey.
3. You have a list of your own skills, character traits, tendencies and have matched them with your favorite monkey.
4. You may have some thoughts on how to close any voids between your ideal monkey’s stuff and your stuff.
5. You have a list of industries which offer the perfect job you are looking for.
6. You have a list of companies within those industries you want to work for.
7. You have a list of the real world constraints you require — no, you are not going to move to Lubbock for that dream programmer job downwind from a feedlot. You are not going to do that.
Do not start looking for a job until you have this stuff done. Hey, I’m talking to you — do the freakin’ work and no cutting corners.
Lay the foundation
Before you go off and start looking for jobs, let’s make sure your foundation is tight.
1. Write a resume and be prepared to tailor it for each individual position. I am not going to tell you how to do this. There is a wealth of info out there, but know this — it is the appetizer which gets you the invite to the entree.
The call to action of a good resume is a phone interview or an in-person interview. Nobody is going to give you a job from a resume.
Make damn sure that every word on that resume is true. Every. Stinking. Word.
2. Go scrub down your social media — every bit of it.
Delete the pics of you smoking weed in Steamboat Springs, even if marijuana is legal in Colorado.
3. Make sure your LinkedIn page is in absolute compliance with your current presentation.
Oh, please, you have to have a LinkedIn page. It’s like going for your annual physical. You have to do it.
4. Get a letter of reference from every useful and pertinent job you have ever held. A letter of reference contains dates of employment, position titles, and a description of the quality of work you did in each position.
A letter of reference is different from a letter of recommendation. A letter of recommendation is from an individual who can address your qualifications and suitability for a specific position knowing what that position is.
5. Get a wardrobe together which is appropriate for the job. [Pro tip: Dress like the interviewer.]
6. Groom yourself for the prom — ooops, I mean the interview. Get the haircut.
7. Develop an elevator, taxicab, boardroom pitch of Me, Inc. Small, medium, large. Write them out.
7. Practice. Practice. Practice. Practice your elevator, taxicab, and boardroom versions of the story of Me, Inc.
[Pro tip: Approach this like a storyteller. You are writing a story which will start as fiction and become a non-fiction documentary of Me, Inc. Prepare and tell a great story. You are the lead character, the protagonist. You are special.]
Now, dear reader, you are ready to launch Me, Inc.
1. Do the normal stuff, like using Indeed.com or other job search sites.
2. Network like a fiend. You are networking on behalf of Me, Inc. So network where you want to end up.
3. If you are a senior software engineer in Austin, Texas, then you go to the Meet Ups and industry events which will put you into close proximity with the perfect monkey, and the perfect job.
4. Hang around the accelerators and incubators — if you are interested in startup type opportunities. Talk to the people who run the operations.
5. Work your deal. At the end of every conversation, ask, “Where would you send me? Who can you introduce me to?”
Hey, you, do not get bashful and shy on me. This is deadly serious business.
6. Every two weeks, take an hour and grade your performance. Revise your pitch.
7. Dash of cold water on things — may take six months to do it, y’all. Know that. This is not instant gratification business.
8. WRITE AN HANDWRITTEN NOTE TO EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO HELPS YOU ALONG THE WAY. Every. Single. Person. This is Old World important stuff. Trust me on this.
Time management is a critical business skill, but we never talk about it.
To make Me, Inc. work, make a one hour appointment with yourself on Monday, Wednesday, Friday to work on the assignment.
Once you are ready to launch, dedicate two hours per day on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and an entire day when you are getting into the swing of things.
Dedicate the time to make it work. Manage your time to manage Me, Inc. Me, Inc. is your new short term job. Work it.
So, dear reader, there you have it. YOU are in charge of Me, Inc. Take charge. In life we do not get power, we take power. You are the CEO of Me, Inc. Take power.
This is you when you finish the process of creating, Me, Inc.