In April, I gave a presentation to the North-by-Northwest Job Clublet (NxNW) called “Don’t Just Get A Job, Build A Career”, regarding the long-term investments that I used to make a difference in managing my career successfully.
What follows is broadly what I spoke about, updated because the events that were ongoing at that moment finally did reach their conclusion. I’ve talked about all of these things before, and they aren’t even ideas original to me, but I think it is helpful to look at these long-term strategies from the perspective of things that paid off after three years of investment.
Those three years represent a lot of work, none of it with immediate payoffs.
Here’s the list, then I’ll talk about how I did them and what the payoff was.
- Discovering my passion
- Involvement in my professional community
- Helping others
If you are unemployed but lucky enough to be able to afford to put off your job search until you have some of these things sorted out, great. The rest of us don’t have that luxury, so congratulations, you now have two jobs – finding a job and investing in your career.
Discovering My Passion
Figuring out what drives you, what really makes your heart sing, isn’t often a short-term activity, unless you are unusually attuned to your inner voice. I didn’t discover what I wanted to be when I grew up until I was already grown up, married and had kids. There is a good chance you have experienced (or are experiencing) something similar. I strongly believe that you are unlikely to get what you want when you don’t even know what that is. I was lucky enough to stumble into discovering my passion with the help of some great people.
Involvement in My Professional Community
I say this so often, even I’m annoyed when I say it. Get involved in your professional community. Professional organizations, user groups, meet-ups, it doesn’t matter. Where there is a gathering of your professional peers, there you should be also. Three years ago, in March of 2009, I first became involved with the SharePoint user group in San Antonio. I had finally gotten it through my thick skull that I needed to do this, looked up the local group… and found out they had met the previous week. Well, waiting three weeks for the next meeting was out of the question… I had just gotten a clue, and darn it, I needed to do something about it! So I found the nearest, next user group meeting, and drove to the San Antonio meeting the following week. In that session, I got some good technical content, a better understanding of Twitter and what it was for, and contacts with people who have become friends, career mentors, and examples to emulate.
I’ve been a regular attendee ever since, both in Austin and San Antonio, and have been involved in other groups as well, like Agile Austin and the Austin Software Process Improvement Network.
Three years ago I began blogging about the things (mostly) relevant to my career – SharePoint, and career management itself. By writing about things I know, I have helped many, many others with problems they were experiencing, both technical and career problems. And I may have gotten some attention for myself while I was at it.
At professional events, at job club meetings, at pure networking events, I have been open to talking to people – telling stories (true ones!) about myself and listening to their stories, asking them to open up about their goals and challenges. And offering to help… (As a side note, one of the LPJC members recently posted this link about networking to our LinkedIn group that relates to the theme of this post – playing the long game, rather than looking for a quick fix).
Career issues have been something that matters ot me. I don’t claim to be an expert, I just know what I have gone through. I have a lot of sympathy for those suffering the difficulties of unemployment. And I have tried to learn from my own mistakes and happy accidents. So when I have a chance to help someone else by providing a job lead, I jump in and do it. It feels good to help others. It puts me in that Moment of Power. And boy does it build up karma. In particular, I have made a point to help recruiters looking for SharePoint talent (since that is most of who tries to contact me), and I try to help SharePoint people find that next great opportunity they are looking for.
An extension of “Helping Others” and “Involvement in my Professional Community”. Beyond attending user group meetings, I have also been presenting sessions on topics I have knowledge of, passing along the lessons I have learned. As a result, people know about me, and about my areas of expertise and passion.
Bringing it All Together
Blogging and being an active part of my professional community were about building a reputation for myself. You might consider them as exercises in “brand management” or “brand recognition”. One result of three years of this activity is that three companies reached out to me this spring, based on my reputation. Over half of the companies that I initiated contact with recognized me, and the president of one of them had read my blog. Getting potential employers to understand your value proposition is 90% of the battle.
So here is the story of how I got my new job:
Julia had read my blog and contacted me when she came to Austin, as I might be someone to network with. We met up and talked, and I sent her some job leads. Eventually she got hired where a former co-worker of mine was working.
By sheer coincidence, when I was looking for my next opportunity, she called me and, because she knew I help others to connect with new jobs, asked if I knew anyone who might be looking for a SharePoint opportunity. Why, yes… yes I did.
Several people in the organization knew me, and they told their boss that he would be lucky to get me.
Jim Adcock is Vice President of Launch Pad Job Club, an organization in Austin, Texas, whose mission is help people who have lost their jobs to get the skills they need to land their next job, and to help them cope with the interim between jobs. Check out other career-related entries.