Today’s workforce is transient, what with layoffs, downsizing and individuals voluntarily changing jobs, sometimes careers, several times during the course of their work life. With so much uncertainty in the world of work, it’s understandable if you feel insecure about your own job, always afraid of what might happen next.
In his book, Monday Morning Choices: 12 Powerful Ways to Go from Everyday to Extraordinary (HarperCollins, 2008), author David Cottrell exhorts employees not to be victims of circumstance. While you can’t control the economy, he argues, you can take control of your career by being proactive and creating a plan of action.
“People can be divided into three categories,” writes Cottrell. “Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happened…Successful people make things happen by taking action and not allowing themselves to be swept away by what life brings.”
Debbie Gantt, human resources area director for five boutique hotels, worked her way up from volunteering for a not-for-profit to the position of HR manager in the hospitality industry within five years. She offers these tips:
• Consult the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook (www.bls.gov/oco/) for information on training, education, earnings, what the job entails, working conditions for various job titles and job-search tips for specific titles.
• Obtain job descriptions for positions in your industry. These will provide detailed information about minimum requirements for the position.
• Use the Internet. You can research volunteer opportunities at www.volunteermatch.org. The Internet is also a good place to look for national, state and local professional organizations and associations related to your field, says Gantt. These organizations may provide training and mentoring opportunities at member and nonmember prices. Take a look at trade schools, community colleges and universities for related course work. Public libraries are great resources for career information. Gantt advises readers to review the recommended reading section at the end of the books they read and to check out occupational videos.
• Identify reputable seminars and workshops and utilize your coworkers. Your boss and HR department can offer guidance and direct you to programs. Try to identify a mentor through professional organizations and associations. Seek out job shadowing and cross training opportunities. Remember to include these activities in your annual performance appraisal process, which will hold you and your boss accountable for progress.
• Utilize your company’s tuition reimbursement program to help finance your training. Typically the course must be related to your current field and you must obtain prior approval to obtain reimbursement.
• If you’re a freelancer or unemployed, or if your company doesn’t offer tuition reimbursement, visit your local Department of Labor’s One Stop Career Center. Established under the Workforce Investment Act, these centers offer employment-related services, including training referrals, career counseling and job listings. New York’s Workforce 1 Center offers vouchers for training programs for eligible customers who are interested in working in growth industries.