Career Interrupted: Another Note to Millenials About Surviving the Job Market


It’s been a couple of years since my last note concerning the economic downturn, and unfortunately the job market remains a challenge for younger employees. We are all wondering when the job market will snap back to its old self – but it’s just not happening. It seems that some form of evolution in the workplace environment has already taken place. As a result, adapting to meet these changes is the best way to proceed. Tackle this head on.

Life at work has changed

“Mutations” to jobs – such as permalancing have occurred –  and these changes are emerging as the new “normal” for many across the country. These job mutations can bring along a whole new set of issues, such as “free-floating ” job insecurity and its eventual impact upon job satisfaction. It seems the old issues are still there – such as just trying to get established – along with these new issues to round out the list.

Still looking for meaningful work? Not meeting your key career goals? The bottom line is that you have to be willing to do what it takes to succeed. It’s tough out there, and you’ll have to be tougher.

Stay razor focused

If you are looking for work and your dream job is not on the horizon, attempt to find a role that is related to your target. Look for jobs that develop a skill that you will need down the line in your target job. (Check job boards for your dream job and note the job qualifications that are discussed – work on developing one or more of those skill sets). If you have reached the interview stage, do “strategic” research. Be armed with information concerning your match to the role, including what is unique about you and how you can help to accomplish organizational initiatives.

If you are currently employed, make your commitment to the organization known. This remains crucially important as senior employees will have an edge if things get tight staff-wise. If you are viewed as someone who is a part of the organization only until your “real work life” begins, you could be considered a possible cut, even if you are a high potential employee. The awful thing about this – the decision will be made without guilt, because they think you really want to move on.

Be ready to justify why you are needed. As we discussed, you may still have to sing for your supper – and that’s OK . Everyone has to at one time or another in their career. Really take a hard look every now and then at your contribution as compared to your colleagues. Don’t throw everyone else under the bus, but be ready to defend your right to work and your real value.

Strategies to remain competitive

  • Focus on the bottom line. Whether you wish to join a specific organization or are currently working, keep your eyes open for ideas which can improve areas such as operations and customer service. Sometimes a very small idea can lead to a big payoff.
  • Embrace intrapreneurship. You may not have the flexibility to find a new job – but it is possible to still branch out. If you have an idea for a product or service which could complement the current work within your organization, explore the idea with your supervisors. You can read more about that topic here.
  • Develop project management skills. Most employees who land jobs (and advance) within an organization require skills in this area. Knowing how to manage resources, meet deadlines and monitor metrics are key career skills.
  • Continue to volunteer for tough, unpopular, or even boring assignments. Showing that you don’t mind putting forth some extra effort may help you stand out in a decision maker’s mind if more staffing cuts do occur. If it is an assignment that elicits groans and rolling eyes at the staff meeting, you have found pay dirt.
  • Work on your own career “brand”. Know who you are as a contributor and promote this – especially if you are still looking for work. Ask yourself: “What do I stand for career wise?” This process well help define your future career path and what you have to offer an organization. Find that niche and  work that angle.

This job market requires flexibility and clear view of who you are as a contributor – keep your goals in focus and try to be positive, but remain realistic.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist and Career Coach. Connect with her on Twitter and Linkedin.

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