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Career Security – Not Job Security

Posted March 15, 2009 4:30 PM by KER_Recruiter

Most people talk about job security, but I'd like to focus on career security instead. I've been told by my elders that the days of working for one company for your entire life are over (or at least few in number). Maybe you've been told the same.

As a recruiter for Kelly Engineering Resources (KER), I review technical resumes everyday. Very rarely do I come across a professional with 20+ years of work experience who has worked for only one or two companies. If you happen to be one of those rare professionals, then congratulations! Many workers would want to be like you.

But what if long-term employment at just one or two companies isn't an option? Here's a plan that anyone can put in place to help establish career security.

Get Started

First, understand the industry and marketplace where you want to work. Second, research and understand the competition and the competitors' locations. If you work in an industry with no local competition, then recognize that relocation could be in your future.

Once you analyze your industry and the competition, start promoting yourself! Remember that you do not have to be unemployed to promote your skills to future employers or recruiters.

To make this easy, you can call a recruiter or engineering manager and inform them of your experience, credentials, and career goals. Explain that you are happily employed, but that you also understand that you cannot predict the future – and that you want them to know that you exist in the marketplace. Also, inform these recruiters or engineering managers that you'd like them to contact you if a position for which you are qualified becomes available.

Finally, make sure these companies have up-to-date contact information about you. Your best efforts won't bear fruit if your contacts can't get a hold of you.

Get Linked In

A fantastic tool to help promote yourself in your industry is to join a professional networking website. I highly recommend LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com. LinkedIn is very popular, with over 35 million professionals worldwide. Many of the professionals who post career profiles of themselves are currently working, and have connections with their co-workers, colleagues, vendors, and business associates.

I could write a large article by itself regarding the importance of LinkedIn. If you have questions, feel free to send me a message.

Conclusion

The days of lifetime employment at one company may be over. But by implementing the above recommendations, you can separate yourself from the crowd and establish career security in your industry.

Editor's Note: Jake Briggs (KER_Recruiter) is a Technical Direct Hire Recruiter for Kelly Engineering Resources in Amherst, New York. His territory includes the northeastern U.S. as well as the mid-Atlantic states.

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#1

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/15/2009 10:55 PM

I absolutely agree with your title's premise, Career security vs Job security; However I am not agreeing at all about the need for self promotion nor the helpfulness claimed for linked in .

All that cheery unsolicited self promotion is off putting at best. "Why isn't this person actually doing work, instead of bragging about his credentials etc.?" is the attitude of the unwitting recruiter or engineering manager who gets stuck taking mr Braggadacio's call.

Better advice would be to give a presentation on some subject that you are knowledgeable on to a local chapter meeting or national meeting of your appropriate trade association. Publishing an article, then hosting discussions - these are better ways of establishing credibility than being the boor du jour.

People that haven't had a conversation with me are filling my spam box with linked in requests. heres a hint, I don't know you and if I haven't spoken to you or read something you wrote, I don't need you as a direct link. Its QUALITY of contacts on Linked in. not QUANTITY. The people on my linked in network will all take my call and respond to my email instantly, Not scratch their heads and say who is this and what do they want from me???

Career security means keeping current, sharing your knowledge with those coming up, and being seen as an authority- not just claiming to be one- to people that might be able to help you some day.

If you become the authority in your field that is desired, the people who respect you will call. So keep learning. Share what you learn through trade associations, and publish.

Save the power boasting/ bragging for sports 'heros' and other celebrities.

milo

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#7
In reply to #1

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/16/2009 3:01 PM

"Why isn't this person actually doing work, instead of bragging about his credentials etc.?" is the attitude of the unwitting recruiter or engineering manager who gets stuck taking mr Braggadacio's call.

I agree with you, I even have worked where these self-promoters can't stop talking about themselves after they've been hired.

They done everything, they saw everything, they experienced everything.

Seems they blow their own horn because nobody else would do it for them. (nobody did it for them because it was not worth it)

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#2

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/16/2009 3:57 AM

GA for milo. A few more points:

1. While getting caught off-guard (as in 'fired') is well-worth planning for, most people don't like being full-term-jobseekers. It's not a good feeling, not to mention that it doesn't let one focus on one's job, or precious little personal time. The kind of 'Networking' that KER-recruiter suggests is artificial at best (and/ but can be expected to pay dividents with like-minded HR/ recruiters). Contrarily, Milo's recommendation is very sound: publishing your work (vs. yourself) in appropriate fora (vs. employers) is self-rewarding for many people, helps build stronger sense of self, helps the profession and the community, and is good overall, even if it doesn't (or needn't) translate into a new job.

2. In fact milo's comment is so insightful, that I'd give it two GAs if I could.

3. We cannot all be individual 'en-masse'. Or network 'en-masse'. If everyone is doing it, it's not effective. In fact, many people are trying to do it; many unsuccessfully. Besides, such shallow networking is not merit-based and ill-serves both employers and other candidates of merit.

4. Just as some of the filtering criteria used for screening are not effective (i.e. see off-topic'ed comments in this thread http://cr4.globalspec.com/thread/34734/3-Mechanical-Engineers-HVAC-Direct-Hire-Upstate-NY?frmtrk=CR4digest). So effectively, the message is: 'we don't know how to pick you, so find ways to become visible to us'. In my opinion, this suits consumer product campaigns, or salespersons (where the buyer is clueless more often than not). Most engineers are ill-equiped -characterwise- to run personal ad campaigns.

5. The same engineers would be better served if recruiters/ HR had such backgrounds as to be able to read between the lines and help companies screen/ pick the best, instead of suggesting self-advertising. But I can see how it is good for their business if everyone plays that game.

6. Still, the point made about career security is valid (if obvious).

p-x

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#3

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/16/2009 4:46 AM

Hi Jake, this is absolutely, a fantastic write up you have here especially with the demise of giant coorporations that i have always known right from childhood managed by men of high pedigree and cadre.

One should think in the direction of career security to remain afloat.

The advise on job search and networking is highly appreciated by me. well done

Chinedum.

Lagos, Nigeria

abchinedu@yahoo.com

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#4

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/16/2009 5:30 AM

Hi,

Thanks for putting this message, it is definetly helpfull. I dont know if workers working for one company for life time are 'extinct' , but I am lucky to know one person of 'species' in a company I work right now. He's been working in that company for 45 years and he is still kicking. He is retiring soon. The funny thing is that he survived many managers, presidents, and even the Brand names of the company. The company changed the ownership three times.

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Guru

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#5

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/16/2009 7:40 AM

Hi Ker,

I am one of those few engineers who worked for one organisation for 33 years and retired 10 years back. Now I doing free lancing (Marketing of Engineering Products) for my friends in Mumbai,India.Also I am enjoying my retired life.

Regards.

Suresh Sharma.

P.S We have Kelly's presence in Mumbai.

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#6

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/16/2009 8:29 AM

I have to agree that I haven't seen anything useful come from LinkedIn. Maybe there is something going on there but I've only ever seen one request to fill a job. And I've got quite a few contacts; it's not like I'm just a lurker.

But the idea of staying up-to-date on technology; "perpetual education" is spot on. That is becoming more difficult as companies cut back on budgets for training. The onus is much more on the individual.

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#8

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/16/2009 6:45 PM

Even rarer than finding someone at the same company for 20+ years is someone at the same company for 20+ years that has a wide experience level.

Many decades ago staying put at one company was driven by the lack of personal mobility (both social and economics). People were not as mobile as they are today and tended to live where they grew up, statistically.

Today you change jobs every 3 to 5 years, uprooting you and your family and moving wherever the opportunity calls you. It's easy to do and the infrastructures there to support it.

These engineers gain greater value by a diverse set of training experiences, rather than pigeon holing themselves at a single company learning one thing, one way. It's a win-win for employee and employer; new learnings and higher salaries for the employee and new blood and fresh thinking for the employer.

Generally speaking, those that stay with one company all of their career get less training and a lower sum wage through their career than those that are well traveled and experienced.

In the end you are paid for the programming between your ears, not how long you keep a parking space.

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Anonymous Poster
#11
In reply to #8

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/17/2009 6:48 AM

A sound comment, which elicits the following thoughts:

1. But there is also a risk involved: when changing companies, you can never be sure you are really getting a better deal. Better salary? yes. higher status? yes, possibly. better colleagues/ mentality/ work environment? unsure. better job satisfaction? unsure. support for future development? unsure.

Often you simply can't know, even if you do your research. You hope and take a (calculated) risk.

So although being professionaly mobile does have the potential of making you better-skilled and more desirable, there is also risk in making what is out of necessity a sequence of sometimes semi-blind career choices.

Therefore many engineers tend to stay with a company until they are really dissatisfied (incl. when blatantly passed over for promotions/ rewards) or fired.

2. There is also another downside to the increasing mobility: Employers are keenly aware of it and tend to hold back on training, either because they prefer to hire trained people leaving other employers or simply not trusting their people to stick around enough after their training. This is, in my opinion, a very troubling negative feedback loop. I've seen this much in many companies, large and small.

3. Finally, suppose you hire a promising candidate with a sound experience-building employment record. He has done his best to keep his positions and earnings on-par with his real worth, and that has (naturally) involved considerable mobility.

Do you trust him to stick around for the long run? Even if he is capable enough, do you trust yourself to keep him happy? Correspondingly, are you really going to invest in him?

Surely, if you don't invest he will leave after some time. If you do invest, there is still a chance that he will leave.

The bottom-line? Despite their merits, sometimes competent mobile people aren't all that appealing to companies; even when hired their chances of upward mobility can be crippled by inappropriately long probation periods (which may trigger resentment and further cause for mobility). I've seen too many organisations sticking with mediocre managers, simply because those aren't qualified enough to leave and therefore are safer choices for investing into the future.

Right? Wrong? I won't say.

And I'm not even going to suggest remedies here. Too big an issue.

p-x

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#13
In reply to #11

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/17/2009 8:57 AM

Well, point #3 really is confusing. If a company is hiring, they have to hire somebody from somewhere. The risk of an employee bolting is about equal no matter where you hire.

Some companies provide a sign-on bonus that stipulates a set tenure before leaving or all or a portion of that bonus is returned.

There is always risk, but many companies I have delt with express no regret in training employees because they know what goes around comes around in the end.

You can always cite exceptions and issues with mobility, but history speaks for itself; more engineers change jobs throughout their careers more often then they did 50 years ago.

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#16
In reply to #13

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/17/2009 10:14 AM

Well, point #3 really is confusing. If a company is hiring, they have to hire somebody from somewhere. The risk of an employee bolting is about equal no matter where you hire.

I agree that they do. I am making the point that individuals with a record of non-mobility are generally considered more dependable for the long run (I am not saying that they are actually more dependable, or that they are better hiring choices). Further, I acknowledge that mobility is much more often dictated by forcing circumstances (i.e. poor job satisfaction, being fired etc) rather than by a drive to try out other carrer tracks/ learn different things (although the result is just that).

Some companies provide a sign-on bonus that stipulates a set tenure before leaving or all or a portion of that bonus is returned.

A good measure, where that is applied. Alternatively, loyalty-building equivalents exist as well.

There is always risk, but many companies I have delt with express no regret in training employees because they know what goes around comes around in the end.

I agree that insightful managers and policy-makers know this, but not all are insightful (see my comment on manager choices above).

You can always cite exceptions and issues with mobility, but history speaks for itself; more engineers change jobs throughout their careers more often then they did 50 years ago.

I agree, of course, about the general trend. Also from personal experience, I quite agree that mobility can have important personal benefits. I am pointing out that it is not without problems & risks and that it potentially generates negative feedback loops in the hiring system.

Surely you will agree that it can be a fine line between healthy up-ward mobility and opportunism. Personally, I cannot see the line (or label 'opportunism' as bad in the absence of context), but it is a label that I have often heard used. The term 'job-hopper' is sometimes used in-lieu, meaning something bad. The reality is that CVs are screened for evidence of this behaviour (right, KER?)

But hiring (and being hired) is investing. No-one wants risky investments. I.e. managers training newcomers are naturally reluctant to see trainees walking out after a while (sure, managers are paid to do this, but effort is effort nonetheless). Rebuilding one's team every few years due to departures becomes self-depleting. The first time's enthusiasm never comes back... It is personally un-rewarding to the manager, who may be tempted to protect oneself by looking to hire people who look like they won't leave easily (not that there is any sure indicator, just as you said). And thus, the negative feedback loop may start (employee leaves-> manager cares less -> next employee leaves sooner...).

Of course, insightful managers know that it's worth investing in people and furthermore they realise the value of their truly skilled staff, and do what it takes to keep them happy, so that they never need to leave. But, as I said before, not all decision makers are insightful.

p-x

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#19
In reply to #16

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/17/2009 5:53 PM

Yes, retaining a crack team is something many companies spend a great deal of time and energy to do.

"I am making the point that individuals with a record of non-mobility are generally considered more dependable for the long run."

Where do you get that data from? Managers I have worked with generally consider a trasferred employee more dependable when they buy a house.

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#20
In reply to #19

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/17/2009 6:36 PM

"Nobody- NOBODY- is more dependable than a young salesman who has one in diapers, one on the way, and a new house"- Tom Tyrrell, CEO, BarTech, 1999

Or as the stars of British TV Show Kate and Peter demonstrate:

milo

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#21
In reply to #20

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/18/2009 2:39 AM

Milo,

You are realy a naughty.

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#22
In reply to #19

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/18/2009 7:38 AM

As long as it is their first...

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#12
In reply to #8

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/17/2009 8:01 AM

There are many Pros and Cons in remaining at one place or changing jobs every 2/3 years.

1.If you remain at one place and learn the expertise in a particular field then you gain experience and respect in the particular field.

2.You grow with the company and make strong foundation in the organisation.

3.If you contribute in growth of the company, your employer will always give you incentive for remaining loyal.

4.Your job security is assured until unless there is major problem in the organisation.

If you change your job frequently then:-

1. You may not gain experience in particular field. (Rolling stone gathers no mass).

2.You have to resettle at different places, your children's education is disturbed.

3. New place of work may have new problems which you were not aware of.

4.Managing new people may be a problem.

5. Inter departmental politics may be cause of worry.

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#14
In reply to #12

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/17/2009 8:59 AM

I would agree, there are pros and their are cons. In the US the pros appear to outweigh the cons enough to drive engineers to change jobs more frequently than they did 25 and 50 years ago.

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#9

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/16/2009 9:20 PM

To Anonymous Hero,

I would not agree with you that engineers that are well traveled are more attractive to employers. I have seen people as experts in their fields and well travelled as well and yet they are treated as newbes.

A good company is the one that is run by good managers who work in sync and who compete against the outside not within. I've never seen that in my work experience.

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/16/2009 9:59 PM

First, what I stated was a generalization and not an absolute rule. The fact that you can find exceptions to a general rule does not negate its standing.

The bottom line is that engineers (as a general rule) are paid a salary commensurate with their ability to solve problems.

One's abilities to perform are (generally) enhanced with exposure to a wide set of problems, people, and environments.

The more engineers and employees you interact with, the greater chance you have to absorb new problem solving skills; which is the yardstick by which your salary is derived.

As a final note, being well traveled and having a deep mental tool box still does not guarantee you a high salary or even respect. You still have to have the skill to negotiate your salary before hire and the social skills to cultivate respect from peers.

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#15
In reply to #10

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/17/2009 9:31 AM

Anonymous Hero, I liked your response #8, but I would like to add on to your comments here.

When negotiating with future potential employers, I have successfully used a "mental bucket" analogy to assure continued personal and professional development.

Basically, my point is that I am coming here (to the new position) with a "full mental bucket" of tips tricks and knowledge which the employer is going to pay me an agreed upon value (salary) to share. During my employment tenure, we agree that I will have opportunities each year to "top off" my mental bucket, whether by attending classes, learning new software, or travelling to industry meetings. The benefits of these opportunities will be immediately captured by the employer as I bring these new capabilities back to the organization and its people and processes. And (by synergistic effects) they help increase the value of whats already in "the bucket."

If we fail to agree, then it becomes clear to me that the relationship will not be mutually beneficial and I will pass.

milo

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#17

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/17/2009 1:45 PM

Hi Anonymous Hero.

I am little bit puzzled at the salaries paid now a days to MBAs compared to salaries paid to engineers. Here in India fresh MBA boy from 'A' Grade management school such as IIMs, gets starting salary of Rs.100,000/- ($2000/-) per month. Which by Indian Standards is very high where as engineers gets on average starting salary of Rs.25,000/- ($500/-). You may laugh at the dollar value of salary but for fresh boy's living expenses in city like Mumbai is not more than Rs.15000/- of course he lives with his parents.

Now, when I compare inputs of these two professionals, MBA sits in nice A.C office and writes down few Direct Mail circulars or does some other desk work. His out put does not generates the earnings for the organisation compared with salary paid to him.

Where as engineer contributes to production of the goods in the factory by slogging in shop floor. So there is direct contribution to the company.

More over in most of the companies CEOs are financial experts, very rarely engineers are appointed as CEOs.

Poor engineers born only to slog? Will my other friends give their views on this subject.

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#18
In reply to #17

Re: Career Security – Not Job Security

03/17/2009 5:48 PM

That's an interesting observation. In the US many middle managers with MBAs earn somewhat less than some senior engineers.

However, companies that I have worked with value senior level engineers that have management understanding or skills even more.

In the end, I think that over all salary takes a lower priority to job satisfaction. Engineering is a very satisfying career to most of us and we value the returns on our career choice. We work very hard and if we do a good enough job we get permission to do it again.

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