Grow your own beef.

When I got laid off I went through the mourning process. I had the emotions relationed to loss (sad, mad, etc.) and, like many who have lost their jobs, wondered what I did wrong (or could have done better). As I began my journey, first as a super-aggressive job seeker (the first 6 weeks I spent about 10 hours a day, 6 days a week in the job search), then thinking about and designing JibberJobber, I began to have one of those – what’s it called? – paradigm shifts.

It was helpful to me to network with other high-level exectutives that had lost their jobs, and were finding that getting a new job that met their needs was not an overnight process. As I found that this was more the rule than the exception, I began to pick apart what was happening. It is summarized in C.M. Russell’s blog, which is taken from a page or two out of Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters. I recommend you read this short blog post by C.M., as it is the beginning of a paradigm shift – which is put quite nice in the last six lines.

So what does this mean? Well, we’ve all heard that there are no more “cradle-to-grave” jobs anymore. I remember when the FBI even dumped their pension plan and moved to a 401k-like program. Luckily my dad was grandfathered into the pension plan, but any new agent would not get a pension (that is one reason that I wasn’t interested in going into the FBI – there were many ;)) I have one friend my age that worked for a company (Dupont, I think) that offered a pension. The rest offer 401k with matching.

In those last six lines that you just read my favorite is “Jobs are temporary in the new economy – henceforth you always need to be looking for the next opportunity.” This was a huge part of my shift. Back in Steven Covey’s first book he talks about job security, or economic security, and how it does not come from your employer, rather from your employability. How do you have employability? Can you create employability? Yes, but creating employability is, for me, different than what I thought it was 7 months ago. Here’s what I think the formula is:
First, have beef! Have substance. Everyone knows someone that was all talk and no action, or no results, or whatever. Develop your skills, become a SME – subject matter expert. Good looks and charming personality may get you past an interview, but you need to be deeper in your job performance than you may have been in your interview (I hired a guy that was sparkly and awesome in the interview only to later discover that he had very little substance – oops!).

Second, have credentials! This may come in the form of degrees (I’ve got two – an undergrad and a masters) or job titles (mine were pretty sweet – from programmer to IT Manager to CIO to VP to General Manager) or results (I worked on an e-commerce project where we increased revenue by 500%, which was sustained even after the dot-com crash!). These are things that would go on your resume, or create the basis of your answers in an interview. Don’t live in the past but be able to summarize what you were able to do, which should lead the interviewer to the idea that you’ll be able to do great things for them!

… and this, I thought, was the ticket to my employability. I thought this when I first read Covey’s book (note that this was the only paragraph that really stuck out in my pre-college brain). Having the right degrees and the right background (job titles) was going to be my ticket. That was back in 1991 and I thought it worked out quite nicely… until I got laid off.

Many of you who have been following my blog know that I thought my time unemployed was going to last just a few weeks – and it really turned into many months. What was wrong with my formula (I-could-do-the-job + I-had-2-degrees + I-had-cool-job-titles = highly-desireable!)??

In my job search I grossly underestimated the power of who you know. I had always hated this concept because I never really knew many folks – I had moved around my whole life as an FBI kid, and was always a newcomer. But, alas, it is true. Who you know is a significant part of this formula, and a part that I had neglected… thus…

Third, get to know people. As Ferrazzi mentions, it is all about intimate relationships. I can’t even say enough about this (good thing I have a blog, so I can pepper it in all the time!), but if you hate networking, you aren’t doing it right! If you don’t know anyone, you don’t understand networking! If you are getting overwhelmed with managing your network, you aren’t using JibberJobber! If you think that networking is getting LinkedIn, you’re going to be in a tough situation when it comes to a real job search (why do you think I say this? Because I don’t like LinkedIn? Nope – because having relationships on LinkedIn is NOT having intimate relationships.).

So what is your formula for creating employability? Is it good enough for this new paradigm?