This is the biggest mistake you can make as an employee

And the 5 Steps You Can Take to Fix it Immediately!

the-biggest-mistake-you-can-make-at-work

You’re gainfully employed. Things are good. But the mistake most employees make is thinking that things will stay that way.

But that’s often not the case. You may find yourself changing jobs sooner than you’d like, and then what?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, median tenure for private sector wage and salary workers over the age of 20 is 4.1 years. That means that half of these workers have less than 4 years on the job and half have more. By extension, this means that over the course of your career you will likely work for at least 11 different organizations before you “retire.”

But as technological change continues to impact employment trends, tenure at jobs is likely to keep dropping. So maybe we should stop thinking about the idea of a “job” and focus instead on the concept of a “project.” A project that lasts, on average, 3 to 4 years.

And because jobs and the workforce are being disrupted,  can we afford to be complacent and stop doing the hard work that it took to land that job in the fist place?

I think the answer to that question is NO! and that’s why I advise you to:

  • Always be building your body of quality work.
  • Always be telling your unique story.
  • Always be on the lookout for your next project.

Don’t wait till you’re out of a job to take action.

Here are 5 things you can do to ensure you are always gainfully employed, and that when one project ends, you have many new projects to choose from.

1. Track Your Results & Achievements Weekly

At the end of the day, we all get paid to perform—to generate results. The more value we add, the more we are, in theory, compensated for our work. And a key component of this is the unique value that we add to our position, things that cannot be easily replaced when we’re no longer there to do the job. The more unique and quantifiable value you add, the better.

That’s why I recommend that you keep what I call a Results & Achievements (R&A) file folder in your desk drawer. This file should be updated every Friday before heading for home. Take about 5-10 minutes to gather the following for your R&A file:

  •  A list of what you accomplished during the week including (but not limited to) goal or challenges met, project wins, goals met on schedule or ahead of schedule, record of extra hours worked and any evidence, no matter how modest, that you were productive during the week. This may include your scores on productivity and performance metrics or key performance indicators.
  • Print outs or copies of emails or any correspondence from customers, co-workers, superiors or other organizational stakeholders that can serve as testimonials of your work-ethic, responsibility, great attitude, teamwork, leadership, communication, quality of work, perseverance, creativity, commitment, engagement, etc.
  • Certificates of completion or any documentation that shows you completed any job-related courses, training, professional certifications, or continuing education of any sort, online or off.
  • Any documentation regarding your participation, leadership, or volunteer work, especially with company-sponsored charities or non-profit organizations.
  • A list and brief description of any particularly difficult problems that you helped solve for customers or inside the company.

This material will not only help you to negotiate more effectively during your annual performance review (or when you decide to ask for a pay raise) but also in updating your resume.

2. Always Be Networking: Mind your LinkedIN Profile & Connections

LinkedIN is a social network made up of 450 million professionals from all around the globe. This network gives you the tools you need to showcase your talent and connect with leaders from hundreds of thousands of organizations worldwide. That is why you should think of LinkedIN, not only when you’re in need of work, but when you already have a job and want to position yourself for future opportunities. LinkedIN can help you find and connect with the people that can hire you for your next project.

But as important as LinkedIN is in connecting people with the opportunities they’re looking for, many professionals simply ignore their profile when they’re gainfully employed. Are you? Profiles can become quickly out of date and ineffective as you progress through your tenure at your current job, and it isn’t until they leave or are let go, that many people become serious about their LinkedIN presence and the powerful networking opportunities it provides. By then, it may be too late!

That’s why one of the best things you can do is update your profile at least monthly.

Use the information in your R&A file to include in your LinkedIN profile. If, for example, you saved the company $250,000 in unnecessary expenses in the last year or you led a sales team from $2 million in sales to $4 million in 12 months, make sure that information is in your LinkedIN profile. Be careful, however, that you’re not disclosing anything that is too specific or confidential in nature.

You should also be including other details from your R&A file like continuing education, certifications, civic leadership roles, volunteer activities, etc. All this great stuff needs to go into your profile so that leaders looking for talent come looking for you, instead of the usual scenario.

And lastly, use LinkedIN to stay in touch with colleagues, past co-workers, clients, vendors, and people with whom you’ve worked with who can vouch for the value you add at work. Share valuable or useful information with them or give them a testimonial, and don’t be shy about asking for one yourself. This keeps you connected with people who may be in a position to open doors for you in the future.

3. Mind Your Social Media Manners

Social media is your new resume. Assume that everything you post to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google (and the rest) will end up on the desk or monitor of your current and potential future employers. That’s because companies are checking in all these places to find anything objectionable that may disqualify you from a position at their company.

There’s also a lot of data that is collected about our online activities that we may not even be aware of. Though these social networks claim to protect your privacy—how confident are you about their assurances? Facebook and Google are the two big ones. Review your Facebook profile and timeline and be sure to only post content that you don’t mind being 100% public. Be equally mindful of what you do with your Google account, which also tracks your browser search histories, YouTube history and more. Fortunately, you can delete much of that history and tell Google to stop tracking it by changing your account settings.

4. Network Offline

You can do a lot online, but nothing beats a face-to-face connection for building trust and rapport with people that may be able to open career doors for you. That’s why it’s important to get out and network with people in your community or near your place of employment.

For example, join the chamber of commerce of business association near the office to meet other local professionals, make business contacts and participate in that organization’s educational activities. You should even consider taking a leadership position in one of their committees. The more people that see your level of professionalism, the better! Don’t let your current boss be the only one that sees how awesome you are.

Let the whole world see it!

There are many other ways to spread the word. Meet-ups, Toastmasters clubs, trade organizations, ministries, non profits, etc. The list is too long to number but the main point is to get out of the four walls of the office and into the community and make a name for yourself. Don’t be a mere cog in the system (i.e. “employee”), be a massive contributor of value. Choose to be a leader. Good leaders are always in demand.

Set a goal to participate in some sort of networking event at least once a month and stick with it.

5. Share your ideas on a platform (a.k.a blog)

It’s important that you differentiate yourself as a thought-leader in your field by sharing your ideas through a blog. No matter what job you’re in, you have insights that would be tremendously useful to countless people, so why not share them? Yes! You can write a blog even though you may not think of yourself as a “writer” or a “blogger.” But if you’ve ever written an essay in school or you’ve sent business-related emails to colleagues then, guess what, you pretty much already know how to do it. The point of a blog is to transmit useful information. It’s not about trying to be the next Ernest Hemingway or Toni Morrison. Just give us some good and useful information in a clear, easy to digest format. Do a little research about how to write good blog posts and you’ll see it’s not as intimidating as it seems.

That said, some people are freaked out by the technology behind blogging. That’s ok.

Fortunately, LinkedIN has a blogging feature that is super convenient for three reasons:

  1. You can use their platform to write your articles and post an accompanying photograph—no technical skills required
  2. Your post is then easily accessible to your network of contacts and will appear in the timelines of your closest professional contacts and
  3. It’s an automatic way to augment your profile because all your posts are stored in the Activities section of your profile.
    The more content your profile contains and the more industry specific keywords you use, the easier it is for recruiters and employers to find you. And because so few people have the gumption to blog as part of their professional responsibilities, you’ll be setting yourself apart from the masses with just plain old resumes to offer.

But despite all these advantages and conveniences, I often hear many people say that they don’t like to write. If that’s the case, consider using videos and creating a video blog. If you’re too shy for videos then consider podcasting, which is essentially recorded audio (i.e. radio show) that you record and distribute just like a blog.

The are so many options but you’re going to need a little courage to use them.

What’s clear is that you can’t afford to ignore these options altogether. In a crowded job-market you’re going to need to stand out and a blogging platform lets you do just that.

The New ABCs of Job Security

In the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, an impeccably dressed but profane sales motivation guy is brought in to shape-up a group of real estate salesmen and utters the now infamous strategy: A-B-C, Always Be Closing.

Well, as the world of work is transformed and we move from “jobs” to “projects” it is important to follow the new ABCs—Always Be Connecting!

Our goal should be to keep learning; keep adding unique value; keep growing our contacts and building community. This is what job security in the 21st century looks like and it’s the best way I see to ensure you access to high-value jobs (i.e. well paid jobs)  and business opportunities. It’s not enough to stay in your cubicle following the rules, fitting in, doing good work, staying quiet, and thinking that’s all there is to it. That’s the formula for winning the race to the bottom and that’s not a race any of us wants to participate in.

As Tim Sanders wrote in Love Is the Killer App back in 2002: in the future, your network will determine your net worth. My friend, I think that day has come.