“Hogarth, what are you doing?!”
Hogarth looks up from where he’s causally perched on the corner of my desk. Holding up a piece of paper he asks, “Did you know your resume is three years out of date?”
“Not now, Hogarth, I have a report to write, then I have a beta planning meeting and tonight I’ve got to fix the garage door.” I shoulder past him, to drop into my chair. “Besides,” I say, “this job is nice and stable and I don’t have any plans to go anywhere else.
My gorilla blinks at me, “I’m sure the Titanic didn’t have any plans to run into an iceberg either.”
I pointedly ignore Hogarth and started typing up my meeting minutes.
Hogarth lets out a deep sigh. Sliding off his desk he gives a shrug, “Yeah sure don’t mind me, I’m just the 800 pound gorilla in the room.” Shuffling off to the far side of the office, he mutters “man my cousin has such an easy gig.”
Unable to quell my curiosity I look over, “Cousin?”
Hogarth thumps down in the corner, “Oh yeah, he’s got a great gig with AXA Equitable. Getting paid the big bucks to be the ‘are you ready for retirement gorilla.’ TV Commercials, print, web, you name it. You can watch his videos on the web.”
“I’m already saving for retirement, Hogarth. Besides, I’m not getting paid to update my resume or network, I’m getting paid to manage this project. I just don’t have time to worry about my resume.”
Holding up his watermelon sized hands he says “Oh I’m not gonna talk to you about retirement, I’ll send my cousin over to do that, but let me ask you something, do you have life insurance and pay money for it?”
I sigh, “Yes, but…”
“Do you have car insurance and pay money for it?”
“Isn’t it true that time is money?”
I let out a deep, resigned sigh, “Yes.”
Yes folks, welcome to the ‘career management plan’ gorilla. It has got to be one of the most prevalent and avoided gorillas of all times. I know I’ve done it, I’ve watched friends do it, and enough people are making scads of money to help people with it, that there is no denying that this is one big gorilla.
Now folks, let me just start with saying, I’m not saying anything new. The very nature of gorillas, is that they are not new or ground breaking concepts. They are those things we don’t want to face, and are often old and well known.
Michael Auzenne and Mark Horstman have made a business of advising executives and managers on the art of career management. Their Manager Tools podcasts are a must listen for any aspiring executive and a should listen for the rest of us. The November 2009 edition of PMI Network quoted John Challenger, of Challenger, Gray & Christmas when he said, “You should spend 5 percent to 10 percent of your time engaged with organizations and meeting people in your field or industry outside of work.” There isn’t a job board out there that doesn’t advise you to keep your resume current. And if you talk to any successful executives, maintaining their network will be one of the top priorities they list.
Yet, especially in the high tech industry, we task focused professionals all too often bury ourselves in our work, wrapping it around us like a thick blanket of denial. It takes a market upset, a lay off you just escaped or that all frightening appearance of the HR person outside your office who says, “Can I speak with you?”, for most of us to even think about anything but our job, the next release, the next project. Time was, at least so I’m told, that your company and your manager were as focused on your success as they were on the success of the company. Now I don’t want to cast a blanket aspersion on managers, or even companies, but the hard truth is most companies worry about the company as a whole, or the bottom line and managers are often taking care of their own career insurance.
So as I had Tweeted – “Gorilla Talker Tip #2- There is no life insurance for careers, if you don’t manage your career, no one else will.”
So here are some tips I’ve personally found useful, vital and effective. (Again, nothing new, almost everything is something I learned from somewhere else, I’m just the guy talking to the gorilla.)
Listen to the Manager Tools podcasts: I discovered these not long ago and the light that went on, when I started listening, was incredible. I highly recommend “Your resume stinks!”, “Building a Network”, “How to handle headhunters”, and “Contacting Recruiters”, but I am personally in the process of listening to everything in their catalog.
- Maintain your network: 500 people in LinkedIn is not a network, it’s just a tool. You need to keep in regular contact with your direct network. Set yourself a reminder to contact them at least once a quarter (Horstman calls it the “CTL-SHIFT-K rule”, for the keyboard command to create a task in Outlook). On the LinkedIn front, if someone sends you a INMail or request for an introduction, respond! See the next rule.
- Give more than you take: Part of keeping up that network is being ready to give of yourself. Whether it’s acting as a reference, sending a job lead someone’s way or even more, don’t keep score and you’ll find it will come back to you.
- Own your own computer!: I’ve known friends who showed up for work and found the building locked, never to re-open again. I’ve seen people ushered from their cubes, only to return after IT has removed every piece of technology from the cube. You need your own computer and not just to find that next job. You need a secure place for your contacts, your personal career documents, your private email.
- Maintain a private email address: Don’t just have it lying around for a rainy day. Keep it active, check it often, make it a way for people to get in touch with you. It should be professional! No “I_rock@izzy.com”, get yourself a nice professional address at a mainstream provider or with your own private, but professional domain. For example firstname.lastname@example.org or Tom@Masterson.com.
- Point your LinkedIn to an email address you use: How many times have you heard “Oh sorry, I didn’t see your invite, I don’t check this email very often?” Point your LinkedIn to an active email account. Oh, and while we are on LinkedIn, treat this like a resume. Keep it up to date, keep it active and for heavens sake, keep it in sync with your actual resume (more on resumes below).
- Save your contacts: I’ve committed, this sin, keeping all my contact data in my work Outlook and then losing it all. In today’s internet society, we have no excuse. Once a quarter sync your contacts with your Yahoo, GMAIL, Plaxo, whatever. But to add to that, print it out! Technology is great, but tech fails. Woe betide if you don’t follow the ‘own your own computer’ and you can’t even call people. Oh and cell phones don’t count, not only do a lot of us use company phones, but they are one of the least reliable places for long term information storage. Sure I have an iPhone, but the contacts are from my Outlook and I’ve had to reset my phone more than once.
Keep your resume up to date: Better yet create a “Career management document” (CMD). Depending on who you talk to a resume should be no more than one or two pages. A strong career will have a lot more than two pages of information. You could have half a dozen accomplishment that don’t apply to your current work, but if you don’t capture them somewhere, you might lose them. Used to be a crack shot at budgets? Guess what, budget skills are in style again. Still remember your accomplishments from 1998? I personally use a Mind Map. Each box is a job I’ve held and I then have bullets for all the accomplishments I have for that job. When I need a resume, I can pick and pull from each job, to tailor my resume to the position. The other part of this is to maintain it. Once a quarter, 30 minutes a quarter, go through your resume. Not just updating your last job, but the whole thing. Maybe you were working on an integration project and you remembered how you were given a commendation for integration work, ten years ago. Add that to your CMD for that old job. You never know when it will come in handy.
In the end remember the most important rule- Your current job could end at any time, a new once in a lifetime opportunity could come out of the blue, your spouse has to move to Australia, the list goes on. Only one thing is certain…
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to talk to a gorilla about a horse.
I’m Joel BC, Gorilla Talker
Want me to talk about your gorilla? Send me an email
*-Special thanks to Mark Nottage, my excellent proofreader and all around skilled tech geek.