Is the New Career a Perpetual Job Search?

Instead of revving up the job-search engine every five to ten years, simply leave the motor running.

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Tim Tyrell-Smith
If you’ve been working for more than five or ten years, you likely expect your career to bring stability, company loyalty, and the possibility of upward progression.

Yet in many professions, that’s no longer the standard. At a recent board meeting, two executives echoed this idea. Their words: “There’s no such thing as a career anymore,” and “The traditional career is a thing of the past.”

Any move away from our long-time employment model, where employees stick with one company for their entire career, will take time. It’s affected by the actions of employers, mainly big companies, and politicians who decide what financial protections—like social security—we’ll rely on in the future.

But if trends continue, we’re heading toward a work economy that requires workers to be far more adaptable. It requires us to always be looking, to remain in a state of perpetual job search.

[See 10 Tips for Negotiating a Raise.]

This future work style is less like a traditional career and more like running your own small business. So what new habits do we need to establish to survive?

Instead of revving up the job-search engine every five to ten years, simply leave the motor running. This doesn’t mean you plan to fail (get fired, laid off, etc.), but you set yourself up to succeed in a more interrupted work life. In fact, you may find yourself working for more than one company at the same time, which can be both intriguing and frightening.

To succeed in this new environment, consider developing the following new habits:

Establish and maintain a strong social network. No longer can you find a job and quickly crawl under a rock. You have to stay out there. So let’s figure out a way to enjoy it. Find groups that stir your passions, people that intrigue you, and groups that support your longer-term work objectives. Social networking is not work if you do it right. But you have to keep working on it to see the benefits.

Create a unique personal brand and manage its evolution. What’s your brand promise? What shows your difference from others seeking similar work in your community? As your life moves along, complete annual audits to be sure you still like what you do. Make sure you have the training, certifications, and education to solve the needs of your current company, companies, or clients.

[See Why You Should Ditch the Quest for the Perfect Career.]

Become comfortable with change. While more permanent jobs are not likely going away, more and more jobs will offer flexible hours, alternate commutes, and contract or short-term employment windows. So you’ll need to have your proverbial bags packed at all times. Instead of hiring movers to get you moved out of an office, you’ll fit it all in your backpack. And you’ll likely become less attached to people as co-workers and more attached to them as new friends (if you get along). They’ll become part of your longer-term network.

Become your own personal benefits administrator. Instead of walking down the hall to ask for clarification on your medical benefits, you may have to answer some questions on your own. While this new economy will likely bring rise to a new sub-industry of health-care support systems, you will need to become well versed in your own benefit plan and know how to use it wisely.

Steer your own business and career development. In a traditional job, you’d spend a good portion of the day reacting to the demands of the organization, your customers, vendors, and co-workers. Get out of this bubble and the “reacting” portion becomes much smaller. Become a constant and living example of your brand. Then it will be up to you to create leads and new contacts while constantly looking for needs in the world your brand can fill.

[See Why Loving Your Work Matters.]

Establish social credibility. To aid in your business development efforts, you’ll likely be constantly working to maintain social credibility. A positive social reputation will be critical to getting leads, introductions, and the chance to prove your ability. It helps get your e-mails answered and phone calls returned from people you’ve not met yet, especially when you no longer carry an important title like Director Of Marketing at Big Company, Inc.

How will you adjust to this new work style?

Tim Tyrell-Smith is founder of Tim's Strategy, a site that helps professionals succeed in job search, career and life strategy. Follow Tim on Twitter, @TimsStrategy, and learn about his two popular job-search books.